What Does the Casey Anthony Case Have To Do With Abortion? Nothing, Unless You Are an Anti-Choice Fanatic

What does the Casey Anthony case have to do with abortion?  To people whose common sense and ability to feel empathy haven’t been distorted by a misogynist ideology, the answer is “Nothing.”  Either, as the prosecution claims, Anthony brutally murdered her little girl Caylee, or, as the defense claims, Caylee died by accident and Anthony helped cover it up out of fear of her father.  Either way, nothing to do with abortion. 

Abortion terminates a pregnancy, and in the vast majority of cases, it’s terminating a pregnancy before the embryo or fetus has even developed much in the way of brain tissue, much less the ability to feel, think, have desires, feel pain, be afraid, or be happy–things an actual infant is still developing the capacity to do as is a small child. Most people with common sense grasp this intuitively, which is why we don’t have funerals for miscarriages or celebrate “conception” days instead of birth days.  Most of us also have enough empathy to imagine that Caylee’s final moments were, regardless of how they came about, terrifying and tragic.  Most of us are serious enough people not to discount the tragedy of Caylee’s death by comparing it to an ordinary medical procedure that one in three American women will get in their lifetimes.

In fact, this is so obvious that I assumed that even anti-choicers had to get it.  And I honestly thought they had!  Even after the verdict came out and I started getting weird tweets from conservatives claiming that I supported Casey Anthony, I didn’t think about this in terms of abortion.  I assumed that their hobbled thinking went like this: “Casey Anthony has been portrayed as a big ol’ slut in the media. Big ol’ sluts threaten me.  So do feminists. Feminists are therefore big ol’ sluts, and have Slutwalks to prove it. Being a slut equals being a murderer, or at least that’s what Nancy Grace tells me, and so voila! If you’re a feminist, you support killing two-year-olds.” 

For the record, I suspect that Anthony actually is guilty, and believe the jury when they say they think she probably is but that the prosecution didn’t prove its case. If she is, it is indeed a shame that she won’t be seeing decades in prison for her crime.  Her choices of who to sleep with when and how to be sexual have exactly nothing to do with this.

But then I got tweets referencing Anthony and abortion.  And I thought, “Really?  They’re going to go there?”  I’m never one to expect members of the forced birth brigade to actually have a sense of common sense and decency—we’re talking people who treat childbirth like a punishment God doles out for screwing—but they usually have enough sense to conceal how nasty they are in order to be taken seriously by the public at large.  You’d think they’d realize how it looks to use the actual death of an actual person who actually suffered and who actually lived to publicize their belief that we should force women to bring forth potential people, whether they want to or not. 

But sure enough, turns out that a lot of anti-choicers are happy to exploit the tragic death of a small child in order to promote an anti-woman agenda. Jill Stanek is all over it, of course. Rush Limbaugh was all over it. STFU, Conservatives has started a series chronicling white men on Facebook exploiting this case to complain about women having the right to abort unwanted pregnancies.

This is incredibly stupid, and I have to imagine they know it’s stupid.  It makes you look callous and exploitative.  It also makes anti-choicers look like they get more incensed that a woman might go out and party than that she might have murdered someone.  Stanek’s priorities were evident when, in the wake of the verdict, she didn’t ask the important questions such as, “Why did the jury feel there was reasonable doubt?”,  but instead, “Will Casey go back to the partying lifestyle and find a guy to take care of her?”

Or take one of the guys STFU, Conservatives chronicled saying, “Casey Anthony is a stupid whore….but look at the bright side, when she’s partying her first weekend out of jail and gets pregnant she’ll probably just have an abortion and it’ll all be legal….”  You get the strong impression that while anti-choicers aren’t happy that a woman might be getting away with murder, the idea that a woman might party and get away with it is what’s really raising their blood pressure. 

This is really stupid and I have to imagine they know how it looks.  My theory is they just can’t help themselves.  This case must cause a lot of cognitive dissonance for anti-choicers.  First of all, you have the question of punishment.  The standard anti-choice argument is both that abortion is a mother murdering her child but also that she should face no legal penalty for it.  But this case shows how incoherent that belief is, since our society does think that women who actually murder their children should go to prison for it.  Subsequently, it becomes clear that anti-choicers don’t really think abortion is murder and have no intention of treating it like murder.

