At the same time, I happened upon an essay by Gloria Steinem from 1980 entitled, "If Hitler Were Alive, Whose Side Would He Be On?" Gains by women in the Weimar Republic, increased freedom to work and access to abortion, were immediately eradicated by Hitler. In the U.S. in 1973, Roe v. Wade produced an immediate backlash, with the first anti-abortion law, attacking the poor by denying Medicaid funding for abortion. We have seen that the anti-abortion movement, which never goes away, becomes more fervent whenever women's rights grow. During the Obama presidency, we saw gains in access to contraception along with victories in the fight for employment equality. The Trump backlash, led by old white men like Lindsey Graham, grows in fervor as the women's rights movement has taken on renewed energy, and the #MeToo movement seeks to hold men responsible for sexual assault and harassment.
So here we are in 2018 with minorities and the poor being attacked by the federal government, from DACA to Muslim immigrants, to attempts to do away with the minimum wage. And front and center are the legislative assaults on women's reproductive rights. Right-wing states' rights advocates are pushing federal twenty-week abortion bans, falsely named "pain-capable." Personhood bills are cropping up like kudzu, along with new and improved twisted bills like "dismemberment abortion ban," which would prohibit second trimester abortions. Be horrified but don't be surprised to learn that Trump appointee Scott Lloyd proposed something called an "abortion reversal" in order to stop a teenage detainee from completing an abortion already in progress.
And conservative darling David Brooks weighed in last week, offering his unsolicited advice to Democrats, suggesting that we go along with the twenty-week abortion ban because it affects so few women and we could trade them for something else we wanted to get done, I assume something more important than those few women wrestling with the tragedy of fetal abnormalities.
Under the heading, With Friends Like These...: Bernie Sanders campaigns for an anti-abortion candidate. And in 2018, we in South Carolina have a Democratic candidate for governor who proposes registering pregnant women "so the state can track their offspring and offer services if their children are not thriving." This in a state that refused Medicaid expansion and wants to enforce work rules for anyone seeking public assistance. I shudder to imagine what "services" would be offered.
I have talked ad nauseum about the twenty-week abortion ban, and its basis in false science. I have ranted about a movement that calls itself "pro-life" but opposes health care for all and gun regulation. A movement that claims to be for the family but cheers on the separation and deportation of immigrants.
How did we EVER allow this movement to get away with calling itself "pro-life" anyway? The evil wordsmiths of the right wing have created fabrications of language that would make George Orwell blush. Paul Ryan's "American Health Care Act" was designed to take health care away from millions of Americans. Whenever you hear a republican talk about "gun safety" you can bet they are going to get behind whatever jackass bill the NRA hands them, and that bill will allow (or require) more guns in public places, across state lines, on college campuses, in elementary schools.
And you can bet that they all call themselves "pro-life."
It is time to take back the label "pro-life."
I am pro-life. I believe women and children -- and men for that matter -- should all have good health care. We live in a country of great wealth, that few of us see. Without leaving the Koch brothers homeless we could increase their taxes and provide health care for all.
I am pro-life. I believe that guns and gun owners should be registered, that background checks should be required. I believe that guns do not belong on the streets, and assault weapons do not belong anywhere outside of a licensed shooting range. I believe that police officers as well as children playing in their front yards or attending school as well as someone drinking in a bar deserve the right to be safe from an unstable individual with a gun.
I am pro-life. I believe that women have the right to decide how to care for their bodies, privately and with the advice of a licensed physician. Period. In a country where "a man's home is his castle" and George Zimmerman was allowed to "stand his ground" and shoot an unarmed teenager and collect his gun on the way out of the courtroom, you are NOT allowed to legislate a woman's contraception or pregnancy. There is not an abortion epidemic; there is an epidemic of violence against women, and attacks on reproductive freedom are part of that assault. There is nothing "Christian" about the "Christian right." They more resemble the Taliban than Christianity.
I am pro-life. I respect the right of women to choose to give birth. I completely respect and admire women who choose to give birth despite fetal abnormalities, or other hardship. It takes a strength I don't have, and nobody has the right to make that decision for the pregnant woman. I do not respect those few who have said that they made a mistake by having an abortion, so they choose to prevent other women from making their mistake. Likewise, if there is a God, she/he made it so that if you choose to have an abortion, you get to do it again when you're ready, so stop talking about all the babies we could have had in the world. If I had not had an abortion in 1973, I would not have my two wonderful children today.
There are a lot of different rationales for being anti-abortion. Those billionaires who fund our right-wing legislators mostly don't really care about abortion; they mostly like the distraction it causes while they pillage and plunder workers and the environment. Lindsey Graham knows it is a dog whistle that will keep his right-wing base from championing a more extreme primary opponent and keep the big donors happy.
Right-wing Christians entertain so many twisted rationales for their beliefs that it would be impossible to generalize. Fact free and projected from their own needs and fears, you can find the Rapture Ready, those that believe pregnancy is God's punishment for sex, and those that believe that the fetus is a little tiny baby with an erection that can pleasure itself and feel pain and that is going to be cut up into pieces with full awareness during an abortion. If that latter image horrifies you, that is exactly its intent.
The anti-abortion movement is mostly powered by those who will keep poor and minority women -- and girls -- from being able to determine their own lives. This is why, despite all the moaning about killing babies, these same people oppose free contraception, accurate sexual and reproductive health education in the schools, and health clinics like Planned Parenthood that provide reproductive care apart from abortion. It is the 21st century rendition of keeping them (us) barefoot and in the kitchen.
And this is not just about women. Smart men know that preventing women from controlling their own reproductive lives can throw an entire family into turmoil. Not able to work to their potential. Inadequate time or finances for the rest of the family. The stress of having to live with a pregnancy; the stress of knowing there are options out there, but you have been prohibited from taking them.
In America, we are prohibiting women from options that are available to the rest of the developed world. In Canada, Justin Trudeau has recently reaffirmed his commitment to reproductive rights, despite conservative protest. When we take part in the phony dialogue about when abortion is acceptable, we are agreeing that women are incapable of determining their own paths.
When I was young, Catholics were taking a lot of crap for their large families, and Prescott Bush worked to support Planned Parenthood; later, George H.W. Bush crusaded in Congress for family planning funding. Back then, they knew that unwanted pregnancies were a drain on resources, but now we have a government that believes it is worth the waste to keep the poor struggling. With government assistance cut down to bare bones, a poor woman won't get contraceptive care, and when she gets pregnant, can't get an abortion, so she -- and her child -- will spend their lives living hand to mouth. They won't be able to hold a job much less keep their children well fed and healthy.
Pro-life? Bullshit. It is time to take it back. Time to say: I am pro-choice because I am pro-life.
It is time to stop drawing lines in the sand for pregnant women to struggle with. It is none of your damned business. Embryos and fetuses are not cute little miniature babies. Viability is the false argument that began it all. It doesn't matter if it is viable if it is inside a woman's body. Late term abortions are rare and occur when there are severe fetal anomalies. Only a woman should make that decision. Using science or religion to create legislation to control a woman is unacceptable. We are not incubators.
If you want to save lives, make gun safety laws, provide health care and good education, make sure the poor all have a roof over their heads. Don't invent an epidemic that doesn't exist so that you can win elections.
For those of you who would like to learn more -- and I hope you do -- here are two excellent books:
Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt