09 May Compulsory Pregnancy, Forced Birth
So we just had Mother’s Day–fitting, because last Tuesday the United States Supreme Court ruled that every American woman must become a mother.
The forced pregnancy ruling that was leaked from the United States Supreme Court, written by Justice Samuel Alito, is on one hand not at all surprising, in that we were expecting it, but on the other hand is an utter astonishment, because of its complete gall, an audacity, an atrocity. I and others, far more learned in law, have already and will in future make clear why the haphazard, erroneous reasoning cited by Alito in his draft is egregiously wrong, biased, myopic, and in brazen contradiction to the Constitution and to jurisprudence itself. Which is not to even begin mentioning the death-knell effect this ruling will try to ring on American women—more than half the population of the country—or blatant ignoring of the fact that over 54 percent of the country’s population, in a two to one margin—male as well as female, Republican as well as Democrat—believes that Roe v Wade should have been upheld, and almost 60 percent believes affirmatively in a woman’s total right to her own reproductive freedom.
It reminds me of William Faulkner’s great line from his novel Requiem for A Nun: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Indeed. So we find ourselves–almost 50 years after the Supreme Court declared Roe v Wade a Constitutional right and the law of the land–re-fighting this issue from the ground up.
The unelected, extremist, conservative majority on the Supreme Court, appointed by two presidents who both lost the popular vote, is set to overturn 50 years of precedent and end our right to terminate unwanted pregnancies.
So, no time to waste. Here are the undeniable facts.
A majority of Americans support abortion rights, but Republican-controlled legislatures in cleverly and heavily gerrymandered states don’t, and it is those unbalanced, undemocratic governing bodies that are responsible for Mississippi’s fifteen-week ban, for Texas’s six-week ban, and for bills that would restrict or ban abortions in at least twenty-one other states when Roe is officially overturned.
As Jill Lepore writes in The New Yorker, “Samuel Alito is surprised that there is so little written about abortion in a four-thousand-word document crafted by fifty-five men in 1787. As it happens, there is also nothing at all in that document, which sets out fundamental law, about pregnancy, uteruses, vaginas, fetuses, placentas, menstrual blood, breasts, or breast milk. There is nothing in that document about women at all. Most consequentially, there is nothing in that document—or in the circumstances under which it was written—that suggests its authors even imagined women as part of the political community embraced by the phrase “We the People.””
I’d add that Alito also does not bother to mention that American women have the highest maternal-mortality rates in the developed, industrialized world meaning that abortion actually is safer than childbirth, that America is the only industrialized nation without mandated paid leave, that sixteen per cent of its children live in poverty, that it spends something like two per cent of what some Scandinavian countries do on day care per toddler. In other words, America cares passionately about life – but only in the fetal form. This isn’t about life. This is about birth. But birth requires the female.
Alito argues that Roe was not “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” Say what? As opposed to the enslavement of African peoples? Now that was deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition. Oh, do let’s ponder this nation’s history and tradition. When Roe was decided, I, a married woman in the United States, needed my husband’s permission to get a credit card or a loan or a checking account that wasn’t a joint account, something that did not change until 1974. No state outlawed marital rape until 1975. No man was found liable for sexual harassment until 1977. Pregnancy was an offense that called for being summarily fired until 1978. Alito blithely fails to itemize forms of sex-based subjugation that persisted well after Roe, many of which are “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” Not to speak of the attempted genocide of Native peoples, the exclusion and then internment of Asian peoples, the bigotries and discrimination in everything from education to employment, public facilities to private privileges, subtle to violent, micro-aggressions to murder, leveled against every immigrant group seeking refuge in the land of the free, etc., etc., ad nauseam.
“Deeply rooted”–I’ll say.
And while we’re on ethnicity, let’s look at the profound impact racism has had on this decision; let’s not forget all those white males chanting, “you will not replace us”; let’s not forget all the not-even-below-the-surface paranoia about the glad fact that the United States will soon no longer be a majority white nation-–just how much poisonous effect do you think that has had, consciously and unconsciously, on this anti-abortion decision? Let’s not forget to make the connections. Again, this isn’t about life, this is about birth–and birth rates. The irony is that recent declines in the abortion rate have been larger in states with widespread abortion access, because of comparable access to contraceptives, than in those that have added restrictions, where abortions were more likely to have increased.
This is Trump’s legacy: all the big lies, the slavish degradation of the Republican Party. This is the toxic combo of racism and religion–that noxious belief in kingdoms and kings instead of republics and democracies. Why is there no republic of heaven? If the good news is that religiosity in this hypocritically faith-saturated nation is declining, the bad news is it isn’t declining swiftly enough.
Don’t let them say you were unduly alarmed, crying wolf, this time. Don’t let them claim we should “wait-and-see.” We waited. We’ve seen. If they succeed in overturning Roe, there is every reason to believe they will move for an outright national ban on the procedure (already proposed), as well as to reverse federal affirmative action rulings, rulings on same-sex marriage and gay rights, rulings on disability, on state gun control laws, and even on contraception and on crossing state lines to marry someone of another race. And more. The works.
We need all hands on deck, and every tactic and strategy imaginable.
–We must initiate a flood of pressure on our lawmakers to use their power of subpoena to call Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, and probably Clarence Thomas as well, to testify in investigations of their contempt of Congress, their possible perjury in having openly lied to Congress during their nomination hearings.
–We need to end the filibuster, incendiary a thought as that may be.
–We need more funds like the decades-old Lilith fund in Texas coordinating with abortion providers in neighboring states to pay for childcare, lodgings, travel, and food on a poor patient’s journey toward the health care of pregnancy termination.
–We need to march in larger numbers than ever before.
–We need to show up at the polls for candidates who stand proudly for reproductive rights.
–We need legislation advocating for a human rights framework for reproductive freedom — a strategy that’s been affective in Ireland and in Mexico, and one that has inspired activism recently in Poland and in Argentina.
We need to take back our districts, our country, our democracy, our bodies. We need to give no quarter this time.
This blog will be on hiatus next week, while Robin Morgan will be off, organizing. It will return on May 22.