For Rewire News Group‘s recent special issue “They the People,” I wrote about the fact that anti-trans activists aren’t just replicating anti-abortion legislative strategy. They’re also deploying harassment, intimidation, and violence against gender-affirming care providers, just as the anti-abortion movement has long used these tactics to make abortion providers’ lives hell. It’s an extralegal way to limit access to care.
Really, it’s not that these two movements are learning from each other. There’s so much overlap here that, as the meme says, the Venn diagram is a circle. These movements share many of the same foundational beliefs and goals: Namely, the belief that sex and gender are one and the same (and a perfect binary), and a desire to force us all back into rigid, traditional gender roles.
The anti-abortion movement has been at this for decades, throwing every tactic at the wall to see what will stick. And especially given that so many anti-abortion individuals and groups are now propagating anti-trans hate, we have some ideas about what their next moves may be.
First up: disinformation. The anti-abortion movement’s disinformation campaign has been so wildly successful that it has directly shaped the way most people in the United States talk and think about abortion. Made-up terms like “late-term abortion” and “partial-birth abortion” have created stigma, especially surrounding procedures that happen later in pregnancy. These lies about abortion have contributed directly to murders of abortion providers, including George Tiller, David Gunn, John Britton, and Barnett Slepian. This language has even made its way into federal law.
Subsequent lies about Planned Parenthood selling fetal remains led to the 2015 shooting at a Planned Parenthood health center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in which three people were killed.
And since even before the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, the anti-abortion movement has used “crisis pregnancy centers,” or anti-abortion centers, to spread disinformation in a more direct way, manipulating, confusing, and misleading pregnant people who are either seeking abortion care or some other form of help.
As abortion restrictions multiplied in the wake of the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in 1992, and especially after the state-level onslaught of anti-abortion policies following the 2010 midterm elections, “crisis pregnancy centers” proliferated rapidly.
Now, CPCs are a key element of the anti-abortion post-Roe strategy. I know this in part because of my reporting on leaked documents from the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), an anti-abortion, anti-LGBT, pro-conversion therapy physician group. In addition to anti-abortion disinformation, the ACPeds Google Drive—which the group left publicly accessible—is full of anti-gay and anti-trans propaganda.
We already see far-right groups deploying disinformation about queer and trans people, perpetuating the ideas that “groomers” are trying to recruit children into their ranks, and that out-of-control doctors are “mutilating” the bodies of children, to name just a few ugly myths.
Why wouldn’t this movement do exactly what it did to abortion seekers, and attempt to draw trans people in by creating fake gender-affirming care clinics? It would be easy to do, especially as states limit access to gender-affirming care. Trans people, or parents of trans kids, who are scared and seeking help might be easy to lure in this way—just like abortion seekers before them.
Several providers brought up this concern when I spoke with them for my recent piece on the harassment they’re facing (they’re all more worried for their patients than they are for themselves).
“If you put up a sign and instead of ‘free ultrasounds,’ it says ‘free evaluation for surgery letters,’ and you start getting folks coming in who don’t have access to mental health care or don’t have access to a letter, then of course they’re going to be like, well, this is a godsend. And then you get in there and you’re in exactly the wrong place,” one Midwest provider said.
Another thing I know about “crisis pregnancy centers” is that they’re rolling in dough. In a recent investigation, I found that CPCs are likely receiving and spending over $1 billion each year. They certainly have the resources for an expansion. At the very least, they’re a blueprint for any anti-trans group that might want to set up a good grift that would allow them to surveil trans people in the process.
“Crisis pregnancy centers” are also incredibly effective recruiting tools for the anti-abortion movement. Similar programs billed as an effort to “help” trans people (by convincing them not to be trans) might help draw more people into the more radical side of that movement. Already, people who might be repelled by the anti-abortion movement are aligning themselves with the anti-trans movement, with or without realizing who their bedfellows are.
“There may be people who refer to themselves as anti-trans feminists, who support abortion but are so opposed to gender-affirming care that they would be willing to join protest outside of an abortion clinic that also provides gender-affirming care,” Reproaction’s Kieran Mailman said when I spoke with them for my piece on harassment of gender care providers.
Might so-called “gender-critical” (aka anti-trans) feminists be willing to volunteer in a CPC-style anti-trans clinic? It doesn’t sound all that outlandish to me.