Pro-Life Baby Thieves
Have anti-feminist anti-abortion groups run the largest and most enduring child trafficking schemes in the world?
There is a must-read story in this week’s New York Times magazine about the stolen babies of Francisco Franco’s Spain. And while it’s appalling and horrifying that a fascist strongman imposed misogynist laws and empowered the Catholic Church to act with impunity, creating the conditions for a mass campaign of baby-stealing that has never been fully reckoned with, Spain’s baby thieves are are not isolated bad guys (and bad nuns). What happened in Spain — babies being taken from poor or unwed mothers and being handed off to supposedly more deserving families, often by religious institutions — is a hallmark of religious anti-abortion regimes. And anti-feminism, including harsh restrictions on abortion rights, is a hallmark of fascist regimes.
You see how this may be relevant today.
Baby-stealing is horrifying. And it seems to happen with great regularity when “pro-life” anti-feminists are in charge, because of course it does. Anti-abortion and anti-feminist ideologues see women, first and foremost, as child-bearers. Good women submit: They are in the home as the moral centers of the family who are raising children under the leadership of men, who are in turn a nation’s economic and political actors. But to understand that a woman is good, you must have some women who are bad. Those women are the ones who have broken the moral code — they have had sex before marriage, perhaps, or did not submit, or are poor, or are young. This immorality does not absolve them of the responsibility to bear children if they become pregnant. But it does negate their claim to motherhood, which is a vaunted status that goes beyond mere childbearing, and which requires a kind of moral rectitude that they’re demonstrably lacking.
How many times have you heard abortion opponents dismiss the need for abortion rights by saying, “A woman can just give her baby up for adoption”? That “just” — she can just give her baby up — gives this all away.
The long history of baby thefts, often by religious institutions and individuals, almost always in the service of a “pro-life and pro-family,” traditional, anti-feminist ideology? It keeps happening when anti-feminist authoritarians are in charge. It is still happening now, if you pay attention.