From the pro-life protesters in my hometown to the voters in Alabama: If you support Roy Moore, you do not get to call yourselves pro-life.
My hometown has an abortion clinic. It is Hagerstown Reproductive Services, situated between the driving school and the county license board. When you turn the corner on to Washington Street, you’ll see the protesters before you see the building.
Last October, the Democratic Women of Washington County organized an escort training session to help women seeking reproductive services walk safely past these protesters. For as long as I can remember, this group has been on the sidewalk, rain or shine, making women feel unsafe. Their gruesome, oversized pictures of aborted fetuses distress parents and children alike. Nevertheless, some hail them as heroes. Defend Life, a local self-described pro-life publication, praises the “sidewalk counselors” and “prayer warriors” for “saving babies” from the “abortion mill.”
I was raised with this rhetoric. I believed in it for a long time and spewed it in chat rooms and forums during those early America Online years, baffled by the apparent heartlessness of my new friends in Canada and Minnesota. And then I grew up, started having sex, and wondered what if what if what if. I peed on a stick and tried not to hyperventilate as the results displayed. I talked to women who had been raped without a condom. I learned of teenage classmates who, had they not gotten abortions, would not be living life on their own terms today.
I have to take a deep breath when I realize that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore cares more about the futures of fetuses than the futures of the teenage girls he allegedly molested.
The GOP has become increasingly co-opted by a far-right Christian subculture that weaponizes the Bible against the LGBTQ community, preaches myths like Young Earth Creationism over scientific consensus, and uses modesty doctrine to shift the onus of predatory behavior from perpetrators to victims. Abortion, however, is the chief issue that fires up this demographic. The fostering of pro-life outrage starts early: Private Christian schools often adhere to an abstinence-only sex education curriculum, which dictates pro-life values to an audience too young to understand what abortion is. Children all over the country are shown anatomically incorrect models of fetuses and fed a narrative of babies murdered by cruel or careless women. They are never shown examples of women whose lives improved after or were even saved by the procedure; only women from the miniscule percentage who came to regret it.
But the strategy has been working. A 2012 Gallup Poll found that about one in six American voters cast their ballots in strict accordance with their views on abortion, and in 2017, Gallup found that American views on abortion have remained consistent. Pro-life sites like LifeNews.com explicitly targeted these single-issue voters before the 2016 election, featuring opinion pieces and pledges to vote for a pro-life candidate no matter what.
“No matter what” turned out to be Donald Trump, a twice-divorced businessman with an extensive history of sexual assault and harassment, who ran a campaign cursing like a sailor and mocking the disabled. None of this deterred the four out of five white evangelicals who voted for Trump. After all, Trump was the same man who advocated that women be “punished” for seeking abortions, and promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. To the single issue, pro-life voter, this proclamation is all that matters.
The religious right is saturated with hypocrisy. Ted Haggard, a Colorado pastor vocally opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, resigned in 2006 over allegations that he had purchased crystal meth from a male escort and masturbated in front of a male church member. Pastor Dave Reynolds of Cornerstone Bible Fellowship in Arkansas, a church that advertises principles such as “spiritual nurturing” and “growing family relationships,” was charged with 70 counts of child pornography last year. And of course there’s Roy Moore, who vows to protect fetuses as women, one by one, come forward to say that he pursued them when they were minors. It’s a culture that depends on its adherents to crusade for the unborn as a distraction from greed and corruption, on leading exhausting double lives.
Roy Moore is leading a double life, but he’s not exhausted. Because Roy Moore has discovered that when you have a base who will excuse the most heinous, most unchristian acts so long as you promise to uphold the “sanctity of life” in the womb, you don’t have to be exhausted. You can sweep your record of picking up girls at the mall under the rug, because your disciples are behind you. No matter what.
They let you do it. You can do anything.
I’ve listened to pro-life Christians preach about the rights of the unborn while simultaneously condemning government aid for children in poverty and continuing to support the president who cut CHIP. I’ve known for a long time that “pro-life” more often than not means “until birth.” But 2017 is the year of tipping points, and pedophilia has to be one of them.
From the pro-life protesters in my hometown to the voters in Alabama: If you support Roy Moore, you do not get to call yourselves pro-life. You do not get to advocate for insurers to drop birth control coverage, for the Supreme Court to turn women into incubators, or for a fetal definition of personhood while failing to stand up for the victims of child molestation. Because one day you will have to answer to the children you so claim to adore, and explain to them why Moore’s power in Congress was more important to you than their safety and dignity.
Chelsea Cristene is a communications associate and English professor based in Washington, DC. She has been published by the Good Men Project, Salon, xoJane, and MamaMia, and runs a film review blog, Catch Up, with fellow Role Reboot contributor Telaina Eriksen. Find her on Twitter.