Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Things that really piss me off, Part 1 - The Abortion Wars

Propaganda on BART
OK, as of now I am officially pissed. What did I see as I was taking the train into work this morning that made me want to throw my coffee cup at the wall and go find the person responsible so I could kick his or her ass, you ask? Well, I’m happy to share. What I saw was an anti-abortion propaganda poster from something called the Respect for Life Ministry in Oakland. The poster featured a blurry picture of a woman clutching protectively at her belly with text saying something along the lines of “The Supreme Court made abortion legal up till 9 months. Don’t you think we’ve gone too far?”.
Firstly, respect for whose life? Certainly not mine, which was not improved in any way by having to read this crap before my morning coffee. I’m not seeing how this improves the lives of all the American citizens currently getting shot at by the Iraqi resistance, either, or all the Katrina victims who are still waiting for someone to find them a permanent place to live. There are actual crises going on where those who have a genuine desire to preserve and improve the lives of others could be a real help if they chose to, and this is what these idiots are worried about?
I’m so sick and tired of this disingenuous bullshit from the fetus-fetishists. First of all, abortion is not in fact generally legal up to 9 months. Really late-term abortions are only legal in cases of extreme fetal abnormalities or risk to the life of the mother. It is not in fact possible for a woman who is 8 and a half months pregnant to walk into a clinic and say “I’d like an abortion now, please, I just suddenly upped and changed my mind. Oopsie, silly me!”. Despite how much those who fetishise the fetus would like to believe it, most abortions do not in fact happen in the third trimester, and the few that do happen for serious medical reasons. These procedures are not done on a whim.
Secondly, who is this “we” of whom they speak? Most Americans support legalized abortion. These crass attempts at emotional manipulation are nothing more than an attempt to get around that basic fact by misleading the public into thinking that something truly shocking is happening, when in fact the reality is much more mundane.
Here’s the really creepy thing. While I’m sure that there are a few anti-abortion zealots so uneducated that they really do believe that women are randomly running out and getting abortions in the eighth month of pregnancy for completely trivial reasons, I’m also pretty sure that those are not the people who are running campaigns like this. I’m sure that most of the people who design posters like this are very well aware that the only abortions that happen really late in pregnancy happen because the fetus is so genetically abnormal that it’s life expectancy outside the womb would be very short, or because continuing with the pregnancy would place the life of the mother in danger. So, if they are aware of the reality, why send out messages that attempt to mask that reality? There are only two reasons as far as I can see. One, they are so determined to win people over to their cause that they don’t care if the have to lie to do it. Secondly, they honestly think that danger to the life of the mother just isn’t all that important. I’m betting on the second, actually.
Can we please just stop pretending that these people don’t hate women?
So, I’m officially pissed. Is it even legal for religious organizations to prosthelatise on public transport? And why, in an area as liberal as this, would the BART officials agree to sell advertising space to these lunatics? I’m thinking that this may be a great opportunity for a bit of citizen activism. This is not Kansas, folks, and this crap has no place in the Bay Area. I’m getting mighty tired of the religious right’s attempts to intrude on my personal space, and I see no reason why people should be forced to look at religious propaganda while they’re commuting to work in the morning. So, Bay Area folks, is there anything we can do about this? Start some kind of campaign to let BART know that this stuff is not acceptable in the Bay Area?


FoolishOwl said...

I'm glad someone else is pissed off about this.

Occasionally, BART has bulletins for riders in plastic racks on top of the gates. The most recent one is titled, "ADVERTISEMENTS ON BART: A FREEDOM OF SPEECH ISSUE," which claims that they can't refuse political ads because of the First Amendment. The anti-abortion ad isn't mentioned, but there've been very few overtly political ads in BART, so it's obvious which one they're talking about. I hope this means a lot of people have been complaining about the ad.

It looks like the ad is produced by some organization affiliated with the Catholic Church, and the Oakland Diocese is just the local sponsor for the ad campaign. If you look at the website ( you'll find a lot of falsehoods about the nature of abortion and about the state of the law.

I'm not sure how best to respond. The timing's bad -- most of my comrades are on vacation (and badly needed for a lot of them, by the way). What worries me at the moment is less the lying in the ads than the oppressiveness of having this crap shoved in people's faces, without any response.

In the interim, I'm chewing on some ideas. Feel free to email me.

The Haikuist said...

The ad is clearly deceptive and offensive, and I was puzzling over that ad's bizarre and untrue claim that abortions are legal for nine months. My guess is that the ad has been put up in connection with the upcoming Roe v Wade anniversary next month.

The reality is that BART cannot be selective about only accepting political ads that express a certain point of view--this would be a clear free speech violation. So yes, BART can accept advocacy ads like that, even ones that we on the left may not like. For what it's worth, I remember a few years ago BART having an ad put up by a peace group, showing that infamous photo of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein back in the 80s, when he knew that Hussein was using chemical weapons. So the point is that political ads do show up on BART from time to time.

That being said, there are ways of responding to right wing crap in lieu of censorship. Maybe you could contact BACORR(Bay Area Coalition on Reproductive Rights) about this issue.

BACORR, by the way, is planning a big response to the anti-choice "Walk for Life" march in San Francisco next month. Check out for information. (The local chapter of the Socialist Party USA has endorsed the BACORR action.)

FoolishOwl said...

January 21 is apparently the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and anti-choice people will be marching in protest, so we'll be counterprotesting. Most likely, we'll far outnumber them. It's to start at 11 AM at Pier 1, near Embarcadero and Market, in San Francisco.

FoolishOwl said...

It looks like the posters are finally down.

They've been replaced by an ad campaign for disinfectants, claiming they'll prevent colds and flus, but that's deception of a different order altogether.