EYES ON THE PRIZE: How anti-abortionists in Georgia and elsewhere are building on a long-range plan.

AuthorThomhave, Kalena

Like many people who are raised Catholic, Jen Villavicencio grew up opposed to abortion, Her church youth group activities in Miami, Florida, centered on pro-life politics, In high school, she wrote an essay which she read to her entire class, on how "a woman's choice ends as soon as she decides to have sex,"

Then, at age nineteen, Villavicencio needed to visit a women's health clinic. She was there for the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B. She remembers walking through the crowd of protesters outside the clinic as they hurled insults her way and thinking, "I'm one of you! I'm on your side."

Several years later, Villavicencio graduated from medical school to become an ob-gyn. The misinformation she grew up with--about a fetus feeling pain or moving away from abortion instruments--had all been scientifically challenged. She even volunteered as a clinic escort, her pro-life beliefs having long since faded.

In Villavicencio's second year of residency, one of her ob-gyn patients was scheduled for an abortion. Villavicencio called the attending physician, who quickly informed Villavicencio that she didn't do abortions.

Villavicencio felt she had been abandoned. More importantly, her patient had been abandoned. After she managed to help her twenty-one-year-old patient obtain an abortion from another physician, Villavicencio's purpose changed: "I decided to dedicate my life to caring for the people I had so profoundly misunderstood in the first part of my life." Today, she is an abortion provider in Michigan.

While many people with anti-abortion views consider themselves to be concerned with the sanctity of life, the anti-abortion movement, using abortion as an issue to mobilize a political base to press advantages, is creating a landscape of systemic oppression that disproportionately affects the reproductive freedoms of people of color and low-income people.

This can be seen clearly during the first six months of 2019, as anti-abortion activists and politicians, emboldened by President Donald Trump's appointment of conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, have pushed for extreme abortion bans in numerous states.

Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana, and Ohio have all passed either outright bans or bans based on when an "embryonic heartbeat" can be heard--around six weeks. (This is misleading terminology, as the embryo has only just started developing a heart.) Missouri recently passed an eight-week ban. All of these laws are currently being challenged by organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood.

But it's important to remember that the rise of all these new laws does not represent "a new, more extreme moment," says Jennifer Holland, a historian at the University of Oklahoma who studies the rise of the pro-life movement. Banning abortion outright, she says, "has been the plan in the making since the movement was founded in the late 1960s."

Over the past half-century, anti-abortion activists have sometimes allowed exceptions for abortions in the case of rape or incest, or focused on banning "late-term" abortions and certain...

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