Abortion, Blood, and Things Girls Know

Carly FiorinaAlthough I believe that I possess a special level of cluelessness on this matter, I think that men are pretty ignorant when it comes to human biology. There is a realization that comes to all us boys around the age of 5 that the girls have some kind of secret knowledge that they are not sharing with us. That never goes away. In fact, it only gets worse. At puberty, we all get very stupid. The men pretend they are tough and the women pretend they are weak, and the mating rituals begin. But still: the women are hiding something from the men — but only because we men can’t understand it.

There is something very male about the hysteria over the Planned Parenthood videos and Carly Fiorina’s claims about an aborted fetus outside the womb. And I think it explains why the anti-choice folks are using this tactic. Brian Beutler explained what’s going on very well, The Anti-Abortion Movement’s Weapons: Shock, Lies, and Carly Fiorina. When the videos first came out, the claim was that Planned Parenthood was doing something illegal. But that wasn’t true, so there have been various excuses for the “sting” operation. None of them are true, of course.

When all the videos — released over time so as to maximize media attention — didn’t do much, the same group releases a video that shows a pre-viable fetus outside the womb with some degree of life left in it. The footage was not taken by the group. It was taken from another source. According to Jen Gunter, it must be at least 15 years old. What’s more, it is almost certainly not from an abortion procedure, but from a miscarriage. But it is nonetheless shocking and disturbing, especially to men who really don’t have a clue what goes on inside women’s bodies.

Of course, women do. Beutler quoted Rebecca Traister on this subject:

Women already know what abortion is. We know more about blood, innards, fetuses, and the babies they may become — in short, about life in reproductive bodies — than anti-abortion activists seem to understand.

And that’s why I say that it is all about men — or at least a male take on the subject. And this may be why the anti-choice movement so easily transitioned to anti-birth-control, and why it is so aligned with patriarchy. There may be a lot of women in the movement, but they are mostly the ones who do not believe in doing it for themselves.

Ultimately, the whole thing — the years of undercover work, the videos, the outrage — was just to get to show that image. As Beutler said, “It’s an Operation Rescue protest in the guise of advocacy, investigative journalism, committee hearings, and New York Times columns.” It is really just the same old argument: if only we pro-choice people understood what late term abortions were really like, then we’d change our minds!

Most of the women I’ve known in my life have either liked or had no problem watching those shows that present open heart surgery and so on. I can’t take them. They are deeply disturbing. But no one makes the case that we shouldn’t do heart surgeries because they are disgusting. And it’s equally true that childbirth itself is disgusting. Life is disgusting! But women already know that and they have since puberty at the latest. So this is mostly just a show for us men.

Afterword

For the women, I guess it is a slightly different narrative: “Look! Bloody fetus! Looks like a baby!” But Traister had a response for that too:

Women know about blood. We know about discharge. We know about babies, and many of us also love them, their little feet and hands and eyelashes. And, yes, we know that those bitty features develop while the fetus is inside us. We also know the physical, economic, and emotional costs of raising those children outside our wombs.

But this is not about babies. If it were, then these same conservatives wouldn’t be so intent on making poor mothers work outside the home. It is about controlling women. And so we have to see the tactics of “noisy protestors who hold startling fetus posters aloft outside of abortion clinics.” Because that is all they’ve got.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

16 thoughts on “Abortion, Blood, and Things Girls Know

  1. Guys think we have secret knowledge? Does this mean that all the misogyny we have had to put up with for the past forever is because men are mad about something that happens when they are five? I am kidding mostly but since we generally are not taken into a room and given secrets considering the number of tampon horror stories I have heard…I don’t know what this secret knowledge would be.

    The anti-choice movement is so very much the ends justify the means. Obviously lie in ways that are super easy to find out? It is okay if it means one more unwanted pregnancy keeps going. Make it next to impossible to get an abortion if you are poor? Who cares if that means the eventual baby starves to death because the mother is too poor and too ignorant to not dilute the formula too much for the baby and the mother goes to prison for life. Kill a doctor who helps women who are devastated at the fact their very wanted pregnancy has gone horribly wrong? It is okay, that means these women will be tortured but at least she did not get an abortion.

