All-Male Anti-Abortion Panel Calls for Death Penalty

The moderator jokingly asked the men on the Operation Save America panel, “Why do you all hate women?,” to uproarious laughter from the crowd. Ha ha!

All-Male Anti-Abortion Panel Calls for Death Penalty
A group of anti-abortion Operation Save America members gather in prayer. Screenshot:Operation Save America/YouTube

It’s a tale as old as time: A group of men who very openly despise women assemble like the Avengers of upholding patriarchal violence and decide what pregnant people can and can’t do with their bodies. Over the weekend, a panel of all-male anti-abortion movement leaders gathered in Georgia to kick off a weekend of harassing a nearby abortion clinic and brainstorming strategies to subject people who have abortions to the death penalty.

According to the Georgia Recorder, every speaker at the extremist group Operation Save America’s abortion panel—which included voices from a diversity of groups including End Abortion Now and Georgia Right to Life—was a man, in an image we’ve seen before quite a few times. We’ve seen all-male Congressional panels weigh birth control restrictions; we’ve seen all-male legislators vote to pass an abortion ban in Alabama; we’ve even seen men wearing “WOMEN FOR KAVANAUGH” apparel. And now we’ve got a group of “pro-life” dudes on stage saying people who choose not to be pregnant should be put to death.

This is a bit of a departure from the recent efforts by the anti-abortion movement to modernize its optics—by centering female political leaders and co-opting feminist language in the nastiest ways imaginable. Earlier this month, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) called a special session for the sole purpose of enacting an abortion ban. Earlier this year, Reynolds’ attorney general, Brenna Bird, eliminated Plan B and abortion coverage for sexual assault survivors. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R) argued the Supreme Court case that ended Roe v. Wade.

But all of that, if anything, just makes Operation Save America’s convention that much more stunning—its disregard for optics is almost as brazen as its disregard for pregnant people’s rights. In today’s era of veiled language and “girlboss” anti-abortion figureheads, it’s almost comforting to see a group of men be so open about how terrible they are—emphasis on almost. At one point, Derin Stidd, Operation Save America’s assistant national director, jokingly asks the all-male panelists, “Why do you all hate women?,” to uproarious laughter. Ha ha! Get it? Because… because… I don’t really know what the joke is, actually.

Panelists railed against rape exceptions for abortion—mind you, not because exceptions are fairly unhelpful in practice, but because of open hatred for rape survivors. They expressed outrage that state-level abortion bans criminalize only the provider and not the patient. (As one panelist, the leader of End Abortion Now, put it: “It’s a dirty little secret of the pro-life industry… the lie that women should be allowed to kill their own children with immunity and impunity because they themselves are victims of abortion. It is a lie that says that they are never legally culpable, however willfully or intentionally they carry out the act of taking the life.”)

They called for more “equal protection” legislation modeled after an unsuccessful Georgia bill to grant embryos with personhood and threaten people who have abortions at any stage with the death penalty. And they discussed model legislation for fetal personhood laws that would limit IVF and not just criminalize abortion, but further criminalize a range of behaviors during pregnancy—a terrifying outcome that we’re already seeing.

Operation Save America’s status as an extremist group is well-known among abortion rights advocates; as Reproaction has flagged, the group’s leader was present at the Jan. 6 insurrection and called for political leaders he disagrees with to be shot. “Their leadership and members subscribe to an oppressive patriarchal model that they intend to uphold violently. As they’ve said, ‘criminalization is pro-life,’” Shireen Shakouri, deputy director of Reproaction, told Jezebel in a statement.

But, Shakouri notes, the organization is just saying “what the rest of the anti-abortion movement knows is true but often tries to cover up: They want to jail or kill people who don’t comply with their rigid, regressive gender roles, including forced birth and subjugation of LGBTQ+ people.”

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