Over at Slate, abortion supporter Christina Cauterucci has an article about the phrase “except in the womb.” To call it an “article” is a bit generous. It’s really more of a rant. The thesis is basically “I do not like it when anti-abortion people say this.” Still, her annoyance is at least partially justified. For instance, when she says:
The ultimate message of “except in the womb” is that no one is allowed to try to change the world for the better until they try to criminalize abortion.
I immediately thought, Now you know how we feel when abortion supporters argue that we can’t try to save babies’ lives until we’ve adopted every child from foster care!, or until we’ve reformed immigration!, or whatever the popular distraction of the moment is. No one doubts that foster care and immigration reform are good causes. There’s no need to make it a competition.
|Via Dank Pro-Life Memes. Image description: One person says “Killing homeless should be illegal.” A second person responds “How many homeless did you invite to your house?”|
The use of “except in the womb” is sometimes perfectly on point, sometimes analogous to the “not until” pro-choice argument, and sometimes completely inappropriate. Surprise: context matters! So let’s consider each of Cauterucci’s examples, and my (admittedly subjective) verdicts on each.
Statement: “Climate change activists want to save future generations, except in the womb.”
Verdict: Mostly bad
In general, using “except in the womb” in connection with climate change is bad form. It’s a classic example of what Josh Brahm calls “fetus tunnel vision,” defined as “the inability to see and/or acknowledge human rights injustices without equating or comparing them to abortion.” The world has plenty of problems to tackle; we can acknowledge them on their merits without twisting everything into an abortion debate.
The one exception I’ll allow is when climate change activists promote abortion as a form of population control, particularly for low-income minorities, to save the planet—as Sen. Bernie Sanders recently did. It’s completely appropriate (indeed necessary) to call out the eugenicist roots of that thinking, and “save future generations, except in the womb” is a fine start.
But the usage Cauterucci cites was directed at Greta Thunberg, not Sen. Sanders, and it’s pretty blatant fetus tunnel vision. Cauterucci’s annoyance is understandable. I share it.
Statement: “Abortion care coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in the field? That’s supporting peace, except in the womb.”
Verdict: Spot on
I have no complaints about this use of “except in the womb.” Abortion is an act of violence, completely incompatible with any institution claiming a mission of peace. And it’s obviously not a case of fetus tunnel vision since, as Cauterucci herself acknowledges, it directly concerns abortion policy.
Statement: “Opposed to Indiana’s ban on abortions sought due to fetal genetic disorders? That’s celebrating people with disabilities, except in the womb.”
Verdict: Also spot on
You can’t celebrate people with disabilities if you think they’re better off dead. You really think people with disabilities don’t notice your “fetal anomalies” abortion advocacy? It’s hurtful. “Except in the womb” is great in this context; better yet, let’s point ableist abortion supporters to pro-life statements from folks with disabilities.
Statement: “When Kamala Harris called for stricter gun laws after the Parkland shooting, it showed she cared about children being slaughtered—except in the womb.”
If a pro-choice Joe Schmo brings up gun control and a pro-lifer responds with “except in the womb,” that’s clearly fetus tunnel vision, and also wildly insensitive to the families who have lost children to gun violence. The loss of life at Parkland is horribly tragic, full stop. Turning it into an abortion debate benefits no one.
The one reason I call this borderline is because it is not Joe Schmo; it’s Sen. Kamala Harris, a public figure with a long history of hostility to unborn babies. Her political hypocrisy is gross and rage-inducing. Still, there’s probably a better way to make this point.
Statement: “When Nancy Pelosi condemned Basher al-Assad for killing children with chemical weapons, she said she told her grandson the victims were ‘children wherever they are’—except in the womb.”
Verdict: Also borderline
Same as above.
Statement: “In replies and quote tweets on Twitter, conservatives regularly append the phrase to anything a perceived liberal says that rests on human decency or a shared set of morals. They’ve tacked it onto a March for Our Lives sign that said ‘I don’t want [kids] to die’…”
Verdict: Definitely inappropriate.
This is akin to the “Joe Schmo” hypothetical above—except that, for all you know, the person at the March for Our Lives is pro-life on abortion! That’s just tribal antagonism for the sake of it. Knock it off.
Statement: “…to Rep. Eric Swalwell’s claim that he wants to protect children’s dreams…”
Verdict: Probably inappropriate.
You can make the borderline case as with Sen. Harris and Rep. Pelosi above, except that Rep. Swalwell and his abortion advocacy are less prominent.
Statement: “… to Planned Parenthood’s post–Christchurch massacre tweet that said, ‘we all deserve to live free from fear and violence’…”
Verdict: Absolutely fine.
C’mon. It’s Planned Parenthood. They killed 332,757 helpless human beings last year. They don’t get a pass.
Statement: “…and to many, many invocations of #BlackLivesMatter.”
Verdict: NO. NO NO NO. NO.
Fetus tunnel vision and racist undertones? Not a winning combination. Please, for the love, do not do this.
Do you agree with my verdicts? Let’s hear your arguments in the comments.