    The anti-choice crowd always wanted to go after birth control though-to them, any woman who has unauthorized by them sex absolutely must be punished with the blessing of a child no matter what else is going on in her life and they cannot be made to pay for it, since after all, she is the one who transgressed and must be punished. It is an extremely callous disregard for another human in favor of only a potential with it almost never having any impact on their lives.

    • It is almost secret knowledge, since sex ed in this country is a joke. (Like history!) If there’s anything little kids are fascinated by, it’s biology, and where babies come from. But we can’t discuss human reproductive biology in schools.

      I’m in my 40s, I work in health care, and I have no clue what human female reproductive organs do. None. Partially because I was ingrained at an early age to think these things are forbidden and Evil.

      • They plot world domination then get upset when someone doesn’t call and spend the rest of the weekend eating ice cream. ;)

        • I knew it! Damn those sneaky organs! I’ve never trusted the pancreas!

          Wait — I think I might have a pancreas. Scratch the above if I do.

    • If I could tell you the secret knowledge, it wouldn’t be secret! But it isn’t things. It is more spiritual — being hooked into the circle of life in a way that men just aren’t. It is knowledge in the Gnostic sense.

      Reproductive rights are clearly all about control. I don’t think that’s true of all anti-choicers, however. Most anti-choice people have just been sold this myth about the cute little baby that is being murdered. The real question is why they have been sold that. Certainly, I think it is, Racism Not Abortion. But there’s something really vile in the outlook that abortion is all right in the case of rape but not otherwise. Shockingly, this is considered “middle of the road” these days. And that is very clearly the argument, “We’ll let you have an abortion if you can prove you didn’t want the sex.” The hardliners make more sense philosophically, but as a practical matter, they want women to die, as I discussed in, Ireland’s Medieval Abortion Laws.

  2. Oh, the knowledge of what happens when you tote a fetus around for nine months. Since I have not done that, I have no idea what that kind of mystic experience is like. Naomi Wolf wrote about what women experience in Misconceptions where it kind of feels like your personality is dividing in two but I have no idea if that is the case. It is not something women really talk about (at least to me.)

    Having spoken in person and online with many an anti-choicer, they start out with the whole “it is a little baby being murdered” and then move fairly quickly to “its sluts having sex with their slut pills. AND ON MY DIME!”

    And currently despite the frequent outcry that meets it, I honestly think the reason that Republicans keep mentioning prohibiting rape victims from seeking abortion is another part of their creep strategy. Have some wild eyed people mention something outrageous and then gauge the reaction. As time goes by having more and more mainstream politicians say it and so it goes.

    • Certainly it works to push what was always an extreme position (only in cases of rape, life of the mother) to a place where it seems moderate — or at least more moderate. Next we’ll probably hear conservatives calling for the death penalty for women who have miscarriages, making those who only want to lock them in a cage for 10 years seem reasonable.

      My Gnostic Theory of Women is not fully worked out. I can’t really speak for men in general, but to me, females have always seemed to know “stuff” that I was not privy too. It does have to do with reproduction, but it isn’t the fact of having carried a child. But it could just be an elaborate theory to explain: (1) that women mature more quickly then men; and (2) that I’m so clueless on matters biological — and even matters of reality because I do tend to live my life in the ether.

      • It will eventually get there and in some areas of the country it already is. Like Purvi Patel in Indiana-who was convicted somehow of both committing a feticide and killing a newborn. The judge at the sentencing said that she would have just avoided it if she had just gone to PP and gotten an abortion. -.- It is starting to be pretty scary out there for women to be pregnant unless they are wealthy, white and healthy.

        Your theory would explain some of the anger that the Men’s Rights Activists display. You have taken a more laid back approach of women know something I don’t, no biggie. Theirs is HULK SMASH.

        • That’s what I find so interesting about the anti-choice movement. It is hardly limited to abortion. It was only in the last couple of years that I started hearing about the IUD being a form of abortion. It’s all about controlling women.

          I wouldn’t say that it’s no biggie; it more that it is fascinating! I don’t know what set the MRAs off. It always seems to me that they just hate women. But I do think there is a general sense among men that women are better than we are. And you can deal with that by surrounding yourself with women or vilifying them. But there is something very wrong with the MRA types. They remind me of the kind of people who go and shoot up schools.

