The War on Women has become a political catchphrase, popular enough to warrant its own entry on Wikipedia, which defines it as “an expression in United States politics, used to describe Republican Party initiatives in federal and state legislatures that restrict women’s rights, especially reproductive rights.” The definition continues:
The term is often used when targeting policies that reduce or eliminate taxpayer funding for women’s health organizations, like Planned Parenthood… Prominent Democrats and feminists have used the phrase to criticize conservative actions as trying to force their social views and religious beliefs on a general public by legal legislation.
Add to “prominent Democrats” and “feminists” the mainstream media. Read news articles or watch the talking heads discuss abortion and you’ll find the “War on Women” description used again and again.
The Way the Media Frames Abortion Debates
Framing the abortion debate as an “assault on women’s reproductive rights” plays well with abortion advocates because it paints any abortion restriction from the pro-choice point of view. But this is precisely what the debate is about,and why Americans are so conflicted on this issue.
One side believes in a woman’s unalienable right to terminate her pregnancy. The other side believes in human rights for all, including the unborn human in the womb.
If reporters and journalists were to frame all conversations about abortion as a “War on Babies,” I suspect abortion advocates would cry foul. They would protest such coverage as biased toward the pro-life view, and they’d be right. So shouldn’t we recognize that pro-life advocates are right to question the journalistic decision to adopt a pro-choice perspective in framing abortion restrictions as a “War on Women”?
When news reports use this motif or describe those who protest restrictions on abortion as “woman’s rights protestors,” they’re being unfair. They’re also being inaccurate.
Just who is at the forefront of this “war on women?”
- Well, we could start with Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life.
- Or we could point to Marjorie Dannenfelser, who runs the Susan B. Anthony List.
- Then there’s political filmmaker, Lila Rose, who goes undercover to expose lawbreaking at abortion clinics.
- And Kristen Day, who heads up Democrats for Life.
- Or Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. who has likened abortion to “black genocide.”
- In journalism, we have Kirsten Powers and Mollie Hemingway, who helped bring national media attention to the multiple-murder trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell.
- Or actresses like Patricia Heaton, who consistently uses her Twitter platform to advocate for life.
What do all these people have in common? They’re all women.
Women Vs. Women
The fact is, women are at the forefront of the so-called “War on Women.” That’s why it’s particularly damaging for media outlets to adopt the pro-choice spin on abortion battles by failing to challenge the terminology. It has the rhetorical effect of making every pro-life woman a traitor to the cause of women’s rights.
Using the “War on Women” nomenclature communicates this message: if you are for unrestricted abortion rights, you are pro-women. If you are pro-life, you’re anti-women.
This must be news to the majority of women in the United States, who consistently express their support for a ban on late-term abortions. Consider the recent recent controversy in Texas over a bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks. If this is an example of Gov. Rick Perry’s “War on Women,” it doesn’t play out that way in the polls. You see, women are more likely than men to support a ban on abortion at 20 weeks.
In other polls, women take a stronger pro-life view than men: 24 percent of women want all abortions made illegal and 36 percent want almost all illegal. Americans are generally in favor of abortion access during the first trimester, butsupport falls drastically by the second and third trimesters.
Apparently, most women in the United States do not believe they need unfettered access to a life-taking surgical procedure in order to be on equal footing with men. Outside of Planned Parenthood circles, few women believe the highest and most sacred aspect of women’s rights is the choice of a mother to take the life of her child.
If reporters want to accurately describe the debate over abortion in this country, they should retire the “War on Women” phrase, or at least challenge it when abortion advocates use it. When it comes to abortion, there’s no war on women. What we have is a war between women.
Trevin Wax is the Managing Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum developed by LifeWay Christian Resources. He blogs daily at Kingdom People. He is also the author of Holy Subversion (Crossway, 2010) and Counterfeit Gospels (Moody, 2011).
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