Atonement in Blood
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Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 02:58:32 AM EST
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingOn February 11, the people of Portugal spoke. A largely Catholic nation sick of seeing women endure imprisonment, injury and the risk of death voted to reject its "backward" criminalization of abortion. That same movement is making progress across the world, as the realization dawns that prohibition of abortion never has made it go away; prohibition only makes abortion dangerous, even deadly. Our own history tells us so.

But even as restrictions on abortion are eased in countries that have had their fill of needless pain and carnage, our own politicians on the Christian right are introducing one abortion ban after another, legislation designed to plunge the women of our own country back into a hellish past.

When has Christianity, then or now, required such bloody atonement? Or does this demand for the control and punishment of women merely wear a mask of Christianity in order to disguise baser, and entirely human, motives?

Regardless of the Christian right's blithe assurance that an end to legal abortion will end abortion altogether, the bleak reality of the world outside their rosy bubble tells a different story.

Only last year, The Lancet [reg required] reported that legally forbidden, unsafe abortions are responsible for the "largest proportion of hospital admissions for gynaecological services in developing countries."

The WHO estimates that one in eight pregnancy-related deaths result from unsafe abortions.
In the developing world as a whole, an estimated five million women are admitted to hospital for treatment of complications from induced abortions each year. ... By comparison, in developed countries complications from abortion procedures or hospitalisation are rare.
The WHO has provided global and regional estimates of abortion-related mortality and incidence of abortion over the past 15 years. The organisation estimates that 68,000 unsafe abortion-related deaths occur annually; that about one in eight of all pregnancy-related deaths result from unsafe induced abortion; that about 19 million unsafe abortions take place each year worldwide; and that abortions happen to women of all ages, throughout their reproductive years.

That horrendous situation is exactly what the Christian right's anti-abortion crusade seeks to impose upon our country once again. They don't like to talk about it, but a woman doesn't have to live in Nicaragua to bleed to death -- and won't, if these people have their way.

What do "Christian family values" politicians have to say for themselves by way of explanation? Considering the inevitable consequences of banning safe abortion care, "I'm pro-life" is a threadbare evasion that isn't even worth considering.

In Utah, a proposed abortion ban takes into account not the cost to women and those who love them, but only the monetary cost to the state.

Utah is the right place to outlaw abortion, many lawmakers agree. But championing that cause to burnish Utah's conservative credentials might not be worth the cost right now, suggest some, including Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

"My question is the constitutionality," Huntsman said Friday in an interview, "and whether we want to be the first state paying all the bills."

The Utah abortion ban will likely be replaced with a "trigger bill" that would avoid the costs involved in litigating a constitutional challenge. The author of the absolute ban, Rep. Paul Ray, defends his own version with the excuse that everyone else is doing it, too.

[Ray] noted that 11 states are considering abortion-law changes this year. Three besides Utah - Virginia, West Virginia and Mississippi - are considering a full-fledged ban. And three others are considering bans with triggers - North Dakota, Colorado and Texas.
"I think the time is right," he said, adding that advanced technology will bolster the state's argument. "I think we can show when life begins."
Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, said there are plenty of anti-abortion lawyers and groups eager to help defray the state's cost.

"We want an outright ban," she said.

And some want even more than that.

Unlike Leslee Unruh's strategy of telling women they need to lose access to safe abortion for their own good, and unlike those who deem pregnant women "victims of abortion" who are too incompetent to make decisions for themselves at all, Utah lawmakers are ready to proceed with the natural outcome of criminalizing abortion. Like other state legislators before them, they are more than ready to put women in prison.

Representative Paul Ray thinks it's not just the doctor who deserves to be punished in what he calls "killing babies."

"It's a two-way street," says Ray. "The provider's not forcing the woman to do it - she's opting to go there and to pay for it."

The question, then, is whether or not the man involved in a pregnancy should be punished for an abortion. The answer is less clear-cut for Ray:

"I don't know that you could criminally punish him because she got pregnant," says Ray. "It's like if my wife robs a bank, am I guilty because I married her? Absolutely not. So I think you have to look at the whole picture and not say just because she got pregnant, he's at fault."

Of course not.

Ray's Utah bill completely outlaws abortion, "except in cases to avert a woman's death or avert a serious risk to a woman of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function, or if the pregnancy is the result of incest or rape that was reported to police before the abortion is performed, and the abortion is performed before the unborn child is viable to survive outside of the womb."  

As do others of their ilk, Ray and his backers see a woman's mental health -- or even suicidal depression -- as no reason to justify an abortion.  Rape and incest will get her a pass, though, as long as she calls the cops, and as long as she has pre-paid that pass in the coin of sexual suffering, with sex she didn't invite or enjoy. Ray justifies a ban with "we can show when life begins," but who began that life still matters. It matters a lot. And the answer to that question is not "a woman."

