Why Woman-as-Abortion-Victim is Even Worse than Endorsing Punishment

Donald TrumpRepublican attempts to distance from “punishment” instead liken women to feeble minded children, incapable of adult moral agency or responsibility.

If Donald Trump’s comment about punishing women for abortions exposed the bloated belly of the Pro-Life Priesthood, his retraction exposed its sulfur-spewing rear end.

In his inimitable drumpf-ish way, Trump managed to follow conservative rhetoric to its logical conclusion. If abortion is murder and murderers deserve to be punished, then almost a third of American women should be treated like felons. When Trump said as much, Ted Cruz and likeminded Bible-quoting fetus fetishists freaked out for a very good reason: The Cruzes and the Rubios of the world don’t want Americans to think about where their talking points and policies ultimately lead. Most people, including Republicans, don’t think their daughter or sister or mother is a murderer; and they don’t really want her treated like one. Most Americans, including Christians, can tell the difference between an embryo and a child. They are capable of grasping both biological evolution and moral nuance. Punishing women does not resonate.

But to say that women are victims of abortion, implies an even uglier attitude toward females, one with implications that go far, far beyond abortion.

The Christian Right wants to thread a bent needle. They want to argue that if a woman goes to a doctor to get an abortion, the doctor is a criminal and the woman is not—even after signing informed consent paperwork, being subjected to a forced vaginal ultrasound, and returning to the clinic two or three times to get the procedure done. What does that say about us?

What They’re Really Saying

Let me put on my Trump voice and spell it out: Women are like little children or people who are mentally impaired and can’t legally be held responsible for their “decisions” or actions.

  • Women are dumb. They don’t know what they are doing.
  • Women are gullible. They are easily duped by tricksters who just want to make money off of medical procedures and pills.
  • Women are incapable of managing their own lives. Left on their own they will make bad decisions that they regret.
  • Women are weak. They need to be protected by big strong men with lots of money and political power – Men like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

If you feel yourself bristling, Don’t you worry your pretty little head about this. Daddy knows best. Let go and let God. (Man is made in the image of God.) He will provide. A woman’s place is in the home; Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Come on, even the Bible says that God put men in charge, that a woman’s glory is her hair–Muhammad got that one right—and women will be saved by childbearing! No sense of humor? You’re so cute when you’re angry.

Banking on Disloyalty

Since the whole rhetorical game depends on people not thinking about what’s being implied, let me spell out another way that Trump’s retraction and the whole woman-as-victim thing stinks like a sulfur vent.

Woman-as-victim rhetoric proclaims the innocence of women seeking abortions while portraying abortion providers as predators. It denies the huge heart of compassion and moral determination that leads a person like doctor Willie Parker or clinic owner Amy Hagstrom Miller or counselor Charlotte Taft to get up in the morning and walk a gauntlet of protestors who are waving rosaries and dead baby pictures and yelling about hell, despite lies and denigration and bogus regulations and death threats and colleagues slain.

When Trump, Rubio, Cruz, Kasich and other self-described Pro-Lifers call women victims, they invite us to turn on people who have been there for us, people who recognize the depth and power of our moral agency, strength and intelligence. They invite us to turn on people who have supported us to make the best decisions we can and then live with the decisions we make. They invite us to trade in our gratitude and loyalty for a cheap get-out-of-jail-free card.

In extending this offer, they are betting on another bundle of stereotypes: women are fickle, women are faithless, women can be bought with cheap baubles.

Too Dumb to Notice the Fake?

And adding injury to insult, “Pro-Lifers” are letting women know that whether we are white or brown or “exotic,” with kinky hair or curly or straight, to them we’re all dumb blondes who won’t notice a rather important sleight of hand: the get-out-of-jail card is fake.  If our doctors and nurses are murderers we are at minimum accomplices, and so are the partners who make the abortion decision with us, and so are all of the family members and friends who provide wise counsel instead of calling the police.

So, to Trump and company, I say this: Call us murderers if you want, but you’ll have to call us all murderers. Don’t think you can divide Americans by painting women as victims. You may believe your own insipid stereotypes, but we know better. We know our own minds and hearts and dreams and goals and loves and loyalties. And they are formidable.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt; Deas and Other Imaginings.
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29 Responses to Why Woman-as-Abortion-Victim is Even Worse than Endorsing Punishment

  1. Fantastic piece!

    I just loved the opening paragraph, I was sucked in immediately. Then, when I came upon your “drumpf” allusion, I realized that there was no escape!

    Thanks. You outdid yourself.

    BTW: here’s another great look at why 30% of the female electorate still rally behind Mr. Nutbag. The interview explains just about everything eles you need to know.


