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Propaganda on Halloween: How Anti-Choice Tricks Are Not a Treat

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November 4, 2013

Trick or Treat: It feels like the one place where a kid can be a kid, dress up as their favorite character, and parents/caretakers can snatch up some of those beloved Paydays or Snickers that little Susie or Timmy can’t stand.

Imagine when you are digging around in the pillowcase full of candy for that precious chocolate gold when you pull out a pamphlet with the words, “53 Million Killed,” with a picture of a fetus.

I recently came across an article on Think Progress about some anti-choice groups handing out propaganda to Trick or Treaters with their Reeses Cups and Laffy Taffy, with this message.

At first, I just scrolled past the article. It didn’t seem like anything new to me – just anti-choice groups doing what anti-choice groups do: handing out propaganda at the most seemingly inappropriate times.

Then I realized – why am I so insulated to this sort of anti-choice nonsense? When did I get to the point where I hardly glance at an article about handing out anti-choice political propaganda to children?

After some major brainstorming, I realized I have seen obvious anti-choice propaganda (not including the advertisements for deceptive crisis pregnancy centers) in the following places: In a bathroom stall at a grocery store, on my college campus (at least once every few weeks along with religious speakers), on the side of a random road with giant signs, at state fairs, libraries, in my mailbox, on giant semi-trucks driving around town and on the side of the highway: one giant heart with a fetus in it painted on the side of a barn, and another from the side of a football field of a religious high school.

Anti-choice groups have this habit of protesting, demonstrating, and handing out materials in inappropriate settings. Perhaps this would not be as strange to me, as a reproductive justice activist, if there was a pro-choice equivalent. I tried to think of places where major reproductive justice groups have handed out their materials that seemed inappropriate. The most I could think of was sexual health information and condoms at concerts, on college campuses and resident halls. Materials I would hardly consider persuading someone to take a political stand, rather, acknowledging a reality of sexual health and well-being.

This is all in addition to equally as inappropriate, perhaps not-as-random spaces where anti-choice groups demonstrate. One of the more disturbing campaigns by the anti-choice group, Created Equal, called Killers Among Us, takes large groups of people to protest outside of the private homes of abortion providers, handing out flyers to unsuspecting neighbors. This is in addition to the devastating demonstrations outside of clinics all over the country, attempting to “sidewalk counsel” people who are walking into the clinic to convince them to not have an abortion.

I must ask: What is the point of incredibly random confrontations and pamphlets stuck in bathroom stalls? It is difficult for me to understand how making people so incredibly irritated and awkward can be effective. Perhaps that is the point – anti-choice groups want people to feel confronted and defeated. Most people may not be educated on the ways anti-choice groups use logical fallacies and lies in order to perpetuate an agenda. It may catch them at a vulnerable moment, especially if the propaganda is particularly more emotionally charged. While being confronted unexpectedly and feeling awkward, it can be difficult to articulate your views. It’s a sucker punch for pro-choice individuals. For people who are anti-choice, seeing these signs and pictures, it may feel very appropriate and confirming for their beliefs. It gives them an opportunity to further instill anti-choice views into their families.

What can we do about this weird and inappropriate propaganda? Maybe you can keep it and add it to your hilarious “anti-choice box” full of plastic fetuses and that flyer that appropriated Martin Luther King quotes that makes you want to laugh/cry at the same time. More importantly, use it as an opportunity to create a conversation – not with the person handing it out – but with your friends or family. If it happens consistently at your job or in your neighborhood, you can help to build power and create policies that helps confront inappropriate propaganda. As much as it can be frustrating, take the propaganda and use it as a tool to create change.

So I ask, dear readers, where have you seen anti-choice propaganda? Where have you unexpectedly faced the pamphlets and lectures? Comment and share your story.

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