On Thursday, Twitter users spent the better part of the day dragging right-wing provocateur Candace Owens for her most recent anti-vaccination comments. “Not one person in my family will ever touch the Covid-19 vaccine. That is the decision that we have made, unabashedly, as a family,” Owens tweeted. “Medical freedom is an individual right that should never be infringed upon and any person who thinks otherwise has no place in our government.”
Quickly, people elevated Owen’s tweet by calling out the rank hypocrisy of her “medical freedom” narrative. “Bold move by Candace to come out as pro-choice,” Michael Harriot, a senior writer at The Root, tweeted. “Candace Owens is officially pro choice!” another Twitter user posted.
Yes, it is tempting — to say the very least — to quote-tweet video and screenshots of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), well-known Cancún aficionado, appearing on Fox News to discuss the importance of “personal choice.” “You should make the choice based on your health, based on the decisions you want,” Cruz, who believes Roe v Wade should be overturned so states can ban abortion, said. Hell, it was as if Cruz was practically asking for it when he then tweeted the segment to his 2.1 million followers, writing, “Your health decisions are yours to make. It shouldn’t be your boss, the government, or anyone else forcing you to make those decisions.”
But therein lies the issue with elevating these messages that are clearly duplicitous: the people who value the freedom to make their own health care decisions over the freedoms of pregnant people don’t care if they look like raging charlatans. And neither do their very small, but very vocal, anti-abortion base. So highlighting these instances does nothing to curb their shameless attacks on abortion access: looking like two-faced frauds is a price they’re more than willing to pay if it means they can force people to give birth.
After all, numerous instances of Repubicans introducing anti-abortion laws while quietly paying for their mistresses and girlfriends abortions have been well-documented. Scott Lloyd, former head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement who once blocked a 17-year-old girl from having an abortion after she was raped, drove an ex-girlfriend to her abortion and paid for half of it when he was a young man. Anti-abortion zealot Tim Murphy, a former representative from Pennsylvania, resigned after he urged a mistress to get an abortion. Scott DesJarlais, a former representative from Tennessee and feigned opponent of abortion access, was recorded urging a mistress to have an abortion, too.
All of these instances have been brought to light, yet they have not stopped Republicans from continuing to curtail abortion rights. In the first six months of 2021 alone, 90 abortion restrictions were enacted at the state level — making 2021 the worst year for abortion access since Roe v Wade was decided. Six states have only one abortion clinic, a growing number of states are attempting to ban abortion before most people even knows they’re pregnant, and with the US Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments on a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban later this year, Roe v Wade is likely to fall.
Simply put: pointing out the hypocrisy of anti-abortion politicians and those who support them doesn’t work, because they don’t care if they’re hypocrites. Their right to control pregnant people’s bodies matters far more to them than simply being “right.” They know that they’re losing the battle of public opinion — a vast majority of Americans support access to legal abortions — and they know that they’ll lose any anti-abortion argument rooted in fact, reality, and science. From the safety of abortion to the commonality of abortion to the studies that show how vital abortion is to one’s physical and mental health, hypocrisy and lies are the only tools the anti-abortion movement has in maintaining their “pro-life,” freedom-loving facade.
If we truly want to draw attention to the disingenuous arguments made by those who pontificate on the importance of “small government” but proudly champion government mandated forced birth, then we should be consistently uplifting and centering the voices of abortion storytellers.
“The best messengers are people who have had abortions — we are living illustrations of the ways that this simple piece of medicine helps individuals, families, and society at large,” Amelia Bonow, co-founder of Shout Your Abortion, a decentralized network of individuals talking about abortion on their own terms, tells me. “People standing up and owning their stories is a major step in helping the culture become more humane and less polarized. Listening to people who have had abortions is the best way for all of us to get comfortable thinking and speaking and advocating for abortion rights, and working towards a future of reproductive freedom for all.”
It’s time we worked to combat the dishonesty and disinformation of people like Candace Owens with the lived truths of those who have and perform abortions. Because while Owens is right — medical freedom is an individual right — and Cruz is correct — your boss or your government shouldn’t force you to make certain medical decisions — those of us who have had abortions know exactly what it feels like to have someone try to take that right and those choices away.