American Abortion Activists Have Launched an All-Out Propaganda War: An Interview with Charlie Camosy

June 24, 2024, marked two years since Dobbs v. Jackson, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and ramped up the abortion wars across America. State-level referendums from Michigan to Ohio have thus far produced a series of losses for the pro-life movement. At least a dozen abortion referendums will be held this November, with the highest-stakes contest putting Florida’s pro-life law on the ballot. While public opinion—contrary to press reports—has been largely stable, former president Donald Trump has recast himself as a pro-choice candidate and the Republican Party appears to be pivoting away from the issue.

A key aspect of the American abortion wars has been a no-holds-barred, all-out propaganda campaign launched by the mainstream media on behalf of the abortion industry. Any pretence of neutrality has been abandoned, and the media now colludes with abortion activists to pump out an endless stream of abortion disinformation, including overt deceits about the impact of pro-life laws and stories insisting that legal abortion saves rather than kills. Abortion itself—an act of violence that ends the life of a child developing in the womb of her mother—is never defined and is referenced only in Orwellian terms.

Charlie Camosy, professor of medical humanities at the Creighton University School of Medicine, is one of America’s foremost pro-life intellectuals, authoring books such as Resisting Throwaway CultureBeyond the Abortion WarsBioethics for Nurses, and Losing Our Dignity. A longtime advocate for prenatal justice and a keen observer of America’s abortion wars, he agreed to a wide-ranging interview with The European Conservative.

The mainstream press is now claiming that pro-life laws protecting prenatal children are actually deadly: a recent NBC headline read, “Texas abortion ban linked to 13% increase in infant and newborn deaths.” You’ve referred to this sort of coverage as “breathtaking” in its disingenuousness.

Let’s be clear about what is being said here. Those who want to draw a direct link between fewer abortions and more newborn deaths in Texas are suggesting that these babies should have been killed a few weeks earlier via abortion. There isn’t a 13% increase in newborn deaths; rather, some babies who would have been killed via abortion (mostly because of disabilities and other congenital health issues) are surviving until birth, and a subset of these die as infants.

Among the many interesting things about this sort of claim is that it lays bare what is actually being argued for when folks sympathetic to this argument want abortion available in such cases: they want the freedom to kill disabled babies. This motive is also revealed in decisions to aim at the death of disabled children by omission in the NICU as well as by the record of countries like the Netherlands, which look the other way when severely disabled babies are deliberately killed. In that country, newborns were being killed because they had spina bifida, but over time those neonatal killings flagged as more and more Dutch parents had their disabled children killed prenatally instead.

Are these dishonest characterizations by the press and progressive politicians likely to have an impact, in your view?

I think so, though maybe not as strong an impact as it would have had pre-COVID. The authority of major media and mainstream health care organizations is certainly not what it once was. Though, it is still fairly powerful: especially when their claims confirm the biases of the powerful with regard to their practices in discarding the vulnerable via what Pope Francis describes as our consumerist “throwaway culture.” Certainly, in the United States, after Dobbs, abortion rights activists have worked closely with both major media and health care organizations to spread disinformation about abortion in ways that have been quite effective in shaping public opinion.

It is no accident that JAMA-Peds published this study on the second anniversary of Dobbs and that organizations like NBC News were ready to amplify it in ways that were aimed directly at laws protecting prenatal justice. There’s now very little daylight between major media—and even academic medical institutions—and straight-up, no chaser abortion rights activism. Indeed, pro-lifers who work at these institutions need to keep their heads down if they don’t want to suffer marginalization (or worse) from those who have power over them.

How would you respond to the abortion activist claim that pro-life laws raise both the maternal mortality and infant mortality rates?

I’ve already discussed why this is mistaken when it comes to infant mortality—though I might add that some reproductive health clinics in Texas and other places decided not to stay open if they cannot provide abortions. This could obviously hurt some health outcomes for both women and babies, but this also reveals that the goal of those who claim to stand for ‘women’s health’ in this context are gaslighting. What they really mean is: “If we cannot provide abortions, we couldn’t care less about women’s health.” So, they close instead.

Pro-lifers have already stepped up in many contexts to provide non-violent healthcare to women and babies via federally-qualified community health centers, but we can do still more. Countries around the world have shown that they can ban most abortions and have wonderful health outcomes for women. Ireland, until recently, had a constitutional amendment banning abortion and had much better health outcomes for women than its abortion-friend neighbor, England. Poland has very significant restrictions on abortion and leads the EU in having the best maternal health outcomes. A few years ago, Chile banned most abortions and actually saw health outcomes for women improve. Fortunately, we don’t need to choose between legalized killing of prenatal human beings and good health outcomes for women and children.

It is often difficult for pro-lifers to respond to simple, dishonest messaging with the necessary nuances and complexities amid the sound and fury of the current American abortion wars. How should pro-lifers respond to these powerfully-publicized deceits?

We are living a populist cultural moment, both in the U.S. and in many other places around the globe. Institutions and ‘experts’ on many issues (but, again, especially in healthcare) have been outed as ideologically possessed hacks who are doing little but activism in favor of a political agenda. There is a huge cultural opening for pro-lifers to calmly, carefully, firmly, and winsomely make our (far) better arguments in public—and also to tell stories which illustrate our arguments and how they impact the lives of real people. We are in a uniquely good time to actually be heard on this. But it takes time, effort, patience—and the willingness to take slings and arrows from well-placed, powerful people associated with these institutions.

Beyond arguments and storytelling, though, we need to get off our couches, put our glowing rectangles away, and actually act on behalf of women and mothers who are in difficult circumstances, whether or not they have access to abortion. There are religious and ethical duties to do this, of course, quite independent from anything related to abortion; but in the battle for trust in a public that is understandably distrustful of nearly everyone with a public platform, pro-lifers must do our part to show that we are authentic in our views. In several of the post-mortems after losing state ballot initiatives related to abortion, it became clear that many did not trust the claims pro-lifers made, despite their being far better supported and grounded than those of our opponents.

We can make an effective case that we are the outsiders speaking truth to power, but only if our audiences can trust us enough to give us a fair hearing.


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