I guess it must be a slow news period in America, because The Washington Post found the need to investigate whether a small group of bigots is somehow influencing the pro-life movement.
Spoiler alert: Even though there’s virtually no evidence to that effect, they still are.
The title of the Tuesday piece by Marissa Brostoff is pretty much self-explanatory: “How white nationalists aligned themselves with the antiabortion movement.”
The piece focuses on a uniquely reprehensible bit of white nationalist conspiracy theory called “the great replacement.”
The theory states that white people are being demographically “replaced” in majority-white countries by ethnic minorities, usually with the complicity of elite politicians who want this because — well, I don’t know, since it’s prima facie ridiculous.
However, it apparently explains why some white nationalists have become vigorously anti-abortion: “Like their eugenicist forebears, today’s increasingly visible white nationalists ‘are obsessed with falling birthrates, and by extension they are obsessed with the recruitment — and total control — of women’s wombs,’ as the writer Mona Eltahawy recently put it,” Brostoff wrote.
“They have latched onto antiabortion extremism in an attempt to bolster white population growth, while aiming to restrict the growth of nonwhite populations through campaigns of terror against immigrants. In some cases, antiabortion politics provide cover for white nationalist sentiments, allowing sympathizers to speak broadly about ‘population’ rather than race, even as they value some unborn lives over others.”
This is an interesting thesis, inasmuch as black women have abortions at a higher statistical rate than white women do. In 2017, 36 percent of abortions were performed on black women, even though black Americans comprised only 13.4 percent of the population. There were 25.1 abortions per 1,000 black women as opposed to 6.8 per 1,000 for white women.
How do you reconcile this with white nationalism and “the great replacement” worming its way the pro-life movement? Answer: You don’t, at least if you’re Marissa Brostoff. Those statistics are never even mentioned in the article.
Brostoff expends copious verbiage on the Nazis and their anti-abortion policies — at least for healthy “Aryan” people — as well as a name-check to “the ultranationalist regimes that dot contemporary Europe.”
But how does she connect this to mainstream conservative, pro-life thought?
Well, um, for starters, GOP Rep. Steve King of Iowa.
“Last fall, speaking to a far-right Austrian magazine, the Iowa Republican congressman Steve King succinctly laid out his theory of Western decline,” Brostoff wrote.
“The problem, he suggested, was a demographic born at the nexus of reproduction and immigration. ‘If we continue to abort our babies and import a replacement for them in the form of young violent men, we are supplanting our culture, our civilization,’ King said.
“King had already called attention to himself the previous year for retweeting a cartoon that depicted the nativist Dutch party leader Geert Wilders as a bulwark against invading Muslim hordes. ‘Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,’ King wrote.”
Of course, Brostoff also included King’s opprobrious quote about babies conceived out of rape and incest: “What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?”
Now, if Steve King is your connection to the mainstream of anything — whether it be the pro-life movement, the Republican Party or conservative thought — you’re in real trouble from the outset.
King seems to have few supporters that aren’t from his own family at the moment; he’s been removed from all of his committee assignments by Republican leadership, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney has called for him to go and his most prominent primary challenger for 2020 has $340,000 in his campaign coffers compared to $20,000 for King. This is evidence of a connection?
But wait! There’s more. And by more, I mean less.
Brostoff’s article doesn’t really touch on the modern pro-life movement or the fact it’s mostly undergirded by religious organizations and mainstream Republican voters and politicians. Instead, you get long sections like this:
“For reproductive-rights supporters in the United States, it’s long been easy to see the Republican Party’s hard-line antiabortion politics as a kind of grotesque hypocrisy. How can a political body that has aligned itself against school lunches and for machine guns claim to support ‘life?’” Brostoff wrote.
“This juxtaposition has been particularly cruel over the past year, as revelations about the imprisonment of migrant children in concentration camps have coincided with a wave of draconian antiabortion legislation. (Just last week, a federal appeals court approved Trump administration rules cutting off federal funds from health-care providers that offer abortions or even discuss the procedure with patients, effectively slashing the budget of organizations like Planned Parenthood.) But understanding this confluence as ironic can actually mislead us. In fact, as King and his white nationalist allies have become increasingly comfortable admitting, state crackdowns on reproductive and immigrant rights are inextricably linked.”
This is essentially an extended version of that old liberal canard about how Republicans care about life until it comes out of the womb — then you’re on your own, pal. Every single one of these points has refutations so obvious I’ll assume every reader is familiar with them.
