To: Interested Parties
Date: January 3, 2023
Last year, the anti-abortion movement unleashed its most dangerous, anti-freedom narratives in an attempt to exacerbate the already turbulent landscape of abortion rights and access. Anti-abortion activists and politicians led a concerted campaign against reproductive freedom—spreading medical disinformation, defending baseless bans on abortion care, and misleading the public about their ultimate agenda of power and control.
- Anti-abortion leaders amplified disinformation about the safety of medication abortion care. The anti-abortion movement ramped up its attacks on medication abortion care—elevating falsehoods about its health risks and “environmental impacts” to justify medically unnecessary restrictions and challenging the FDA’s long-standing approval of mifepristone. Moreover, it continued to push the unproven, unscientific practice of “abortion pill reversal.”
- The anti-abortion movement used racist dog-whistles and said the quiet part out loud about white supremacy as a driving force behind the assault on reproductive freedom. It spread misleading, hypocritical, and racist narratives about reproductive freedom to mask the disproportionate harm that bans and restrictions have on communities of color, including Black, Latina/x, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Indigenous people. It should come as no surprise that the anti-abortion movement advocated for voter suppression and barriers to voting, which have systematically disenfranchised people of color.
- Following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, the anti-abortion movement attempted to downplay, distract, and deflect from its regressive agenda and the harm it is causing. Anti-abortion activists quickly sought to rebrand the Dobbs decision as a “win for women” and falsely claimed that Roe v. Wade was “extreme” and “unpopular.” Many anti-abortion politicians touted the decision as “pro-democracy” and claimed it was an opportunity to return decisions related to abortion back to the states.
- After denying that their goal was to ban abortion care nationwide, anti-abortion politicians introduced a federal abortion ban that they outrageously billed as “moderate.” In September, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a national ban on abortion that anti-abortion leaders framed as “compassionate” and the “least” Congress could do to “protect women.” Nonetheless, anti-abortion activists claimed the ban didn’t go far enough and called for legislation to lock ideological language into law defining when life begins and criminalize abortion, also known as “fetal personhood” measures.
- Anti-abortion leaders targeted birth control and IVF as part of their quest to roll back all our reproductive freedoms. The anti-abortion movement never intended to stop with ending Roe and ratcheted up its medical disinformation campaign against contraception and in vitro fertilization (IVF). Anti-abortion leaders fearmongered about the “risks” and “safety” of contraceptive care and falsely conflated it with abortion. Similarly, they perpetuated false narratives about IVF treatment by alleging that it was “unethical” and “practicing eugenics.” Anti-abortion politicians, including Georgia Governor Kemp and legislators in Tennessee, are already indicating support for restrictions on contraception and IVF.
- The anti-abortion movement’s fake feminism and commitment to “protecting women” was a smokescreen to conceal the dangers of anti-abortion policies. Under the guise of supporting “female empowerment” and “gender equality,” anti-abortion activists continuously attacked reproductive freedom. They purported to be advocates for and protectors of cisgender women while obscuring their regressive and harmful views of gender.
- To further position itself as the defender of (cisgender) women and appeal to the Religious Right, the anti-abortion movement perpetuated transphobia and regressive views on gender. Anti-abortion activists claimed that gender inclusivity was an “appropriation” of womanhood. Their vehement support for anti-trans legislation and promotion of blatantly trans-exclusionary, gender-essentialist narratives underscored their dangerous and discriminatory objectives.
- Anti-abortion actors defended their on-the-ground disinformation machines: fake health centers. The anti-abortion movement touted fake health centers as “alternatives to abortion,” falsely claiming that they “support” pregnant people. In practice, fake health centers—sometimes known as “crisis pregnancy centers”—notoriously use coercive messaging, medical disinformation about abortion care, and deceptive tactics to manipulate pregnant people’s decisions and attempt to block them from having an abortion.
- The anti-abortion movement sought to downplay its midterm election losses by misrepresenting public support for abortion. Anti-abortion politicians were purveyors of disinformation on the campaign trail and laid bare the movement’s patriarchal endgame of control over people’s decisions about if, when, and how to start or grow their families. To distract from strong voter opposition to its extremism and advance its anti-democracy agenda, anti-abortion activists argued that the midterm election results were fraudulent and the reproductive freedom movement “bought” the election.
- Finally, the anti-abortion movement made unfounded accusations of “censorship” from tech platforms when faced with disinformation accountability measures. Anti-abortion activists baselessly claimed content moderation constituted “discrimination” and “suppression” and doubled down on the false narrative that they are victims of “Big Tech.” In reality, their movement has thrived under lax internet policies that favor them. Despite these claims of suppression, platforms like Facebook and YouTube allow anti-abortion propaganda to spread, especially in Spanish-language media.
Pushing Back on the Anti-Abortion Movement in 2023
The stakes for abortion rights and access are higher than ever in 2023, and the reproductive freedom movement must clearly define the villains who led us to this moment of crisis. Calling out the anti-abortion movement for its deceptive and cruel attacks on our fundamental rights is essential. In stark contrast with the anti-abortion movement’s extremist agenda, the reproductive freedom movement is working to build a world in which everybody is free to make the best decisions for themselves, their families, and their futures. In the new year, we must continue to combat anti-abortion disinformation and reclaim a narrative centered on pregnant people, medical consensus, and compassion when discussing reproductive care.