In undergrad, I had a class that did a case study on Corinthian leather. In 1974, Chrysler launched a media campaign boasting about their use of Corinthian leather in their new luxury vehicles. They employed Ricardo Mantlebaum to promote their new luxury leather. The reality was that their leather was pretty much the same as other luxury car makers and most of the leather for Chrysler came from New Jersey (but Garden State Leather is not as sexy sounding).
The campaign was a success. People do not have a deep knowledge of leather products and simply believed the messaging. Chrysler created a demand for a non-existent product and reaped the benefits.
Anti-Abortion Movement’s Corinthian Leather
The anti-abortion movement has created a media campaign that is so much more sophisticated and produced than Corinthian leather. Anti-abortion groups use marketing and symbolic politics to hide what they are really doing. They frame their cause as “moral” and say its about “the sanctity of life” and “saving babies.” This is as legitimate as Chrysler implying that their interiors were somehow exotic and luxurious and not leather from Jersey.
There is nothing about the anti-abortion movement that is actually about the sanctity of life. Most anti-abortion groups could care less about the life of the mother. In cases of rape and the health of the mother, the Democrats have managed to carve out exemptions. Most anti-abortion groups seek to eliminate these exemptions. They have created a whole public dialogue about “legitimate rape.” They seek to force women to carry children conceived through rape and incest to term. They seek to end the “life of the mother” exemption.
Their campaign is also not about reducing abortions. Colorado started a very successful program to provide teen girls free IUDs. IUDs prevent pregnancy are are the most effective form of reversible birth control on the market (less than .001 percent failure rate). The program worked. Teen pregnancy in Colorado dropped by 42 percent during the program. This means that the number of abortions sought also dropped significantly. The program also saved Colorado an estimated $85M in Medicaid funds alone. So, when the Right, which professes to desire a reduction in abortions and government spending saw a program that achieved both, what did they do? They shut it down.
The anti-abortion groups frame forcing women to become incubators, to die in order to birth a child, and eliminate programs that decrease unwanted pregnancies as being about “the sanctity of life.” They couple images of fetuses and babies (to pull on your emotions) with images of demonic women who just want to “whore it up” and “kill babies” because they are inconvenient.
The messaging crosses groups and platforms. You see the same messaging in picket signs, pamphlets, blogs, media articles and interviews and on Twitter. Their hoards follow in lock-step with the messaging, continuing to chant this is about “saving babies” and “sanctity of life” all they while they demand that people be put to death for their crimes.
The marketing works. It is hard to argue that it is okay to “kill a baby” if it was conceived through rape or incest. It is hard to tell people that the mother somehow has more rights than the unborn. Its so hard that women now face prison terms for using drugs while pregnant rather than getting access to rehabilitation.
Anti-abortion’s New Jersey’s Moment
The reality is, anti-abortion groups believe they have the right, and the government has the right, to control a woman’s body. They deeply believe that any woman’s body belongs to them and they have the ultimate right to tell her what she can and cannot do with her own body. The idea that women have power to make their own decisions and control their own bodies is antithetical to their world view.
Abortion is just the start of their desire to control women and remove any power from women. The anti-abortion folks are now seeking to ban IUDs. Again, they eschew facts and simply go with marketing lies. They claim IUDs cause abortions. The fact is, IUDs prevent implantation of eggs so that the woman is never pregnant. So, why do anti-abortion folks hate on IUDs? Because they are effective and give women power. An IUD is implanted in a short office visit. It is effective for up to seven years. It is not detectable without a medical exam. It does not require a women go into a store and buy birth control or go to her pharmacist every month to pick up pills. There is no embarrassment factor with an IUD. And they work better than anything else on the market.
Anti-abortion folks believe the women should be punished for having sex. Don’t just do it for procreation with your only sex partner in a marriage? Then you deserve to get punished. Unplanned pregnancy. Odd looks when you buy your 36 count pack of condoms for the weekend. Birth control methods with high failure rates so safety is a crap shoot. Birth control methods which can be discovered by partners or parents and used to punish women for taking control of their bodies.
The anti-abortion folks love to say that they are doing this to prevent women from suffering mental harm. They feature stories from weeping women talking about the anguish of their abortions. These women express deep regret and mental pain. They talk about how they feel “empty” and “guilty” and can never love a man again because of their abortion.
The anti-abortion groups, however, would never interview a 14 year old forced to carry her father’s child to term and raise it because he raped her. That child’s mental anguish is unimportant. They never interview the woman who aborted after five months when the doctor told her that her child would be born significantly deformed and live for less than a week. They never interview the woman who lives in poverty, is trying to support her other child and make sure that child eats and gets and education, and is accidentally impregnated by an abusive boyfriend. They don’t interview the Harvard professor who had an abortion at 20 so she could finish her schooling and then had a family on her own timeline. The mental health of all those other people do not matter at all for those claiming to be “pro-life.”