What’s next for the anti-abortion movement?

After an election night thrashing, the movement hopes to make its message more palatable to the public

Topics: Abortion, Ohio, Elections 2012, Heartbeat Bill, ,

What's next for the anti-abortion movement?Ohio state senator Nina Turner was a key opponent of the Heartbeat bill. (Credit: AP/Tony Dejak)

Ohio’s Heartbeat Bill, which would have banned abortion as early as six weeks, is dead, and it’s all Mitt Romney’s fault. So much for the heart-shaped balloons and the circus-like spectacle of a fetus “testifying” in the form of a live ultrasound before the legislature. But can the state that remains a bellwether for presidential elections tell us what’s to come in the next abortion-rights battles?

This week, Ohio’s Republican Senate president, Tom Niehaus, explicitly took President Obama’s win as a referendum on abortion rights, saying he’d told supporters that he would only allow a vote on the bill in the event of a Romney victory. He also said the bill’s proponents were incredibly annoying, including to people ostensibly on their side.

“We saw tactics that I did not appreciate, and my members did not appreciate,” Niehaus said. And for a small faction of the pro-life community to target the most pro-life group of senators in recent memory was to me outrageous.” He even praised Planned Parenthood, which his fellow Republicans had been busily trying to defund: “From my perspective, you have to look at the entirety of the work that is done by Planned Parenthood, and I believe that they offer much-needed services that are not offered other places.”

It was a classic example of the internal struggles of the right-to-life movement, between the absolutists who want to get the courts to overturn Roe v. Wade all at once by setting blatant traps like the heartbeat bill, and those who want to chip at it, one misleadingly named incremental bill at a time. Both Niehaus’ words and the humiliating election-day rejections of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock suggest that the absolutists are in trouble, at least for now.

None of this suggests that everyone who got outraged this year should go home and enjoy those free abortion gifts Obama’s been handing out. (Wait, those aren’t part of Obamacare?) Indeed, the struggles in the statehouses and the court room continue apace, mostly trying to undo the damages of the laws that were passed in the past couple of years: Mississippi’s only abortion clinic fighting to stay open, ongoing litigation against unconstitutional 20-week bans aimed at the Supreme Court. We don’t know whether the state legislatures that will be seated next year will read the election results the same way Niehaus did; with a pro-choice president in the White House, the anti-choice movement is likely to focus on the states more than ever. And as activists demand that the president reverse his politically pandering move to prevent emergency contraception from being sold over the counter, expect the other side to start falsely claiming that it’s abortion being sold over the counter to pre-teens.

For true soldiers of the struggle against abortion (and often contraception), the election was not a sign that they should back down; it was a sign that they should get more diplomatic about their intentions as well as return to putting pro-choicers on the defensive. In a recent piece published at LifeNews, Susan B. Anthony List’s president Marjorie Dannenfelser wrote, “There is no sugarcoating it: The re-election of the most pro-abortion president in our nation’s history was an incredible blow to our movement and to the fate of countless innocent unborn babies and vulnerable women.” But, she said, the problem was that Mitt Romney’s campaign hadn’t talked about abortion enough, under the belief that everything would have been different if more people had heard about how Obama voted when he was a state legislator on precisely the kind of grisly, baiting anti-choice legislation (banning “partial birth abortion”) that helped their side win the ’90s.

The trouncing of Akin and Mourdock, says Dannenfelser, did not mean that the electorate was rejecting an agenda of pseudoscience and lack of compassion towards rape victims. She offers two solutions: “1) Our candidates must be better trained to articulate their pro-life position. 2) We need more women candidates.” The answer, in other words, is better media training.

She may well be right: The “Kinsley gaffes” (a politician accidentally telling the truth) allowed voters to see beyond rhetoric about fetal rights and compassion and toward the essential cruelty and misogyny of the anti-choice position. And these gaffes were primed for 140 characters and cable news outrage. The question is, if the movement gets savvier and subtler, and if everyone thinks this election beat back the extremists once and for all, will it work?

Irin Carmon

Irin Carmon is a staff writer for Salon. Follow her on Twitter at @irincarmon or email her at icarmon@salon.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>