Michele Bachmann: Pro-choice spokeswoman

The staunchly anti-abortion Republican will not stand for the government controlling her body -- huh?

Published August 21, 2009 4:01PM (EDT)

As Andrew Leonard once wrote, "When Michele Bachmann speaks, people don't just listen, they gape." As Salon readers know, the Republican congresswoman from Minnesota is a seemingly bottomless source of outrageous wingnuttery; when she gets on a roll, she can make Sarah Palin sound like a liberal academic. Boggling at what comes out of her mouth is so routine, it's hardly even fun anymore. 

But on Tuesday, Bachmann went on Sean Hannity's radio show and gave us a whole new kind of jaw-dropper: She might just be pro-choice! I mean, how else are we supposed to interpret a statement like the following?

That's why people need to continue to go to the town halls, continue to melt the phone lines of their liberal members of Congress, and let them know, under no certain circumstances will I give the government control over my body and my health care decisions.

I doubt I need to tell you that in reality, Michele Bachmann is the farthest thing from pro-choice. The Minnesota Independent recently reported that "Bachmann is ranked third of 435 U.S. House members in total campaign contributions from anti-abortion interests, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics." Also, "She's sponsored or cosponsored an impressive 13 bills restricting abortion rights so far this year. Among the bills, one includes funneling entitlement money to 'abortion alternatives' programs and another that would ban race and sex discrimination against fetuses. Yet another would give 14th Amendment protections to an embryo or fetus." If you're a glutton for punishment, you can go watch her discuss defunding Planned Parenthood over at Feministe, but I trust you get the picture.

And yet, there she is, saying, "under no certain circumstances will I give the government control over my body and my health care decisions" -- exactly what reproductive rights activists have been saying forever. Feminist and progressive blogs are having a good giggle over that, and I've certainly joined in. But unfortunately, if you start to think about it, it very quickly stops being funny and starts being unbearably frustrating, because it highlights the impassibility of the central tension in the abortion debate. Michele Bachmann -- and undoubtedly many others of her ilk, who are currently making an awful racket about health care reform potentially threatening individual liberty -- agree with pro-choicers in principle that the government should have no control over our bodies. There's your common ground right there! And yet, anti-choicers insist on framing abortion restrictions as something other than the government controlling citizens' bodies and health care decisions. In their world, forcing a woman to go through pregnancy and childbirth against her will is somehow not a violation of her basic freedom. (But insuring every American? Why don't you just rip up the Constitution while you're at it!)

Of course, it's not like we should expect logical consistency from the likes of Michele Bachmann by now -- but then, that's kind of the point. We already know that people who rail against big government but support anti-abortion legislation (to say nothing of privacy violations and fiscal recklessness out the wazoo, as long as it all comes from a Republican administration) are not using earth logic. That's been obvious all along, but it hasn't made a dent in their ability to get attention and be taken seriously. So sure, seeing it laid out so plainly is kind of funny -- right up until it really, really isn't.


By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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