Every year when I get my mammogram I have the same thought: if a pale, stale, male had to subject his body to this level of intense squishing and extreme uncomfortableness in their most private parts, wouldn’t they have developed a better system by now? While ultrasounds are comparable and less painful than mammograms, operator experience is important since you can miss something on an ultrasound if you’re not paying close attention, so mammograms are still the preferred method, but the reality as pale, male and stale see it is, if women aren’t protesting the current medical techniques, why do them any favors?
But I don’t want to talk about mammograms, I want to talk about the legal right to an abortion. There’s no question that legalizing abortion is a polarizing issue, but the conservative movement’s roots were grown in the soils of segregation, not abortion. It wasn’t until six years after Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973, that the evangelical right in the form of Jerry Falwell placed women’s reproductive rights in their sights as way to motivate their base.
Enter Ronald Regan in the 1980s who openly courted Christian evangelicals, seeing them as a path to cement his own power and the marriage of politics and evangelicalism had begun, a marriage made in hell, IMO, since it has not only derailed 200+ years of American Democracy but is ultimately going to take the country down with it, and given the current demographics of the United States, it’s a losing proposition.
While I respect the kind of tenacity and determination it took the GOP and Christian right to get the country to this place — we are on the precipice of overturning the most pivotal women’s rights law of the 20th century — the abortion issue was a pivot from segregation, an issue that couldn’t get enough traction, a fallback whose day in the limelight had come because its political persuasiveness proved sticky with base and got its ire up in a way that segregation had heretofore been incapable of doing.
But just as slavery was wrong despite many prominent Americans in history owning slaves — “if your friend jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too?” — so is taking away a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. Should this leak from a now “disturbingly ordinary” Supreme Court that by all outside appearances is politically driven become a real and final SCOTUS decision, the effect will be to enslave women of all stripes and religious beliefs and to put them in the backseat — possibly even the trunk — economically, socially, and politically — “where they belong,” the male, pale and stale may say. And that, my friends, is exactly the result for which the male, pale and stale have strategized for years to bring about with McConnell the Elder formulating “a near-insurmountable roadblock before any decent policy.” (The cited article proposes a fictional “future” of America, akin to the fall of the Roman Empire, which obviously hasn’t happened — yet — and also makes for some very compelling reading.)
Let’s begin again, starting with the premise that we all have free will? Isn’t that a tenet of the Christian religion, even if you are a militant fundamentalist, that God gave us free will, sent us down to earth, and then told us to have at it and see what we could make of ourselves? At least that’s what I was taught growing up Catholic — and while Catholicism is not a fundamentalist religion, pro-life has been center stage as a zealously Catholic position for 5-ever. Before I became an adult, I adhered to it wholeheartedly. For me, the change of mind came when I took a comparative religion class in my sophomore year of college and I learned of reincarnation, of atheism, of the Koran, of the Kabbalah, because there’s a little something for everyone in a world with over 4,000 religions.
Reincarnation is where the Soul comes back again and again to the earth, perfecting its shtick until it reaches nirvana. I’ve reconciled my upbringing with my new understanding this way: the earth refreshes herself every year, winter, spring, summer, fall, so why can’t humans? The approach makes sense to me, otherwise the unfairness of it all from a God that professes to be fair just doesn’t sit well. Whether reincarnation is true, or like the Catholics believe, you get one life and after, based upon your performance, you go to heaven, hell, or purgatory; or as the Jews believe you enter the great nothingness afterwards; or any other of the possible permutations and scenarios that over 4,000 religions might believe, I have no way of knowing the answers to such esoteric questions which are candy to the curious soul because none of us will know until we’re dead. So perhaps I’m hedging my bet when I choose to live my life by the most important lesson to ever come out of any religion, widely attributable to Jesus, but a notion every other great religious leader has referenced in some form or other: “love your neighbor as yourself,” and as Kabbalah likes to add, “everything else is commentary.”
