Warning: Post contains a graphic image.
When you hear the words, “justice,” “equality” and “compassion,” what do you think about? Do these words conjure up thoughts of a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speech? Or you may think about the language that advocates for domestic violence survivors or marriage equality may use.
To particular anti-choice organizations, these words are the new framework for limiting your reproductive health. National organizations have started listening to the social justice movement and have found ways to make limiting choices about your body about “love for all.” Here are the several ways that anti-choice organizations have been trying to reframe their strategies to be youth-led, social justice organizations.
1. They recruit young people to spread their message.
Anti-choice organizations have been trying to find their poster-child for a long time. Conservatives, not surprisingly, often struggle with having representation of young adults in their movement. In this search for a fresh face, they have found Lila Rose. Lila Rose is the founder of Live Action (http://www.liveaction.org), an organization that goes “undercover” and films employees at medical clinics such as Planned Parenthood without their permission and edit the videos in a manner to make the medical personnel look like they are fueling the “abortion industry.” She is the picture-perfect representative, by all means a savior of the anti-choice movement. She is a not a middle-aged politician. She is a young, attractive by tabloid standards, and well-spoken. In addition, high school and college campus recruitment and dialogue is all the rage among anti-choice, “social justice” conscious organizations.
2. They try really hard to be funny.
One particular organization that tries the whole comedic routine is 1 Flesh, or “Bring Sexy Back” on Facebook. Although you have to dig deep to find the anti-choice rhetoric, the organization is blatantly against the use of contraceptives – a class anti-choice move. 1 Flesh was created by a college student several years ago, who wanted to make anti-birth control propaganda fun and sexy (they call natural family planning “organic”). One of my personal favorite pictures of theirs is a picture of a man and woman in wedding day attire with a condom balloon that says, “Sex is better naked.” This meme-filled website is full of information about family planning, but nothing about STIs, and ignores what young people need the most – access to high quality contraceptives.
3. They co-opt “ageism” and “discrimination.”
One organization that does this is Created Equal, who claims that abortion is discrimination due to gestational age. What this over-simplification of abortion as only discrimination ignores is the complexity surrounding why people chose to have abortions. It essentially ignores the idea that the fetus is depending on another person – a person with dreams, hopes and aspirations of their own. By equating racism and sexism to “ageism” to fetuses, it is assuming that a fetus can feel discrimination and oppression in the same ways that a developed, born human can. Putting a fetus that may or may not develop into a fully formed human above the life of another person and forcing them to give birth assumes that their own lives are not important.
4. They quote historical progressives.
Anti-choice organizations often think that if they quote famous progressives that they can buy their way into the social justice movement. One main example of this is the Susan B. Anthony List, who quote 1st wave feminists as if it gives their movement credit. Another example includes Created Equal’s quote of James Zwerg right on their homepage, and a video featuring Martin Luther King Jr.
5. They pretend to be feminists who empower women.
My personal favorite is the pro-life feminist strategy. It is based on the idea that women are being “objectified” by choosing to take control of their reproductive health. They create videos claiming that the reproductive justice movement is headed by “bros” who are only support abortion so they can have sex with women. These organizations equate consensual, heterosexual sex for pleasure with objectification of women, when in truth, having control over your own body, health and reproduction and putting pleasure as a priority in sex can be one of the most empowering things for a person to do.
How can the reproductive justice make a grand comeback? There are many ways you personally can make a difference. Keep an eye out for these organizations on your campus and take it as an opportunity to organize. Start a Choice USA chapter, and look at your own reproductive justice organization and ask yourself: Are giving young people space at the table? Keeping young people at the forefront of the movement will not only keep the reproductive justice movement going, but also challenge the false rhetoric of anti-choice politics as the “ultimate justice.”