It was a sweltering June day in Boston when Massachusetts Citizens for Life held their press conference to deliver a supposedly “shocking” dataset regarding the ROE Act, a bill to strengthen abortion access in Massachusetts. Attendants were packed into a conference room on the second floor of the state house, creating a sea of “stop infanticide” red shirts.
In that sea was me: a feminist gender studies major. I decided to attend the press conference to satiate my morbid curiosity of what actually happens at so-called “pro-life” events. I used a fake name. I created a fake identity. I even wore one of those red shirts—emblazoned with the Massachusetts Citizens for Life logo alongside a crudely drawn fetus.
That day, I learned what the so-called “pro-life” movement really thinks about women.
The press conference started with a round of Hail Mary’s before members launched into vitriolic attacks against the ROE Act. “Women will die,” one white man affiliated with MA Citizens for Life exclaimed, slamming his fist on the podium. “Women are dying. Abortion is killing our women.” The shouts were met with uproarious cheers.
The ROE Act, introduced by Massachusetts Senator Harriette L. Chandler, Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad and Representative Jay Livinginston in January 2019, attempts to remove obstacles and strengthen abortion access to people in Massachusetts. It removes the onerous judicial bypass process, in which young people who cannot get a parent or guardian’s permission for abortion care have to go before a judge to receive approval for this deeply personal decision. It removes medically inaccurate and inflammatory language from Massachusetts. It expands access to abortion after 24 weeks in the case of fatal fetal anomalies.
MA Citizens for Life, however, argues that the ROE Act will hurt women, hurt children and irrevocably damage the Commonwealth, because “full term babies will die” in its wake. “We will no longer be known as the proud cradle of liberty,” the group has declared, “but the shameful cradle of death.”
I was stunned at the imagined correlation between blocking the ROE Act and protecting women’s lives, bodies and autonomy. My confusion was warranted: MA Citizens for Life’s argument doesn’t make scientific sense. Their claims about protecting women’s autonomy and reproductive health are actually just thinly-veiled covers for their actual view that women should not have decision-making authority over their bodies. (The supposed shocking dataset was just fluff, too, for what it’s worth. “75 percent of Massachusetts citizens do not support infanticide. With this bill, full-term healthy babies will be killed. Reject the infanticide bill!”)
I was grabbed, pushed and harassed by people supposedly arguing for women’s rights and safety during the two-hour press-conference. When there was a call for all young people to come in for a photo-op, two different men pushed me until I stumbled and was able to slink away. “Don’t you want to support the cause?” they were yelling. “What’s wrong with you women?”
When I initially refused to put on the red shirt, I was booed and sneered at, and the Citizens for Life member handing them out grabbed my arm and yelled that I was too concerned with fashion, and not about “protecting life.”
The attendees treated children no better. During the photo-op, someone yanked a crying baby out of its mother’s arms to pose for the camera—even though, supposedly, they were fighting for this baby’s safety and happiness. The man smiled for his photo-op while the baby continued crying—and yelled about how we must “protect the youngest members of our society.”
I wish I had been more surprised at these events or actions. Unfortunately, I was braced for them as a queer feminist. The behavior of these “pro-life” activists belied their words. They demonstrated the extent to which they have no respect or concern for women, and proved that their claims that they want to protect women’s safety and health are a joke.
Anti-abortion activists do not care about women—they care about power and subjugation. They care about forcing women into becoming incubators for babies. And they are willing to use force and shame to realize that mission.
The author is a College Student majoring in Women’s Studies and intending on attending Law School following graduation.