But there’s something deeper going on.  The anti-choice narrative, if I were to boil it down, goes something like this: “Young women, poisoned by feminists to believe they’re the equal to men, go around slutting it up until God punishes them with an unwanted pregnancy.  If we banned abortion, these women would be forced to have their babies, but as soon as the babies came out of them, they would be transformed into loving mothers. They would stop being sluts and instead get married and spend the rest of their days in a holy glow of joy having accepted their role as nurturers and help-meets, and having left their sinful days behind them.” The justification for this is “Leave It To Beaver.”

But Anthony’s case gives lie to all that.  Whether or not she murdered her daughter or just covered up her death, Casey Anthony was obviously not ready to be a mother, and the anti-choice contention that you can make someone be ready for motherhood by applying force has been demonstrated to be a lie.  I suspect they get that this whole case is really not helping their argument that the best solution for teenage girls who get pregnant from one night stands is compulsory motherhood.  And it draws attention to the fact that compulsory motherhood is not only bad for women, but it’s really bad for children.  It reminds people, in the starkest terms possible, that children are better off if they’re wanted and born to people ready to care for them. This troubling realization, I suspect, accounts for the ill-advised flip-out over this case, when cooler heads would suggest they lay low until all this blows over. 

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  • princess-jourdan

    I don’t know if it’s right for me to say this or not, but I’ve always felt that Casey should have aborted Caylee instead of keeping her.  She obviously didn’t truly want to be a mother and wasn’t fully prepared for the responsibilities of motherhood.  She had trouble holding down a job and her parents did most of the actual raising of Caylee for her since she was too busy going out and having a good time.  Some have said that Casey’s parents badgered her into keeping Caylee instead of having an abortion, and some said that Casey went along with remaining pregnant and giving birth because of all the attention being a new mom gave her.  But as the child grew older and became more of a handful, I suspect Casey just couldn’t handle the stress of motherhood anymore and just snapped.  I’d say the Casey Anthony case is a good example of why we should leave abortion legal.  Women should NOT be forced into motherhood because, like you said, it’s REALLY bad for the children.

  • crowepps

    I got the impression her parents pressured her because they thought “becoming a mother” would magically force her to “grow up” and become a “good person”.  If they wanted the grandchild, they should have just taken the baby to live with them and raised it themselves.  Using children as tools to change the parents behavior is manipulative and stupid, and very hard on the children who are made responsible for their parents’ character.  I’m aware the media can manipulate a person’s image, but the photographs of her during the trial showed a series of woebegone, sulky, and tantrum-like expressions that wouldn’t have been out of place on a 4-year old.

  • beenthere72

    I cringe every time someone says so-in-such should’ve had an abortion.  I see comments on articles constantly where a woman does something wrong in the presence of her children (like a local drunk driver who got in a minor fender-bender with a toddler in the back seat, another where the father was driving, mother in passenger seat, both drunk with child in the car), and people say the mother should’ve had an abortion (and I’m betting they’re all men making those comments).    Yes, Caylee wouldn’t have been alive to suffer and die the way she did, but we don’t get a do-over, you don’t know what the future holds, so it’s pretty futile to say they should’ve done something differently.     And I know you, personally, would never say it to a currently pregnant woman.  


    It’s very sad that she had the opportunity to give her up for adoption and her mother wouldn’t let her.  

  • sschoice

    The dangers of ‘Caylee’s Law’

    Understandable outrage yields a false remedy.

  • sschoice

    Amanda wrote:

    “For the record, I suspect that Anthony actually is guilty, and believe the jury when they say they think she probably is but that the prosecution didn’t prove its case.”

    The most we might rationally say is that her connection to Caylee’s death seemed suspicious enough a few years ago for some charge against Casey related to the cause of Caylee’s death might be considered “founded.”  Our inferences pretty much ended there.  After that, what happened is a well-known process: charges are filed and a case tried, and the prosecution tries to prove that there is evidence to support finding her guilty as charged beyond a reasonable doubt.  Oh, and everyone who can cash in on the process cashes in.

    The most it seems that we can say now is that Casey is guilty of something, but given what we know — and how little hard evidence there was apparently known at all — we can’t even say anymore that we suspect she is guilty of killing Caylee, and we never wanted to speculate on methods or motives. 

