I’ve been noticing a lot of anti-choice activity on Tumblr lately, and (thankfully) I’ve noticed an even bigger pro-choice backlash to the antis’ posts. And I cannot appreciate all of you more than I already do, I promise. You all are amazing people, and I encourage you to continue taking down anti-choice bullshit when you see it.
But that being said, there are a lot of bad arguments being used by well-intentioned pro-choicers, and those arguments open our entire movement up to attacks by antis. Please take this post as constructive advice, and use the information here to better your fight for reproductive justice. You’re already badasses, so think about the damage you can do to the anti-choice movement with some rock-solid facts.
1) Zygotes, Embryos, and Fetuses are alive.
They are. They’re made of cells, and cells are the fundamental unit of life. And (the dedicated) anti-choicers are carefully trained to make you sound ignorant if you try to claim otherwise.
2) Zygotes, Embryos, and Fetuses are human.
This one is also true. A zygote is formed from two human cells and later splits into more human cells. At no point is that thing in a pregnant person’s uterus a protist, tree, or cat. That being said, “human” only refers to the species of the organism, and not its personhood.
3) “Personhood” means “having the rights and responsibilities of a person.”
When we talk about whether a zygote/embryo/fetus is a person, this is what we’re talking about. Does a fetus have the right to be counted in the census? Does it have the responsibility to produce a passport when travelling overseas? While a fetus is still a fetus, the answer to these questions is a resounding NO.
4) A zygote is a new organism at fertilization.
One of the most common arguments that the anti-choice movement pulls out is “Life begins at conception/ a zygote has its own DNA.” And one of the absolute worst responses that I have seen come from the pro-choice movement is “yeah, but half that DNA is the pregnant person’s.” This is absolutely irrelevant. A four-year-old’s genome is also a 50:50 mix of each parent and any anti-choicer worth their salt is going to recognize that.
A better response to “life begins at conception” is that life began about four billion years ago, and it hasn’t ended since! That zygote came from two gametes that were entirely alive, and those came from precursor cells in each parent that were also alive. And if you trace those cell lines back far enough, each parent came from a live zygote which came from live gametes… etc. Life began with the first cells on Earth and has persisted ever since. Fertilization is not magical or special.
And of course, if they argue about genomic DNA content, you can refer back to “what is a person?”
5) Persons do not have the right to use other persons’ bodies without consent
This is really the crux of the pro-choice stance, and it holds even when we play the “personhood game” and let anti-choicers believe that zygotes are people with all of the rights and responsibilities of born persons.
We do not force individuals to donate fluids, tissues, or organs to sustain the lives of others, even when the potential recipients will die without a donation. We do not force individuals to serve as living dialysis machines or respirators for anyone after birth, so why are fetuses so special?
At this point, you may get a feeble “but abortion destroys the fetus, it doesn’t just end the connection between the host and the recipient!” And that’s true. This is because our current medical technology cannot sustain the life of an infant born before 24-ish weeks gestation (which means that more than 99% of aborted fetuses are not viable), so our current abortion techniques are not really designed to produce a whole embryo or fetus.
But you can ask your anti-choicer, “Would it bother you less if we did remove a whole embryo and let it die from lack of sustenance?” Because according to the argument they just gave you, it should.
6) Consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy
If you haven’t managed to shut down your anti-choicer by now, they will probably fall back on that tried-and-true mantra, “Don’t spread your legs if you don’t want a baby!” (sourced to prove that this is not a strawman argument). I have had many an anti argue that the difference between saying “No, you may not have my body” to your sister with kidney failure and saying “No, you may not have my body” to an embryo is that you did not put your sister in a dependent position by being a slutty, slutty, slut.
This is obviously a bad argument because it lends itself to some rather silly corrolaries like “if you don’t want to drown, don’t live in a coastal region.” Bring the argument back to the issue at hand: does “being a slut” mean you give up your right to bodily autonomy? And how, exactly, does that happen? Should parents be required to donate organs to their born children?
7) Try not to fall back on “What about rape?”
Anti-choicers in general are pretty insensitive people- they want to tell other people what to do with their bodies. But anti-choicers that advocate forcing survivors of sexual assault to continue a resulting pregnancy are the scum of the earth. It is easy to jump on an anti waving the “don’t spread your legs!!!” flag with “what about rape?”
But when the argument shifts to rape, it ignores all of the pregnant people who had consensual sex and have an equal right to not be pregnant, and it takes the discussion away from the consent and focuses it squarely on the sex. And that is exactly what that anti-choicer wants.
8) Keep your cool and remember that Guttmacher.org exists for a reason
As a pro-choice activist, you will encounter some really inane shit from anti-choicers. It may range from “abortion causes breast cancer and/or PTSD!” (it doesn’t) to “birth control pills cause abortion!” (they don’t) to “back-alley abortion is a myth!” (it’s not). Just remember that there is a peer-reviewed, scientifically sound source to counter every claim and use Google to whip it out. You don’t need to resort to threatening or yelling at the anti, because they’re guaranteed to get really angry eventually. And when that happens, you can just laugh.
*Edited because I know the difference between an “m” and a “b,” I promise.