Lila Rose Accidentally Proves How Much the United States Doesn't Have a Sex-Selective Abortion Problem

What Women Really Think
April 24 2012 2:55 PM

Lila Rose's Daring Expose of a Non-Problem

Supporters of Planned Parenthood, and the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), participating in a protest about women's health care

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Despite the fact that her last big "sting" against Planned Parenthood only proved that the organization is careful to follow the law, Lila Rose is at it again. Last time, she was trying to prove that Planned Parenthood is involved in sex trafficking. Now she's trying to accuse them of fueling a social problem that doesn't even exist: sex-selective abortion. Even though Rose hasn't released any of her no doubt misleadingly edited videos, the presence of women in Planned Parenthood clinics claiming that they wanted abortions only if their fetuses were female tipped the organization off that there's another sting afoot. Marinate on that for a moment, if you're eager to believe that Planned Parenthood is part of some nationwide anti-girl conspiracy. If they were routinely---or even occasionally---handing out sex-selective abortions, they wouldn't figure out so quickly that they were being targeted by a sting. The only reason the sting operation is sticking out is because sex-selective abortions aren't actually a thing that people are doing, not in the U.S. And certainly not through Planned Parenthood.

This soon-to-be-released wannabe sting is part of the anti-choice movement's latest strategy, which I like to call the "Nuh-uh!" strategy. As in, "We're not sexist/racist. Nuh-uh! You're the ones who are sexist/racist!" It makes about as much intellectual sense as that, in fact. The strategy is to attack abortion rights by suggesting that women are having abortions as, well, hate crimes against their fetuses. A billboard campaign across the country implies that women of color have abortions as some sort of act of racist self-loathing. Arizona passed a law banning abortions on the basis of race or gender, even though there's no evidence that this is actually happening. And now Lila Rose wants you to believe Planned Parenthood is eagerly targeting fetuses for being female. At worst, she proved that the organization means what they say when they say they avoid practicing paternalism because it prevents them from practicing medicine. 


These accusations tell you more about the people making them than about women who seek abortion. Anti-choice activists clearly don't see that racism and sexism are actual problems people care about, but just a "card" you play to get your way by shutting down discourse. That they so easily believe that a major reason for abortion is that women want to avoid having non-white children or girls suggests more about the kind of desires that control their lives than about the women they project their fantasies onto. Just as racists imagine every white person is relieved to have a chance to start cracking racist jokes, it's not hard to see that anti-choicers incorrectly assume that others are holding secret hatred for girls in their hearts.

Of course, sex-selective abortion is a problem in a handful of countries that are most decidedly not the U.S. That doesn't really say anything bad about abortion rights as a whole, however. On the contrary, the same anti-woman attitudes that drive the anti-abortion movement are the real reason that some countries have this problem. An intra-agency report on sex-selective abortion put out by various world health organizations fingered sexism as the reason for sex-selective abortions, and argued, "States have an obligation under human rights laws to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of girls and women." You know how you don't do that? By attacking the basic rights of women to control their reproduction and undermining the basic reproductive health services provided by organizations like Planned Parenthood. The report also found that the conservative solution to sex-selective abortion, reducing women's access, didn't really do much to fix the problem, but instead just forced women to seek out unsafe options. You can't fix sexism with more sexism, a fact that no number of phony sting videos can change. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.


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