It’s Not a Pro-Life Movement; it’s Forced-Birth

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.

Anyone who thinks language doesn’t matter hasn’t been referred to as a “host body” lately. 

We Canadians usually look to the United States with both a mixture of awe and inspiration. Awe isn’t necessarily a good thing and many of us use the inspiration as a general example of what we don’t want here. That trend is continuing at a remarkably frightening pace. 

Over the past few months, “heartbeat bills” banning abortions after around six weeks, when a heartbeat is detected, have been debated or signed into law in six states and more are coming. As a side note, abortions are not performed on people who might not be pregnant and doctors are required to determine if someone is pregnant, and how far along they are, before they can get an abortion. This takes time and it’s longer than two weeks after a missed period (which takes five to six weeks to be noticeably “missed”). So effectively, banning abortion by the time one discovers they are pregnant. 

Federal judges have blocked the bills in Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa and North Dakota based on reference. In February, Missouri introduced a bill that would ban abortions immediately if there is a change in legal precedent at the Supreme Court; you know, just in case.

In March, a Republican House Leader from Florida referred to a pregnant woman as a “host body”, saying

As technology moves along a human body can exist outside of its host body earlier and earlier. And so one has to think, until what time does the host body have veto power over this other life? 

Dehumanizing? Yes, and purposefully so. The “human body” exists inside of its “host body”. It’s quite similar to how the language has been purposefully shaped to dehumanize a potential human child. There’s two sides to every argument. 

At what point does a woman give up her agency? The alternative to unwanted pregnancies are few with the only fool proof way to avoid it being celibacy; unless you believe that part of the bible where a non-human entity might impregnate a woman who has never had sexual relations. 

Modern society has taught us that women cannot get pregnant without assistance, be it medical or male, yet the consequences are borne by women. Some will say that is the result of choices. Yet do we “choose” to be women? 

Not all proposed heartbeat bills provide exceptions for rape or incest so an unwanted pregnancy resulting from a situation women and children did not choose effectually punishes them solely for having the ability to conceive; not for making bad choices.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, a holiday Georgia is trying to make mandatory. ~ Saturday Night Live 

It’s not a coincidence that these bills are being passed now. The subject reared its ugly head with renewed vigor during last year’s appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. At the time, many contemplated whether he would be instrumental in overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that enshrined a woman’s agency over her own body. In order to have that opportunity, however, there must be a case that reaches the Supreme Court which asks the Justices to review the law.

Easily enough, the passage of these bills force advocates to challenge the constitutionality prior to the bill becoming law or accept the law afterwards. Obviously, the latter is against everything women’s rights advocates are fighting for and so they must take the case to court. Once a decision has been made, the state has the right to appeal. So far the constitutional rights of American women have been upheld but the message is clear: women’s rights to agency over their own bodies is not acceptable to either some lawmakers or influential groups; and it doesn’t stop at the border.

Anti-choice advocates have been active and outspoken in politics for some time in America but they have only recently seemed so emboldened in Canada. In Alberta’s April election, pro-life groups such as Right Now publicly campaigned for United Conservative Party candidates. One such candidate, Adriana LaGrange from Red Deer North, was elected and given the Ministerial post in charge of K-12 Education. Another, Joseph Schow from Cardston-Siksika, claimed that becoming an elected representative was merely a “foot in the door strategy” to effecting legal change for the pro-life movement.

Those who were concerned about women’s rights prior to Kenney and other pro-life advocates’ election were assured that individuals could not affect the laws regarding pregnancy termination in Alberta because it remains federal jurisdiction. That’s exactly the case in the U.S., however, and the states do not seem overly concerned about that. 

I expect Kenney’s government will attempt to do what they can to further their agenda as that is what parties do when they manage to form government. The NDP wanted to ensure life was more affordable for families and they implemented policies to do so. Kenney wants to privatize “social” services and he will implement policies to do so. 

With his typical lack of personal responsibility, Alberta’s Premier has passed the buck on spending cuts to a “Blue Ribbon Panel” of individuals who have been tasked with evaluating Alberta’s expenditures and proposing ways to save money. I expect there will be much less funding for abortion; and that will make some people very happy because they didn’t want an abortion, nor were they being forced to have one, in the first place. 

Will we see the dehumanization of Alberta women in favour of a man’s wanted or unwanted sperm fertilizing an egg that dropped, unwittingly, into a woman’s uterus? Why not? If Sam Oosterhoff, a 21 year-old Ontario MPP, has his way, safe abortions will be “unthinkable” in our lifetime.   

Are these laws based on morality, as some pro-lifers argue? Despite what some may suggest, I don’t think it’s about control. There was no control before safe abortions were made available to women and there certainly won’t be any afterward.

Is it about the sanctity of life? No, few people care what kind of a life would be available to those after forced birth and safe abortions will still be available to those who can afford one; or those who are under protection of a faith-based organization that doesn’t want the scandal made public. 

Also contrary to the sanctity of life argument is that if provisions are made for rape and incest, then it’s not about life, it’s about a woman or child’s agency. If a foetus is a “person”, then it is a person whether its father is also its grandfather or its host body was tied to a chair and raped by three different men over a few weeks, right? The argument is inconsistent. It is either about life or agency and as some of the legislation has proven, agency matters more than “life”.

As a woman who only went to 40 weeks with one of my four children (the others were 38, 37 and 38 weeks respectively) and bounced down an alley at 38 weeks trying to get my fourth to go already because I had a week off and it worked better for me, I cannot imagine what it would be like to carry a child one didn’t even want.

It’s not about morality anyway; it’s about biology. Women can get pregnant by having sex with a man or by paying obscene amounts of money to a fertility specialist. Almost 50 years after the women’s liberation movement, the fear that caucasians will be wiped out by our reluctance to live in poverty in a free-enterprise society, even with a good social safety net, has taken hold.  

To me, forced-birth is about maintaining the status quo. 

First, to keep the poor, well… poor, you need to take away opportunities for them to succeed; and few countries are better at dangling a mirage of a carrot to the masses than the United States.

Without access to affordable healthcare and education, the U.S. lures people with the “American Dream” – but they don’t want you to read the small print: “individual results may vary”.

Another way to keep people down is to ensure they have more children. Wealthy people will still be able to access abortion because they have mobility and the means to pay for care. A change in the law disproportionately affects poor people, who will have more children, who are more likely be poor themselves. 

After the civil rights movement in the 60’s and women’s liberation in the 70’s which allowed them some control over their agency, less babies were born. That trend hit a 30-year low in 2019 and more than 80% of women whose income was below the poverty line in 2005 saying they “could not afford to have a baby“.

And what better way to ensure the legacy of your poor white people than to criminalize abortion? Aside from restricting access to affordable healthcare and education, of course, a great option is forced birth. While I have little doubt there are true believers out there who want every child to have the opportunity to work hard and be rewarded by God, forced birth isn’t about morality; it’s about keeping poor people poor

On the positive side, millennials have more to fight for than they once thought. 

This post contains fact and opinion and some huge bias against forced birth. 

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean

contact: [email protected]

Twitter: @Mitchell_AB for all the commentary; @thisweekinAB for posts