Don't Try to Win the Abortion Debate by Comparing the Other Side to the Taliban

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Having learned nothing from Alan Grayson, an unknown nonprofit in Tennessee is facing some extra scrutiny after placing an ad in several state papers comparing the Tennessee state legislature to the Taliban. The ad, which comes complete with a crude caricature of a radical Muslim stepping on the body of a (white) Tennessee woman, is supposed to make the argument that an amendment going to voters on November 4 will give the Tennessee legislature the power to limit abortion rights. It does not make that point. Here is the top of the ad (we've placed the entire, lengthy ad at the bottom of this post): 

Tennesseans For Preservation Of Personal Privacy. 

Remziya Suleyman, Director of Policy & Administration at the Nashville-based American Center for Outreach, spotted and tweeted about the ad on Monday, drawing attention to it beyond state lines: "I'd like to know what group in TN thinks this racist & bigoted photo is okay," she wrote, "There's no damn Taliban in TN. Sick." The organization's decision to use a Muslim caricature to  represent the state's legislature is in particularly bad taste: this is the same state where legislators proposed a bill in 2011 to criminalize anyone who follows Sharia law — a blanket term for Islamic law — with a felony punishable by 15 years in prison. 

The group behind the ad, "Tennesseans For Preservation of Personal Privacy," is a non-profit registered with the state as of April of this year, but there's little information available on the group beyond that — The Wire emailed the group for comment, but have yet to receive a response. At the bottom of the ad, the group has a disclaimer about its lack of association with larger, national non-profit advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood. And it lists Barbara Moss as its treasurer. The ad was noticed by one anti-abortion referendum committee, "Yes on 1," who decided that the organization must be from "well-funded pro-abortion opponents of Amendment 1." 

In case you're wondering, Amendment 1 is a measure designed to undo some of the state's privacy protections when it comes to abortion rights. In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court determined that the state's constitution gave women in Tennessee strong privacy rights around their reproductive choices, even stronger than those in the U.S. constitution. The amendment, essentially, would give the legislature the ability to pass laws restricting abortion despite those protections. It should go without saying, but the negative effect this measure could have on abortion rights in the state is hardly comparable to what the Taliban actually does. 

Here's the full ad, via the Chattanooga Times Free Press: 

(h/t Niraj Warikoo

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.