Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Rhetoric Behind the EstherCall

As mentioned in a prior post, an all-female anti-abortion event called the EstherCall just wrapped up over Eastern weekend. On March 17th, 39 women (representing every year that has passed since Roe v. Wade)began a 21-day walk from an abortion clinic in Houston, TX to Dallas, TX, where Roe v. Wade began. The climax of the event took place in Dallas on Good Friday, where TheEstherCall rally prayed for the end to abortion. A YouTube video featuring TheCall founder Lou Engle, TheEstherCall founder Tracy Eckert, and Back to Life director Laura Allred invited viewers to participate.

GOD TV and TheCall's website both featured livestream coverage of the EstherCall rally. When recorded video footage of the rally becomes available, be sure that Republic of Gilead will provide a play-by-play breakdown. In the meantime, I'd like to share some of the rhetoric and lead-up surrounding the EstherCall.

First, the Back to Life movement website posted commentary from the EstherCall women walking from Houston to Dallas. The list prominently featured women of color describing abortion with terms such as "black genocide" and "standing up for death." These words fit the anti-abortion movement's long use of racially charged rhetoric (see here, here, and here). Commentators gave various reasons for their anti-abortion activism, including the promotion of "purity" and the "beauty of motherhood." (More here.)

Next, the EstherCall blog features anti-abortion posts from women, including a March 21st post from Tracy E. of Dallas, TX. "If we could see into the deep crevasses of the abortionist’s activities," she wrote, "the whole of American society would find their hearts bent in deep travail and sorrow."

Tracy promoted the assumption that many women are distraught after terminating their pregnancies.
"Statistics prove that women who choose abortion suffer an indescribable heartache. Many find themselves tricked into a lifelong sense of self-betrayal, experience death to their heart’s emotions and an eternal longing for their lost child."
Actually, a 2011 study conducted by the UK's National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health suggests otherwise. According to the report, the rate of mental health problems among women with unwanted pregnancies was the same, regardless of whether they had an abortion or carried the pregnancy to term. No rigorous studies reliably demonstrated the prevalence of post-abortion mental health problems directly resulting from the abortion itself. I suspect that when women are not taught to see abortion as shameful and vile, they don't feel shameful and vile after the procedure.

Finally, in a message posted at TheCall's website, Lou Engle described the EstherCall as an opportunity "to pray for an undeserved mercy in America, the rescuing of our children and healing of women." He urged readers to participate in the event and "represent millions of post-abortive women whose pain is unbearable and whose cry has been stifled by fear and shame."

Revealingly, Engle expressed concern over the Supreme Court's review of President Obama's health care reform. He was most worried about contraception coverage under the Obama administration, incorrectly likening emergency contraception to abortion. "Contraception is a smoke screen in the argument because included is the systemization [sic] of the RU 486 pill, the Ella pill and other abortifacients," he wrote, ignoring the fact that emergency contraception is not an abortifacient. Later in the statement, Engle warned readers that emergency contraception coverage -- which he called "abortions beginning at conception" -- would spell doom for the nation.
"If the Supreme Court rules for the constitutionality of this health care reform it could forever embed abortion into the soul of this nation by delivering a wide spread entitlement for all Americans to obtain insurance covered abortions beginning at conception. We are on the slippery slope of a great rebellion perpetrated by a perverted science and only the prophetic praying church can rise to challenge these powers."
Unfortunately, Engle is not the first right-wing figure to demonize emergency contraception (see here, here, and here).

Of course, progressive voices have also shared commentary about the EstherCall. In a commentary at Religion Dispatches, Katie Toth argued that for EstherCall women, "power is only realized through the humiliation of themselves and their peers." Toth observes that while the Biblical Esther embodied cunning and courage, the EstherCall encourages female self-loathing, urging them to "turn that power in on themselves." Lou Engle's prominence within an all-female initiative, combined with the presence of 2000 male "Mordecais", suggests that patriarchal male dominance is alive and well at the EstherCall.

In short, the EstherCall is the latest anti-abortion outreach effort affiliated with Lou Engle, targeting women with messages about abortion's alleged evil. Amidst calls for healing women and protecting the unborn is familiar anti-abortion rhetoric, associating abortion with shame, guilt, and sin.

To learn more about the Esther Call, click here and here.   


  1. All of these idiots keep rallying to take away the reproductive rights of other women. How about we rally to have them forcibly sterilized? Tit for tat, you know...

    1. Buffy -- Oh, but that would be oppression!


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