Police are escalating tensions at peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the country, and they’re using chemical weapons to do so. At protests in New Orleans, D.C., Atlanta, Minneapolis, and in other cities, police have used pepper spray and tear gas to disperse crowds of protesters.
Many people have pointed to the dangerous impacts of using a chemical irritant against protestors in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The highly-contagious disease can lead to a severe or fatal respiratory illness. But the tear gas that police are deploying can also cause miscarriages, and the so-called pro-life movement has had little to say about it.
Several studies have shown that tear gas can cause miscarriages and fetal harm. One from the University of Chile made the connection in 2011. The study determined that “chemical substances in tear gas can affect reproductive function,” according to Andrei Tchernitchin, a toxicology expert. As a result of these findings, the Chilean government suspended the use of tear gas temporarily, though it has been used during protests as recently as last year. United Nations officials also reported as early as the 1980s that tear gas deployed by Israeli soldiers in Palestine had caused “dozens of miscarriages.”
But no such action was taken in the U.S., particularly in the wake of our current uprising. In response to the ongoing nationwide uprisings against racist police killings, anti-abortionists have been mostly silent on police use of force. Some anti-choicers, like Candace Owens, have only spoken out with the racist and also misleading talking point that abortions kill Black people at higher rates than police do. But if the so-called pro-life movement truly cared about the unborn, they would treat the ongoing police aggression of Black activists on the frontlines of demonstrations as a pro-life issue.
Instead, they are also actively choosing to ignore the harm police cause to already traumatized communities when they target people with an abortifacient chemical weapon.
According to an organizer with the Austin, Tx. Mutual Aid Collective, the “anti-abortion people aren’t saying shit about” the police use of tear gas against protestors because “they’ve never cared about life,” she wrote on Twitter. “They care about control of the masses. Using tear gas on protestors fighting for justice is very much within that. And that’s why we don’t call the pro-life”
But this should come as no surprise. The abortion movement has a long history of racism, and has been known to collaborate with racist far-right movements. In the 1980s, the KKK created “WANTED” posters publicizing the personal information of abortion providers, The Nation reports. According to the same report, the head of the white nationalist group Aryan Nation said, “Lots of our people join [the anti-abortion movement]…. It’s part of our Holy War for the pure Aryan race.” More recently, neo-Nazi and white supremacist chat logs revealed their membership’s plans to infiltrate and recruit more people around anti-choice organizing.
As uprisings against the police continue to spark across the globe, anti-choicers have made their message perfectly clear, and it has nothing to do with the right to life.
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