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The 10 Dumbest Things Ever Said About Abortion and Women's Rights

The worst sexist statements, logical fails and outright idiocy from the anti-choice movement

U.S. Rep. Todd Akin's comments on 'legitimate rape' are just one of the dumbest things ever said about abortion.
Whitney Curtis/Getty Images
July 15, 2013 2:55 PM ET

As long as abortion restrictions and bans continue to be rammed through state legislatures and introduced on Capitol Hill, it seems that anti-choice zealots will continue making headlines with their bizarre, scientifically incorrect and downright cruel remarks. Whether they're confusing the basics of female anatomy, making offensive comparisons to historical tragedies, trivializing rape or labeling pro-choice politicians "terrorists," these anti-abortion crusaders – led by a hee-hawing band of actual elected officials – could populate a thousand lists of epically dumb comments. Here's a sampling of the most ill-informed, borderline delusional and flat-out misogynist statements from the so-called "pro-life" movement:

1. Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is a "terrorist" because she filibustered an anti-choice bill.

Earlier this summer, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis stood up in her now iconic pink sneakers for a marathon filibuster session, essentially to keep the state's abortion clinics open. Abortion rights groups cheered, while even her opponents – who later passed the restrictive laws anyway – had to acknowledge she was formidable. Except for one guy, Texas Rep. Bill Zedler, who tweeted of Davis' efforts, "we had terrorist [sic] in the Senate." The deep irony is that abortion-related terrorism does exist: When anti-choice extremists murder abortion providers like Kansas doctor George Tiller to advance their political agenda, that fits the actual definition of terrorism. Speaking peacefully on the floor of a state legislature, on the other hand, really does not.

2. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

The very upsetting reality of pregnancies resulting from rape presents a conundrum for anti-choice advocates – thus the tendency to deny that this scenario can even happen. U.S. senate candidate Todd Akin notoriously pooh-poohed the possibility in 2012, saying, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Historical context: This is a thoroughly bogus theory whose origins can be traced back to experiments done in a Nazi death camp. While the comment torpedoed Akin's senatorial campaign, it's a zombie lie that will likely continue to be invoked to deny women's right to choose.

3. Who needs abortion when victims of sexual assault can just get "cleaned out" by a rape kit?

Texas Rep. Jody Laubenberg is responsible for this twisted variation on the Akin theory, as heard during the debate sparked by Wendy Davis' filibuster. In Laubenberg's imagination, rape victims don't need access to legal abortion, because they can just use "what's called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out." Obviously, this is not how rape kits work. At all. (In fact, they use swabs to collect DNA evidence to identify victims' attackers; they do not prevent or end pregnancies.) Laubenberg's medically unsound comments became the target of unending mockery on social media.

4. Women shouldn't terminate pregnancies resulting from rape because it's what God intended.

Another favorite anti-choice talking point is to say that rape survivors should be forced to bear their assailants' children, because it's all part of a divine plan. Even Justin Bieber nodded toward this idea in his 2011 Rolling Stone cover story, saying, "I think that's really sad, but everything happens for a reason." To be fair, Bieber added that he hesitated to judge women in this terrible situation – which is more than many right-wing politicians have done. "Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that . . . is something that God intended to happen," U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said in 2012. The same year, presidential candidate Rick Santorum said that rape victims should just "accept what God has given to you" and "make the best of a bad situation." Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's callous two cents? "The method of conception doesn't change the definition of life." These guys certainly found a way to shut that whole thing down: They all got slammed for their remarks and lost their elections.

5. Women shouldn't complain about forced transvaginal ultrasounds, because they've already had sex.

When Virginia considered a mandatory ultrasound bill in 2012, requiring women to undergo an invasive, medically unnecessary transvaginal procedure before getting an abortion, a national outcry resulted. Right-wing talking head Dana Loesch didn't see what the big deal was: The CNN contributor declared that in her view, women had already consented to being penetrated by an ultrasound wand because "they had no problem having similar to a trans-vaginal procedure when they engaged in the act that resulted in their pregnancy." One of the legislators backing this law (which ultimately failed) reportedly made a similar comment. These snide remarks underscored the real thinking behind forced ultrasounds: They're all about shaming women for their sexuality.

6. "If babies had guns, they wouldn't be aborted."

In April, Texas Congressman Steve Stockman unveiled a catchy new campaign slogan on Twitter: "If babies had guns, they wouldn't be aborted." This one reveals a lot about "pro-life" philosophy. Just try to imagine a barely-formed cluster of cells firing off a miniature weapon in the womb – it's laughable. It's also fairly horrifying when you consider what these imaginary bullets would do to the woman carrying that gun-toting fetus. For ideologues like Stockman, the health and safety of the woman is totally irrelevant – she's just a vessel without any rights of her own.

7. "Abortion is much more serious than the rape of children by priests."

Lest you think politicians have a monopoly on absurd anti-choice comments, don't forget religious figures. A Mexican archbishop, Fabio Martínez Castilla, preached a homily this year in which he declared that while abusing kids is bad and all, "qualitatively, abortion is much more serious than the rape of children by priests." He also spoke out against condoms in the same homily. That right there sums up the current priorities of the Catholic church hierarchy.

8. Abortion rights caused the Sandy Hook massacre.

Blaming liberated women and gay people for historic tragedies is an old favorite on the right-wing fringe. (Remember when Jerry Falwell said "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians" were responsible for 9/11?) SNL has-been turned Tea Party frother Victoria Jackson unleashed a particularly insensitive spin on this argument last year when she claimed that legalized abortion had somehow caused the Sandy Hook school shooting:

My friend Jim Riley posted: 'Wasn't the Connecticut killer just doing what abortionists do every day?' It's a wonder we don't have more 20 year old 'dads' doing what women and doctors have been an accomplice to for years in America. When you forget the TEN COMMANDMENTS, people, THIS is what you get.

Unexplained logical leaps, holier-than-thou moralizing, rampant victim-blaming – this one really has it all.

9. Ban abortions because of masturbating fetuses.

U.S. Representative Michael Burgess (R-Texas) raised eyebrows this year when he seemed to imply that male babies fondle themselves in utero early in the second trimester – and that's why we should ban abortion. During a June 2013 Congressional hearing on banning abortion after 20 weeks, he said, "Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby . . . If they're a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?"  Besides offering us a little TMI about Burgess's weird imagination, this vignette is also completely medically inaccurate. The sole report of supposedly masturbating fetuses dates back to 1987 and involved female fetuses at 32 weeks – two months after the legal cutoff for abortion established by Roe v. Wade.

10. Abortion is just like the Holocaust.

Anti-choicers love to invoke historical genocides like slavery and the Holocaust to rally their cause, as if harassing women at clinics is the same thing as running the Underground Railroad. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has done both, calling abortion "this incredible Holocaust of our own in America" and comparing pro-choice activists to slavery supporters. Unsurprisingly, his analogies have drawn the ire of the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League. They've also offended pretty much everyone else who can understand that unlike zygotes and embryos, the victims of the Holocaust and slavery were actual human beings with thoughts and feelings – real people who actively resisted their oppression, not theoretical examples for modern politicians trying to score political points.

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