Kevin Williamson’s rhetoric leads to real life violence, abortion funds can attest.
The National Network of Abortion Funds thanks The Atlantic for severing ties with Kevin Williamson. We were taken aback to see that a publication that we’ve worked with in the past to illuminate the connections between racial justice, economic justice, and gender justice would hire someone with a history of violent rhetoric against, in particular, the women of color who make up the largest group of people seeking abortions.
Williamson joins a chorus of white men who are constantly given space and monetary support that the people they spew hate about are not. These are white men who believe they are the arbiters of justice, and of our bodies. Black women and women of color “continue to be underrepresented in U.S. newsrooms”, including as editors, who make the final calls regarding what content is acceptable to print or remove. This power imbalance is especially apparent when bigotry surfaces against marginalized groups, which makes clear how inseparable extremist rhetoric around abortion is from hate speech against transgender people and people of color. It is impossible to separate the history of violent language against people who have abortions from the hateful language Williamson has brandished against transgender people and people of color.
Violent rhetoric doesn’t exist in a vacuum: When people have unfettered space and a platform on which to spread vitriolic language about people who have abortions and people who provide abortions, we suffer real consequences. We recall the horrific Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shootings, where the perpetrator shouted lies about Planned Parenthood selling baby parts, misinformation he had gleaned from right-wing media. We remember the 2009 assassination of beloved abortion provider Dr. Tiller and the role FOX News’ former host and serial sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly played in his death. The cyberattack on our 2016 Bowl-a-Thon is an example that damaged the fundraising efforts of abortion funds, where the attacker/s used commonplace right-wing racist talking points to target Black and Jewish people. Abortion providers and others working to make reproductive healthcare accessible, including abortion funds, are routinely harassed and threatened. The relationship between rhetoric and these attacks is all too clear.
Because the majority of Americans support abortion access, anti-abortion zealots must use amped up and depraved language to try to keep people from having abortions. The public is not on their side, so they resort to terror to control the conversations. Columnists who are paid to dehumanize us want to make this kind of violence palatable, profitable, and expected. It doesn’t stop with pundits and radio hosts; there are entire industries trying to restrict our access to abortion, from crisis pregnancy centers who are getting state tax money to lie to people seeking abortions, to the continuous funding of right-wing propaganda machines who threaten and demean us daily, to legislators who collect donations by trumpeting in their fundraising appeals the ways they’ve denied us our basic rights.
Donors to the National Network of Abortion Funds have responded to this violent rhetoric by making donations in Kevin Williamson’s honor, and by signing up to participate in the annual National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon, because they can see abortion access, and their loved ones who’ve had abortions, are under attack from all angles.
We Testify, a program of the National Network of Abortion Funds, amplifies the stories of people of color and women of color; transgender and non-binary people; people who feel their faith deeply when they have abortions; people who are impacted by cuts to funding for disability assistance programs and educational budgets; and people targeted by immigration crackdowns who see their families divided by state violence. These are the people who are most affected by the real-life legislative barriers that are bolstered by anti-abortion forces and their horrific language.
We refuse to be silenced or threatened when we make the connections between these systems of oppression. We refuse to let our oppressors be given systems of power when so many of the tools we could use to fight back are outright denied to us. Our humanity is not up for debate. We continue to rally against the platforms that give columnists, or anyone, opportunities to engage in the systemic erasure of our very existence. Through collective power, compassion, and intersectionality, we will tell the story of people getting abortions despite barriers like systemic racism, transphobia and vicious misogyny, and we will never compromise.