    From afar, it’s seems more likely that Casey Anthony is mentally ill than it is that she killed her daughter, though it is about as difficult (and productive) to speculate on a diagnosis of mental illness as it is to speculate whether or not she deserves to be charged with some sort of homicide.  One thing we can say for sure, there are probably far more people who are mentally ill than there are people who have killed or tried to kill anyone — and far more still who after tramautic experiences have engaged in the kind of dysfunctional, arguably self-destructive behavior that Casey Anthony apparently engaged in, before and after Caylee’s death.

    But as far as abortion is concerned, it may well be an issue in the case worth discussing.  This isn’t a case we’ve tried to follow at all, but we did hear without really following the story numerous tabloid-style reports that Casey Anthony was considering having an abortion when pregnant with Caylee, though the following quote is the only reference that we found easily in Google News archives on a possible connection:


    April 2, 2009



    “VELEZ-MITCHELL: Kiomarie saying the condom broke and Casey got pregnant, afraid to tell her mom. And Nancy Grace suggested that Casey was even considering an abortion. And eventually, we know she wanted to give her child up for adoption.”

    …and again that story from 2009 was the only story we found (though we didn’t dig very hard) on the connection that issues related to reproductive choice, and abortion in particular, had with this case.

    So maybe there was a connection, but the mainstream media didn’t seem to follow-up on it.  While there may be more on this from court testimony or interviews with investigators, detectives, and others with the legal system, it doesn’t seem have been much reported on, and it hardly seems relevant to what she was charged with.  What information there might be of a connection, of course, would be based on the recollections of people who would be biased in some way due to their role in the case.

    So maybe the Casey Anthony case does have something to do with abortion, even if you aren’t an anti-choice fanatic.

    And maybe even if you aren’t a sensationalistic CNN show host who has done more damage to feminist concerns in this case than most anti-choice bloggers and right-wing radio talk show hosts have done.

    And while this isn’t meant to criticize anyone’s blogging in particular on the case, especially Amanda’s, it’s remarkable how little commentary there has been on any aspect of this case in the feminist media online prior to the jury finding Casey not guilty of killing Caylee.   It’s a sensational story, but how much more sensational than the allegations against Julian Assange or Dominique StraussKahn?  Surely there has been some mention of the Casey Anthony case in online feminist blogs and media, but nothing like the amount of coverage that even the least sensationalistic outlets of the mainstream media have given it. 

    Progressive blogs in general and the feminist media in particular didn’t seem to give the Casey Anthony case much coverage until after the verdict, and even then mostly in response to public outrage that Casey was not found guilty of killing Caylee.  Some anti-choice, anti-feminist folks may say wrongly it’s because we prochoicers feel too sorry for (or somehow even identify with) Casey Anthony, but it’s likely because bloggers of whatever ideology who are somehow paid for their work are rewarded in relation to the amount of comments (and webpage hits and ad impressions), and by the proportion of supportive comments they get.  Given that ratings-like realty, taking a position in any way possibly sympathetic to someone in, for example, Casey Anthony’s position would be bad for business. 

    So for the record, “southern students for choice” is willing to say we’re sympathetic to someone in Casey Anthony’s position, and we are willing to work for what it takes for someone who’d be in Casey Anthony’s position — especially her position prior to Caylee’s death — to find enough trust in the social/legal/medical system to seek help for whatever it is that is troubling her or her child, and making it more difficult to be the loving mother (or healthy, happy, wanted child) we’d like to assume she (and her child) wanted to be. 

    After all, if someone in Casey’s position doesn’t have that kind of trust in the system, how can we expect her to ask for help and maybe prevent someone — whoever did it — from possibly otherwise abusing and even killing a child like Caylee Anthony?

    Anyway, one could just as easily say one suspects all of the accused parties mentioned above — Casey Anthony, Julian Assagne, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn — to be guilty of, well, something like what they were charged with. 

    Ok, so let’s say we agree, we are suspicious they are guilty. 

    It looks like they all could be guilty of something like what they were charged with, to us, from a distance, given what we know.

    Now assuming the obvious — that we all care about the issues behind these cases, and we are committed to do more than participate in some online expression of outrage — what do we do about it?

    In the Casey Anthony case, if nothing else, the outrage that is being directed against Casey would be better directed toward supporting better services related to child abuse and domestic violence, and yes, more support for women who get pregnant, for them to do what they want to do independent of pressure from family and their partner, boyfriend, husband, etc. 

    We’d be better prepared to do argue THAT case, of course, with more commentary and dialogue online about those issues, including – when appropriate and in context – discussing cases like Casey Anthony.

    –southern students for choice, athens