However, I’d like to call attention to this sentence in particular: “In fact, as King and his white nationalist allies have become increasingly comfortable admitting, state crackdowns on reproductive and immigrant rights are inextricably linked.”
Which allies? Does the next paragraph spell it out? Nope. It talks about Theodore Roosevelt, early-20th century eugenicists, the Nazis and those “ultranationalist regimes” in Europe.
Don’t look for it in the rest of the piece, either. This isn’t a deep-dive into actual white nationalists or “the great replacement,” which might be worth the time and effort. The problem is that those two things are so adrift from the rest of the pro-life movement as to render Brostoff’s original thesis useless.
The piece, instead, just cut-and-pastes different ideas in the same way a desperate, last-minute B-minus paper for a Political Science 101 class would. At various points in the article, she mentions Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, doomsday environmentalist Paul Ehrlich (about as far as you can get from a conservative or white nationalist, it’s worth noting) and the mass shooters in El Paso and New Zealand as having somehow contributed to this marriage of white nationalism and the pro-life movement.
The article also glides over the racist, eugenicist views that informed Planned Parenthood’s beginnings, rewriting history in the process. “Margaret Sanger, the Planned Parenthood founder who has proved a useful target for antiabortion activists, first rose to prominence as a socialist feminist and public health nurse who placed ‘voluntary motherhood’ for working-class women at the center of her agenda,” Brostoff wrote.
“Initially, as the scholar Aiko Takeuchi-Demirci notes, Sanger had little patience for the eugenicists she described as ‘masculine ‘race suicide’ fanatics,’ nor were they keen on the notion that women should be able to access birth control of their own volition. But hoping to legitimize her cause in the 1920s, Sanger sought the support of eugenicists and adopted their anti-immigrant views. The association lasted decades. In the 1960s, an ophthalmologist named John Tanton, alarmed about overpopulation, established Planned Parenthood clinics in northern Michigan. Tanton would go on to become a father of the contemporary anti-immigration movement.”
One guy founded a Planned Parenthood clinics in Michigan and “would go on to become a father of the contemporary anti-immigration movement,” Brostoff wrote. Thusly is Planned Parenthood’s racist history laundered through a single ophthalmologist. Wonderful.
The original article also pegged a popular author as part of this racist demographic trend: “Meanwhile, as replacement discourse enters the conservative mainstream, talk of birthrates comes along with it. ‘Our people aren’t having enough children to replace themselves. That should bother us,’ J.D. Vance, author of the best-selling ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’ told his audience at the National Conservatism Conference last month; earlier this year, he described himself as ‘appalled’ by Democrats’ permissive attitudes toward abortion. Vance did not spell out exactly who was included in the word ‘our.’ He didn’t need to.”
That’s how the article originally closed. Slight problem with that:
Yeah, real mystery who Vance was referring to… same speech, SAME PARAGRAPH: “…whether a nation is having enough children to replace itself.”
“a nation” pic.twitter.com/6dB4UhmiXT
— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) August 27, 2019
The part of Vance’s speech directly before that: “There are a lot of ways to measure a healthy society, but the most important way to measure a healthy society is by whether a nation is having enough children to replace itself.”
“Do people look to the future and see a place worth having children in? Do they have economic prospects and the expectation that they’re going to be able to put a good roof over that kid’s head, food on the table, and provide that child with a good education? By every statistic that we have, people are answering ‘no’ to all of those questions,” he said, according to the Washington Examiner.
In other words, Vance specifically “spell[ed] out exactly who was included in the word ‘our'” — the whole of our society.
The article now leads with this editor’s note: “An earlier version of this story suggested that the author J.D. Vance lamented a falloff in white births; he was actually talking about American births.”
The closing of the article now is no better: “As border controls tighten, though, the links between pronatalism and nativism have once again become visible. Inspired by Steve King’s admiring remark about Geert Wilders, Ayla Stewart, creator of a popular white nationalist blog called Wife with a Purpose, issued a ‘white baby challenge’ that went viral in alt-right circles; the mother of six asked audience members ‘to have as many white babies as I have contributed.’ As replacement discourse enters the conservative mainstream, talk of birthrates comes along with it.”
How? Nothing in the previous 19 paragraphs illustrated this in any way. There’s a deeply lazy disingenuousness that permeates this piece, almost as if it’s deliberate: Brostoff writes like she knows she’s preaching to a simpatico crowd, so she just assumes her readers will fill in the blanks or connect the index cards with pieces of yarn.
This is nothing more than a bold, alarming headline with nothing behind it aside from smears against pro-lifers. Nice work, Washington Post.
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