Kanye West has become the latest public figure to spread misinformation about abortion by equating it with contraceptives like Plan B.
In an interview with radio host Big Boy, West spoke about his grievances with the Democratic party, devolving into a rant about how legal abortion has been used as a political tactic to “brainwash” black women into murdering their babies. During the tangent, West seemingly confuses the Plan B pill with a medical abortion (an abortion administered using medications), going so far as to use the terms “abort” and “plan B” interchangeably.
Reproductive health organizations, thankfully, were quick to clap back at West’s wildly inaccurate claims and set the record straight. A Foundation Consumer Healthcare representative sought to clear up any confusion by explaining plainly,
“Plan B is not an abortion pill— it will not harm an existing pregnancy and it will not be effective if a woman is already pregnant.”
That is absolutely correct and bears repeating. Plan B is an oral contraceptive that works by delaying ovulation — it delays or stops the release of an egg from the ovary. It contains a larger dose of levonorgestrel, an ingredient found in many standard birth control pills. It is a safe and effective contraception method, but it does not terminate an existing pregnancy.
For many of us, our first inclination might be to think, “we already know that.” However, that inclination is also our privilege.
West’s outrageous claims serve as a sobering reminder of how pervasive abortion misinformation is in today’s politically charged climate and how damaging its effects can be – particularly for members of the marginalized African American community whom West belittles in his tirade.
West is certainly not the first to push a grossly misinformed narrative surrounding abortion and reproductive health. Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) offender of perpetuating abortion hysteria. In February, for example, Trump made waves when he tweeted,
“The Democrat position on abortion is now so extreme that they don’t mind executing babies AFTER birth…”
He later said at a rally,
“The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully. And then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”
This narrative exploded in tandem with the introduction of New York’s Reproductive Health Act, which, among other things, allows abortions past 24 weeks in the rare instance of when “a fetus is not viable or a woman’s health is at risk.” As a result of these measures, Democrats were accused by right-wing media of allowing “infanticide” (i.e. the killing of infants).
Of course, this is not at all the case. In fact, only 1.3% of abortions in the United States occur after 21 weeks of gestation. Termination after 24 weeks is reserved for severe fetal anomalies.
But lest you think Trump is the lone Republican who is severely misinformed about reproductive health, there are plenty of other lawmakers who have said equally incorrect (and incomprehensible) statements about female reproduction.
Alabama state Sen. Clyde Chambliss suggested that his abortion restrictions would still allow a woman to end her pregnancy “up until the point she is known to be pregnant.” (He did not clarify how, exactly, a woman could end her pregnancy without knowing she is pregnant, but I digress.) Georgia Sen. Matt Brass argued that an embryo is a “whole human being” that is “an entirely separate entity from its mother.” And, of course, we can’t forget about the comments made in 2012 by Todd Akin, then-Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri, who infamously said about pregnancies resulting from rape that, “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that down.”
Left-leaning networks like MSNBC and CNN have largely ignored abortion-related stories, but Fox News continues to provide hypervigilant abortion media “coverage,” stoking fears about rising Democratic extremism in the arena of reproductive health. As a result, without the proper checks and balances, much abortion misinformation has become canon. And, as a result, reproductive rights are in more jeopardy now than perhaps ever.
Given Kanye’s lack of credibility these days, it might be your first instinct to shrug off anything he says as simply Kanye being, well, Kanye.
However, minimizing such explosive commentary is equally as dangerous as perpetuating it. As the 2020 election looms nearer, right-wing abortion misinformation has become a common political tactic to solidify the votes of the mere 13% of Americans who support the outright ban of abortion and to scare the 37% who either want to add more abortion restrictions or are unsure of their stance into voting Republican.
Ignoring the spread of misinformation surrounding reproductive rights is damaging, dangerous, and stands to hurt vulnerable communities the most.
A representative for Planned Parenthood put it best by saying,
“Misinformation like this is meant to shame us and keep us from making our own health care decisions. Black women want and deserve support and access to the full range of reproductive health care, but this persistent lie is threatening our ability to obtain it.”
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Michelle Vincent is a project manager and freelance writer. She enjoys traveling, is worried she won’t love her future children as much as she loves her dogs, and is actively recruiting podcast recommendations.