          • Since I started keeping track of the anti-choice movement back when I was a teenager I knew they were going to go after contraception. They view it as letting women have sex without consequences/punishment and as we both know, they really hate it when women have sex without punishment. What has been interesting to me has the gradual realization on the part of most liberals what the anti-choice crowd is after.

            Oh the MRA hate women-depending the age of the MRA it is either “ire that hot chicks are not instantly falling at my feet” or “that damn woman left me because I am a total jerk.” One thing though that is consistent: they don’t think we women are human. They think we have hive minds for heaven’s sake. But they don’t think we are superior, or maybe they do and are super disappointed we are not.

  3. WOW. I was driving through rural Minnesota today. We passed a health clinic that, I guess, provided birth-control services and it was swarming with picketers. There must have been 20 picketers there. This in some town with a few thousand residents. There’s a Planned Parenthood in Minneapolis close to where I work, and you maybe see one picketer there occasionally.

    Which brings up another reason people gent bent out of shape about abortion. Boredom. There’s not much to do in a small town. If you’re young, you hit the local bar (might be several towns away, which is why rural roads in hillier states have a lot of little crosses on curves. Drunk driving.) There’s the county fair. Usually some regional festival once a year, like Box Elder Bug Days. High school sports. And, of course, church.

    I’m guessing those picketers came right out of church and headed to the clinic. It was mostly women, since this was around 1:00 and men had football to watch (Vikings game, dontcha know by gosh.) If you don’t care for football, picketing a clinic gives you something to do. It’s a social opportunity. It also makes you feel like you’re standing up for something noble.

    And it validates your life. Maybe you didn’t want to be stuck in a small town getting less money every year for that corn crop you sell to a big ag company. Maybe you did want that and it turned out boring as hell. If you can say to yourself, “well, at least I never had an abortion” (or had gay sex, or took drugs besides prescription painkillers) it means you are a Good, Worthwhile Person.

    Everyone needs to feel like their life has some meaning, if only to another few people. It’s sick and screwed-up that some give their lives meaning by terrorizing young women. But it’s understandable.

    It hits me every time I’m in rural America. The very things near and dear to their politics (cultural rigidity, sexual repression, curbing government regulation of business) are what drive their young people away and devastate their communities. Which makes those who remain even more sad and bored. Which leads them to double down on the attitudes killing their towns in the first place.

    It’s essentially not that different from a rampaging guerilla movement like ISIS, although done with politics instead of guns. But I’ll bet if you stood outside of of those spooky “New Covenant”-type rural churches with a sign reading “this church preaches hate,” somebody would shoot you. And be acquitted.

    • That…would explain it to be honest. Even in larger towns it explains it (not everyone wants to do things like go to museums or other attractions that large cities have.

      • And there’s class issues, also Frank’s phrase “cultural signifiers,” at work. My dad was (and maybe still is, I don’t have anything to do with him) a postal employee who spent his days off shoving dead-fetus photos in the faces of women going to birth-control clinics.

        He would have eaten his own face away rather than go to a museum in Portland, where he lives. He adored museums in the far-off reaches of rural Oregon (and one of them has a substantial Rodin collection, which my dad adored.)

        My dad dreaded being judged by hipsters who thought him a failure. And I get that; I feel the same way. I think a lot of conservatives are motivated by this. The whole ’60s abandonment of liberal politics as a moral obligation and organizing force, instead making liberal politics into something cool people are groovy with, was a gigantic misstep. Because most people aren’t cool.

        • Oh would we could avoid caring what other people think about us. Then it would not matter that hipsters think of us as failures. Well actually I don’t care what hipsters think since they seem to be pretty annoying.

    • Boredom is an interesting idea. I’m sure there are a lot of elements to why we see this kind of thing. Another element is that people in close quarters have to learn that people who are different than they are are still human. There’s a very interesting stat that people in low crime areas call for harsher punishments than people in high crime areas. I think we have to face the fact that people in rural areas are developmentally disabled because of their environments. Unfortunately, they have hugely more political power than urbanites.

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