  2. archaeopteryx1 says:

    Bart Ehrman, in his The New Testament, pointed out that throughout the ancient Mediterranean cultures, extending as far as Mesopotamia, women were considered ‘incomplete’ – something happened in the womb which caused women to be born without penises. To penetrate is to have power, to be penetrated, is to accept submission (and lack power), ergo, the male is superior to the female. In the words of Dave Barry, I’m not making this up. Extend that infallible(?) logic forward a few thousand years, and you have Donald Drumpf, the apex of BCE thinking.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Women are victims though. Victims of years of patriarchal oppression, and until we eake up to that and what it implies, Trump, Cruz, et al will continue to find ‘believers’.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. jethom33545 says:

    Thank you, once again, for all you do in leading people away from viewing women as victims. Many men share your views and our numbers are growing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Paul Douglas says:

    Excellent analysis, Valerie! I always appreciate your ability to figure out the dynamics of what is going on and then articulate them.
    Thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. john zande says:

    Great analysis.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. vicky says:

    Mr. Trump is threatened by women, especially strong women. He will attack, dehumanize and degrade women because of his own deep insecurity. His disgusting level of rhetoric about women bares this out. I have no time or interest to listen to him nor do I care for his negativity to be apart of my life.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Bill West says:

    According to the religiously virused, “Man is made in the image of God.” Father Guido asks, “If we were made in the image of God, why aren’t we invisible.”

    Another very excellent article by you, Valerie.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I just wrote a similar blog article, but from the pro-life side. It’s interesting that we came to similar conclusions about this argument. The pro-life position has a logic to it that will not allow the women-as-victims to work.


    Thanks for your thoughtful analysis.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. whistlinggirl2910 says:

    After yet another week of disastrous electoral idiocies, all I can say is TGFV.
    Thank Goodness for Valerie.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. allanmerry says:

    I’ll Second that!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. mriana says:

    Well written and well said. Politicians are not doctors and should not be involved with women’s health. The decisions made concerning a woman’s health care should be between her and her doctor, no one else, unless maybe her husband, but the final say is the woman’s, after she has been informed with truthful and honest information, not false information.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “The decisions made concerning a woman’s health care should be between her and her doctor, no one else…..” This simple, stark fact is either missed (misunderstood or unrecognized) or denied by the the vast majority in our country. Your line of reasoning should be the default beginning and the default end of every discussion involving a woman’s health and reproductive decisions.

      Unfortunately, this line of reasoning will never prevail as long as the population allows itself to be influenced by the thinking and reasoning of simpleminded snake oil peddlers. There was a great chance that this line of reasoning would indeed prevail in the early ’70s but by 2016 the peddlers have managed (in almost stunning fashion) to wrestle the keys away from the asylum keepers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mriana says:

        Sadly you are right about the keys being wrestled away from the asylum keepers.

        Liked by 1 person

      • metalnun says:

        Rev. El Mundo, yes! and BTW, this is slightly off the subject of abortion, but regarding “politicians playing doctor” with women’s health issues, and the idea that women are incapable of managing our own health decisions, here is another fascinating example: Congress passed a 1998 law, “Mammography Quality Standards Act” which provides among other things, that if a woman has a breast ultrasound without an accompanying mammogram, the result must be labeled “category 0.” I found this out by personal experience as a patient, but I used to work in radiology, so let me explain: The categories range from 0, “incomplete,” to 6, “malignancy.” Prior to 1998, Category 0 meant that the image was of poor quality due to patient movement, technical difficulties, shadow, blurring, or other interfering factors making it impossible for the radiologist to interpret the image. Category 1 = no abnormalities found = normal. But since 1998, if a woman in America opts to have an ultrasound (which, BTW, is MORE sensitive than mammography and is used for screening in other countries!) instead of a mammogram, by law the result must be labeled “Category 0” even if the radiologist actually says it is normal (“Category 1”). This happened to me; the radiologist personally went over the ultrasound with me (knowing that I worked in medicine) and said it was good quality, clear and perfectly normal, but when I got the subsequent report in the mail it said “Category 0” along with a quite threatening letter stating, “It is imperative that you return a.s.a.p. for a mammogram due to your abnormal ultrasound!” So, your ultrasound will be given a bogus score and your actual results held hostage unless you submit to a mammogram – because women are too stupid to decide which lab tests we want.


  13. Amy says:

    Excellent, of course! This helped me clarify even further why he scares the crap out of me. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m blown away by this article! When I heard Trump’s sulfur spew with my own ears, my hair caught fire. I believe I may have ranted at my TV set for about 10 minutes before I finally calmed down.

    Your in depth look at what his comment truly implies is a sobering reminder of just how far we have to go in this patriarchal society. Misogyny runs deep. In recent years I’ve found myself proud of our advances as a society in this regard. We have made some headway. And then, in one fell swoop, that pride got Trumped. Now I’m back to a level of frustration I’ve not felt this fully since I left Christianity and its “Christian Model for Marriage” garbage.

    Thank you for the clarity you’ve brought to this topic.

    Liked by 1 person

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