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It’s Hallowe’en! The night where we dress up as ghosts and goblins and celebrate all things spooky. Or if you’re me, the night where I dig out the same pumpkin costume that I’ve put on all three of my babies so far while being thankful that I have a creative spouse who takes on the more elaborate job of making paper mache masks and cardboard swords.

I’ve been thinking this Hallowe’en about how it’s funny that once a year, we dress ourselves up as scary evil creatures, but year round we dress other people up as scary evil boogeymen. In other words, we make our opponents out to be worse than they are. This is similar to straw manning, but instead of misinterpreting the arguments and positions our opponent holds, we misinterpret their motivations.

Pro-life people know what it’s like to be turned into a boogeyman. We all know what it feels like to have pro-choice people say we don’t care about women, we don’t care about babies after they’re born, we oppose affordable healthcare, childcare and housing, etc, etc. However, sometimes we can do something similar, and turn pro-choice people into the boogeyman. Here are a few ways we might sometimes unfairly mischaracterise the motivations and opinions of pro-choice people.

“Pro-choice feminists think pro-life women have internalised misogyny”

I once read an Op-Ed, in 2013, that spoke about internalised misogyny and abortion in the same paragraph. The article gave multiple examples of internalised misogyny, but didn’t mention the existence of pro-life women as one of them. I’m sure that someone, at some stage, has claimed that pro-life women automatically have internalised misogyny. However, apart from maybe that one article, I’ve never come across a pro-choice person make that claim. I have, however, heard pro-life people repeatedly claim (sometimes in jest, often not) that pro-choice feminists are convinced that the only reason a woman could be pro-life is because she has internalised misogyny.

If you ever come across a pro-choice person making this claim, please refute it. Apart from that, though, let’s put this boogeyman to rest. It’s really not a common position for pro-choice people to hold. Let’s not pretend this viewpoint is more widespread than it actually is.

“Pro-choice people don’t want to have to care for women in crisis”

This is a tough boogeyman to refute because it’s almost certainly true that there are people who just don’t want to have to bother caring for women and their babies. Furthermore,  certain industries, such as Hollywood, make few allowances for pregnancy and parenting, and it stands to reason that restrictions on abortion would seriously jeopardise how these industries operate. So there certainly are people for whom the existence of abortion is a handy get out of jail free card, that prevents people from having to pay child support, provide maternity leave, fund childcare, or do any other number of things that pregnancy and parenting requires.

However, it is unfair to state or imply that this get out of jail free card is the main thing that motivates pro-choice people. In fact, I often find it frustrating that so many wonderful pro-woman and pro-family initiatives come from pro-choice people. Most publicly-facing pro-choice campaigners and politicians are also in favour of maternity leave, paid family leave, free childcare, flexible work schedules, leave for miscarriage, and many other positive things. Pro-life people would do well to (continue to) campaign for these things also, rather than questioning the motivations of the campaigners.

Pro-choice doctors only want to make money

This is a particularly ubiquitous boogeyman. The idea is that the only reason pro-choice doctors support abortion provision is because they want to set up a giant swanky abortion clinic and get really rich. We need to tread carefully here: there are genuine reasons to be concerned about the remuneration that a GP practice, in particular, gets for performing an abortion rather than caring for a woman during pregnancy. However, that relates to early pregnancy terminations, which (a) don’t happen in hospitals (and therefore wouldn’t happen in clinics) and (b) make up, at most, a small proportion of a GP’s practice and therefore of the revenue they can expect to receive.

I think this boogeyman is a great example of a failure to understand our context. Gavin explains very well in this post why abortion clinics aren’t, and won’t be, a feature of the Irish abortion regime. Is it possible that there’s an obstetrician somewhere in Ireland who wants to get super rich from providing abortions? Sure. Is it a particularly relevant factor in the Irish context? Nope. Let’s stop focusing on this aspect of the debate and draw attention instead to issues that are relevant in the Irish pro-life context.

Are there any other boogeymen you see crop up in abortion dialogues?