Why the anti-choice movement isn’t really about abortion.
Okay, I’m about to lay some heavy truths on you regarding the history of the abortion debate in America.
For the record, I learned all of this in the fall 2008 session of Hist 461: American Medical History at the University of Oregon. I have a BA in History and Masters of Arts in Teaching.
In the late 1800s the AMA attempted to delegitimize non-AMA affiliated doctors, especially midwives. They targeted midwives because home births cut into establishment profits. The AMA contacted religious organizations in an attempt to drum up public support of harsher abortion laws (abortions were often administered by midwives.) While 19th century Catholics were consistently anti-choice, many Protestant churches approached by the AMA rejected their lobbying, claiming that it would alienate and victimize women in their congregations.
But abortions were insanely dangerous at the time, of course the AMA would want to regulate it, you might be saying to your computer screen. Yes, but so was carrying a child to term. Additionally, the AMA was not what it is now. Medical scientific knowledge was so limited that the “fringe doctors” were sometimes applying theories more accurate than the AMA. The AMA was a collection of Gilded Age doctors with more money and therefore more influence than fringe doctors, including midwives.
So don’t believe it for a second when people claim that limitations in reproductive rights are purely altruistic. While individuals in the anti-choice movement may believe that abortion is murder, this was not the foundation for the movement. The soul of the anti-choice movement is to limit women in their agency in life, initially by targeting midwives. Misogyny is in the movement’s DNA.
This isn’t to say that first wave feminists were pro-choice, because they really weren’t. However, that’s a story for another day.