So, pale, male, and stale, and Amy Coney Barrett — who apparently has her own handmaid’s tale — why do you need to keep hating on women? Isn’t that against your religion’s missive to love others as yourself? And how did we get here? Because, those pale, male, and stale members of Congress who call themselves statesmen — plus Amy Coney Barrett and her ultra-conservative, ultra-vires court justice companions who appear ready to overturn 50 years of Supreme Court precedent for political reasons — and who are really no better than schoolyard bullies, making sure they get the results they want regardless of whether over 60% of Americans disagree with them, are afraid. They may have different reasons for their fear — losing the superior position they’ve enjoyed for hundreds of years to women and minorities could be one reason for the fear — but regardless, fear it is, and it has consumed them. If God doesn’t feel the need to control women’s bodies, why should they? Oh — probably because God is not afraid.
Without a woman to carry a child to term, there can be no term, no new life. SCOTUS, acting like a bunch of dumb 3rd-graders (actually, that’s an affront to 3rd graders) pretends this is all a simple exercise and that a woman carrying a baby to term does not have a psychological effect on the mental health of the child, or that an unwanted pregnancy will not damage the psychological health of the mother as if the mother is simply a vessel through which a baby pops out — especially Barrett who obvi didn’t do the late-night feedings or go to work on 2-hours of sleep because she was up all night with a colicky child. Or maybe that’s what they teach in handmaid’s school.
Women aren’t chattel; they’re human beings entitled to the same rights as their male counterparts. A woman’s life is just as sacred as that of her unborn child, more, in fact, since she’s already been walking around as a human in the world before she became pregnant. A fetus is a great unknown. Whether it comes to term or leaves of its own accord before then, whether it is stillborn, dies a couple years after birth because of medical complications related to a genetic ailment, or it grows into a fully functioning human, it is not going to get anywhere without the mom who is hosting it. And if the mom is not up for the hosting, where does that leave the fetus?
Unlike most of the rest of nature, human beings take an incredibly long time to grow to maturity and the mother is one of the main reasons they are able to do so. If the mother herself is not capable of caring for her child, she shouldn’t have to, nor should she be obligated to birth a child she will be forced to give up, or one that may put her life in danger, or that she simply had no plan for. Melissa Gates maintains in her book, The Moment of Lift, that a woman giving family planning options is a women in control of her destiny. Mother’s that are too young, too old, too unhinged, or who already have too many children and no way to feed them all should not have to have a baby they don’t want. That decision is between the mother, her doctor, and whatever deity that woman worships. You may ask where the child’s decision is in all this, but remember, the child is a clump of cells for a really long time and then, without Herculean medical investments, can’t live outside the womb much earlier than about 20 weeks and even then, not without a whole host of help because of the medical issues surrounding premature birth.
Sure, there are many stories where women find a way to make things work. After centuries of being the underdog in a world that favors sons over daughters, men over women, our resilience is amazing. Stories like the 11-year old mother of Kathy Barnette a pro-lifer running for PA Senate who has declared she is “not a lump of cells,” but a human who would not be here had her mother not made the choice to keep her child. True, but what about the 11-year old mother? Does anyone feel that child should have been tasked with the unimaginable burden of raising a child? Or that she needed to trade her life for her unborn child’s? At 11, a woman’s body is no where near developed fully which poses complications in child birth. Her brain was still 14 years away from being fully formed as a functioning adult. Can an 11-year old even make the best decisions for herself and her baby? Heck, Brett Kavanaugh made some terrible choices in high school when he groped Christine Blasey Ford, but you all — pale, male and stale — not only forgave him, but put him on the Supreme Court. Talk about a double standard. Nothing screams, “bitch, get behind me where you belong,” like taking away a woman’s right to choose her own path. Thanks, McConnell. Thanks, Manchin. Thanks, all y’all. Remember Karma? I hope you all come back as women under the Taliban.
In the real world — not the made up world where most white male Republican members of Congress live — a woman subjected to an unwanted pregnancy who pulls through and successfully raises the child to maturity without ruining her own life in the process is not the standard-bearer, but the unicorn. It’s like saying all black people have the same opportunities as all white people. I mean, ostensibly you can find some truth in there, but for the most part, it’s B.S. There are many more examples where things don’t work out for you if you’re black, and also for women who are too old, too young, too immature, at medical risk to her own life or the child’s, were survivors or incest or rape, too (fill in the blank) to have a baby.
