Posts from January 2001

Erasing History in the Abortion Debate

To the Plainsman staff and the members of the Auburn University community:

Last week, I picked up a copy of the Plainsman like I do every Thursday. Imagine my surprise as I leafed through the pages when, nestled amidst ads hawking car insurance, I found a large tabloid advertisement mysteriously entitled Life is Full of Suprises and plastered with images of cute, mostly white babies burbling at the camera. The mystery began to dissolve into suspicion as I noticed the name Human Life Alliance across the top. And as I leafed through, I found the contents totally unsurprising, but also outrageous and disturbing: sure enough, our campus newspaper had graciously distributed hardline anti-abortion agitprop to the campus community!

I am not sure how I should think of this insert. Since it’s marked as an Advertising Insert, I suppose that they paid for the space. Yet the insert is so full of lies that the Human Life Alliance should surely be liable under the law for false advertising. For example, they insist that there is a known medical link between breast cancer and abortion, when actually studies after Brind’s did not confirm his results. The article insists that abortion causes the problem rather than being pregnant in the first place, when in fact studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that full-term pregnancies do increase the risk of breast cancer.

In addition to the pamphlet’s problems with medical facts, I am appalled by its callous psychological manipulation. Just as they change misinformation into so-called medical facts, they also change unborn fetuses into babies, rename clinics to abortion mills, and refer to women who have chosen not to carry a pregnancy to term as aborted women. The articles always focus on late-term abortions, since these are more dangerous and can be described in more gruesome terms — even though these are only 10% of all abortions performed. HLA insists that they want fair and balanced counseling for pregnant women, yet their website lists only Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) for women to turn to. Investigations have repeatedly exposed CPCs as fronts for anti-abortion groups, and found that their counseling subjects women already in an agonizing situation to misinformation, outright lies, and traumatizing emotional bullying. Much like what the HLA’s pamphlet does, actually, except that HLA sticks to pictures of cute babies instead of bloody slide shows of aborted fetuses.

The worst part of all, however, is HLA’s blatant attempt to erase history in favor of its political agenda. They erase the fact that the late-term abortions that they are so appalled by, virtually all occur either because of medical emergency, or else because women are held back by the legal red tape created because of groups like the HLA and anti-abortion lobbyists. And while they raise questions about the risks of abortions today, they ignore the over one million women every year who were forced into illegal back-alley abortions, and the 5,000 every year who died. Many were mutilated by untrained providers. Others died in fevers or blood poisoning from unsanitary conditions. Some women even poisoned themselves with lye and other chemicals in last-ditch desperation. The HLA plasters their pamphlet with pictures of cute little babies and stories from a select few women who have had bad experiences with abortion, but they attempt to silence the literally millions of women across the nation who organized from virtually scratch, spoke out, and fought tooth and nail, in order to win the most basic human right — the right to control your own body — for themselves and all future women. Trying to undo their work and return women to the butchery of illegal abortion is not pro-life. It is anti-choice, anti-life, and anti-woman.

Twenty eight years ago on the day I am writing this letter (January 22), the United States Supreme Court made the revolutionary decision that women do, in fact have a constitutional right to exercise control over their own uterine walls, and therefore states cannot force women to carry unwanted pregnancies. I wonder if the HLA knew that they were marking the anniversary with this effort to bring women’s bodies back under the boots of the State. I ask all members of our community to reject the so-called Human Life Alliance’s crude attempt at propaganda, and to celebrate January 22 as a landmark day in the human rights and liberation of women nationwide.

Charles W. Johnson, AU’02

I sent this to the Plainsman to be published in the issue immediately following the issue in which the advertising supplement was distributed. Apparently the LTE editor lost the copy of the letter I handed to her, and so it did not appear in next week’s issue and wasn’t up on the website. Eventually I found out what had happened and resubmitted the letter, sending in an e-mail copy to make sure they wouldn’t lose it. It was published the next week.