Anti-choicers have found a new weapon in their mission to drum up more hatred for legal, accessible contraception in larger conservative circles: anti-environmentalism. As Lisa Hymas at Grist reports, global warming activist and former Vice President Al Gore has been really turning up the volume lately when it comes to highlighting the intersection of feminism and environmentalism. At the Games for Change Festival in New York, Gore spelled out how empowering women to control their own fertility pays off for the environment, because women, given the tools to limit their family size, usually choose to do so. And this, in turn, helps curtail explosive population growth that’s straining the planet’s resources and contributing to global warming. It’s a classic win-win situation. Women get what they want. Environmentalists get what they want. Families and communities have lower infant mortality rates. Economic stability becomes easier to achieve.
Cue the anti-choicers, whose main weapon against arguments like this is to pretend that they don’t understand the concept of consent. In fact, the arguments that they’ve been making against Gore work best if you assume women are mindless wombs whose exterior exists mainly for decorative purposes. As Hymas reports, the conservatives railing against this are pretending that family size could only be limited through evil, fascist methods, when Gore was of course pointing out that women reliably do it for themselves if they’re empowered to do so. They get away with this because they’re speaking to an audience that treats women’s consent with contempt. This is an audience that wants to characterize abortion as “violence against women”, because they want you to believe the presence of blood matters more than the fact that women ask for abortion. (Of course, they’re self-contradictory even then, because abortion is far less painful and bloody than childbirth, which would make the latter more “violent” if you believe that women don’t have a right to make choices for themselves.) This is also the audience that’s up in arms about Slutwalk, because the Slutwalkers argues that a short skirt isn’t consent. In general, conservatives aren’t doing so great on the concept of women and consent. And so they’re warmed up to hear arguments that conflate a woman voluntarily limiting her family size for her own reasons with a woman being forced to do so against her will. “Will” implies that women’s minds and hearts matter, and anti-choicers are solely interested in vaginas and uteruses.
But the unwillingness to treat the concept of consent with respect is nothing new for anti-choicers. What is new and somewhat alarming is that this kind of thing marks a new avenue for growth when it comes to the anti-contraception movement. As Hymas reports, many of the people who cheerfully embraced an anti-contraception stance don’t come from the Junior Anti-Sex League, but are in fact climate denialists who hate Al Gore so much they’re willing to take your condoms away just to score points against him. More importantly, they’re so devoted to their theory that there is no global warming that they tend to have a knee-jerk reaction against any policy that might actually curtail global warming, even if the environmentalist effects are a happy side effect of a policy whose main purpose is the betterment of people’s immediate futures.
But even shoring up their denialism pales in comparison to the main motivation for these attacks: pissing off liberals.
The politics of resentment invigorate the right more than most liberals are willing to admit, and that’s why we shouldn’t shrug off the anti-choice movement’s ramped-up attacks on contraception as being inherently limited in a society where most people, conservatives included, use contraception. So much of modern conservatism is about characterizing liberals as an enemy who must be defeated at all costs, even if that means throwing self-interest and common sense out the window. Anthony Watts is a good example. He’s willing to misrepresent Gore’s remarks and stoke his readership to oppose policies that mainly exist to help improve the lives and health of women worldwide, all because he just really hates Gore that much. You get the feeling that if Al Gore said chocolate ice cream tastes good, Watts would write some scathing denunciation, so all-consuming is his hate for the man.
Anti-choicers are well situated to exploit obsessive cultural resentments like this. What is the anti-choice position, if not resentment of women for being free and of people in general for having sex? As long as anti-choicers can convince the larger conservative movement that restricting access to contraception will make liberals gnash their teeth, they can garner support from people who might otherwise not care in the slightest. Just a gander at the hate mail and hate tweets I get suggests this is becoming more of a strategy for anti-choicers. Most of it used to be of the “baby killer” variety of blather, but lately more than half of it has been along the lines of, “I hope they ban abortion and shut down Planned Parenthood because I hate you and I know that would make you sad.” The health of millions of women is not too high a price to pay to ruin some feminist writer’s day, it turns out. But that’s to be expected; global warming denialism is as much about prioritizing sticking it to Al Gore over the fate of the planet as it is about anything else.
We can expect to see more of this. The assault on Planned Parenthood has momentum strictly because of the “piss off the liberals” crowd; do you really think that folks like Andrew Breitbart and Bill “Loofah” O’Reilly are kept up at night because college girls and women on Medicaid might not be getting pregnant as often? Absolutely not. They hate Planned Parenthood because feminists like it, and they don’t like feminists because feminists are liberals and liberals are The Enemy. It’s a pure loop of hate. But it’s one that’s sucked in a huge percentage of our population.