Yet, it has come to my attention and the attention of anyone with XX chromosomes that Republicans and some DINOs — Democrats in name only — don’t care about these babies once they are born, or the mothers forced to birth them. The minute that baby hits the rarefied air of the Mother Earth, they are forgotten, especially if they are of color — just look at the failure to pass child care provisions in the failed Build Back Better bill and the crushing of so many supporting programs — or Reagan’s famous “welfare queen” line. What kind of monsters eat their young like that? First they torture the women into enduring a pregnancy they do not want and then they provide no support for the children they so adamantly wanted to bring into the world. You can’t have it both ways, GOP. Pick one, or perhaps we should bus all the unwanted kids to Texas and let Governor Abbott raise them.
I just hope these lawmakers get their stories straight because when they get to the pearly gates and God be like,
“So, did you love your neighbor as yourself?”
Lawmaker: “Well, we sure saved a lot of babies.”
God: “What about the children? Did you provide for them, too?”
Lawmaker: paws the ground, looks up at God, flinches, “You mean, like with affordable health care and stuff?”
Oh wait, my bad. That was something else the Republicans tried to gut. I just hope the righteous indignation that these lawmakers claim to feel when they hear about women wanting to make their own choices keeps them cool in hell.
You can’t force your will on other people without sending a ripple effect across all of humanity. We all know the decision to choose what each of us should do with our own bodies belongs to each of us alone. Why do Barrett, Kavanaugh and Co. get to choose for other people? Are they omniscient? Do they have deity-like powers? They have their own bodies to make choices for. Speaking of, are there any laws that take away a man’s right to choose what to do with his body? None come to mind. If a few nut jobs in black robes can undo 50 years of privacy-driven, 14th amendment freedom, then it’s not too long before the white robes with hoods start showing up and who knows what else, Maybe soon thereafter, we women will be wearing burkas like our Arab sisters.
When I was in my 20’s, I participated in a pro-choice rally, marching on Washington for women’s rights. At one point I was walking behind Senator Arlen Specter. Remember him? He was a Democrat, then a Republican, then a Democrat, back and forth, yes, but a moderate in most things who voted with both his mind and his heart, wasn’t afraid to cross party lines when it was good for the country, and would revisit old votes based on where the country was heading such as calling for a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2009, a law he originally supported in 1996.
We need that spirit back in Washington, not this consolidate at-all-costs outright power grab, twisting yourself into pretzel to get the results you want — not a good statesmen look BTDubs. If 61% of the country thinks some form of abortion should be legal, why on God’s green earth are we still talking about it? You all act like you know the mind of God when you don’t even know your own mind. There is no God so reprehensible that s/he would discount the needs and desires of 72 million women of child-bearing age, or presuppose you know each of those women’s destinies the way these five supreme court justices believe they have been divinely chosen to do. Lordy! The repercussions of what you have wrought will come for all of us, but mostly for the 14th Amendment, and then it will truly be hell on earth.
Rise up, ladies, especially in red states where y’all are going to have it the hardest. Time to fight, not with sticks and stones, but with words and actions, with organization and grassroots movements, with our incredible skills of collaboration — men make fun of us for that, but boy can we band together when we need to — with our inherent mothering skills because, yes, we are on the cusp of birthing a new nation where all children are loved and all people are respected equally, but in order to do so, we need to take back our power now.
Mobilize for the candidates that believe in the sanctity of life, yes, but moreover, the sanctity of choice born of the recognition that such sanctity begins via the grace of a woman and her body, and that without her acquiescing, nothing will work out as planned. Vote for representatives that are going to respect you like the magnificent woman you are. Time to lower the volume on our emotions (no one is more guilty of that than I am), to be strategic, and to take back our ability to make our own choices, especially as it applies to our bodies because that’s ground zero. Let’s start with voting those who will represent us into office. And if there is no one, think about running yourself. There are plenty of women’s groups out there to help.
Ready to kick 2,000+ years of patriarchy to the curb, ladies? Time to rise up, protest, make our voices heard. This may be our only shot for a generation or more. Let’s not blow it.
pam lazos 5.15.22