In a review of Jack Holland's Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice, Canadian writer Joyce Arthur examines the mentality lurking beneath the view of rape as a property crime -- a crime not against women, but against the men who lay claim to their sexuality.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe Church is against both rape and abortion, because in the patriarchal view, they both interfere with the male right to paternity, and they both violate the dignity of woman--except according to the Church, woman's "dignity" rests on her sacred role as the mother of children by her husband--not by a rapist or enemy solder.
Most people, including a large number of anti-choice people, agree to exceptions in abortion laws for rape and incest. But this actually doesn't make sense if all life is sacred and fetuses have a right to life. After all, a fetus that is the product of rape is just as "innocent" as any other and should have the same "rights". However, these exceptions fit exactly with the male paternity theory. That's because the product of rape or incest is itself a violation of "rightful" male paternity--therefore it's OK, even necessary, to get rid of it.

Pious "pro-life" mouthings ignore a past that is looking more and more like our future. And they ignore the reason why.

It's only in the last 50 years or so that women, at least in the western world, have really achieved the means to control their own fertility. Many reliable methods of contraception exist to choose from, and when all else fails, we now have legal and safe abortion. ... It's impossible for women to really control their fertility without access to abortion because no contraceptive is 100% effective, and because women can't always access birth control or may not use it correctly. Of course, women have always tried to control their fertility in one way or another. Birth control has an ancient history, and ...[w]omen have always resorted to abortion, in every era and every culture.
But today, for the first time in history, it's official and it's public that women no longer need to be slaves to their biology. ... Unfortunately, the very idea that women can control their own fertility is a frightening development for a lot of people. Because it really gives women power over paternity - they can decide, on their own, which man should father their child, and which won't. They can decide when to have children, or whether they want any at all. And they can decide to abort any particular pregnancy. Men have lost control over women because they've lost control over paternity. That's why we see such a backlash by right-wing governments and groups today against pre-marital sex by women, contraception, and especially abortion. Abortion is the flashpoint in this war, because the patriarchal right-wing can't stand the thought of women having the power to abort men's babies - the ones put there by men's actions, by men's seed. A woman deciding to have an abortion is the ultimate insult to male authority.

God Forbid! Many physicians still remember a time when women flouted that authority at their peril.

Dr. Harry Jonas

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingWhen I was a first-year intern at the Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, the first patient I had was a woman who'd had 11 children and had self-aborted herself, because she couldn't get a legal abortion, with some instrument of some kind. And I was in charge of her case, as a young intern, with her intestine coming out of her vagina because she'd perforated the vagina with the instrument. And she had massive infection, multiple abscesses in all the vital organs in the body and she died.

I still remember that patient. I remember exactly what she looked like. I remember the bed she was in on Ward 1418 in Barnes Hospital. I remember seeing her in the emergency room when she came in, and she told us that she was desperate ... and she could not raise another child. She could not feed another child. She had not been able to find any doctor that would help her. I'll never forget that.
Many [women] ended up with illegal abortions, and many of them died. And for 25 years prior to Roe v. Wade in my state of Missouri, the most common cause of death in women of childbearing age was death due to infected, illegal, self-induced abortion.

Dr. Warren Hern [pdf link]

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAbortion mortality ratios have ... declined precipitously since 1967 to 1970, the years in which state abortion laws, beginning in Colorado, were liberalized. Prior to that time, deaths due to septic abortion, especially, were a serious health problem, especially for the poor and minorities. In 1967, the mortality rate (per 100,000 live births) due to septic abortion was 1.5 for whites and 10.2 for non-whites. In 1965 ... nearly 50% of all maternal mortality in New York City was due to complications arising from abortion during some periods, and this figure exceeded 60% for Puerto Ricans.

So many doctors, so many stories of women who shouldn't have died.

But ban abortion now, and it will all just go away. Sure . . . sure it will.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingJoyce Arthur further relates that Jack Holland writes of Pope John Paul II having told "poor and illiterate women that to use a condom is the moral equivalent of murder and that each time they use contraceptives they render Christ's sacrifice on the cross 'in vain." The Pope said: "No personal or social circumstances have ever been able, or will be able, to rectify the moral wrong of the contraceptive act."

The most overt contraceptive act of all is abortion, and if the anti-woman crusade of the Christian right succeeds, we will be forced to remember that some "moral wrongs" can be atoned for only in blood.

Women always have had abortions, and always will. That is an undeniable part of what women have always done, and who women have always been. To condemn abortion is, in a real sense, to condemn woman.

Are women who have abortions responsible moral agents who can be trusted to make loving and caring decisions about their own motherhood? Or are over a million American women who have abortions every year God-defying creatures who are "killing babies" and deserving of punishment?

While we continue allowing the Christian right to dodge that question, clandestine and unsafe abortion continues to kill 68,000 women a year. The time has come for us, as a people and as a nation, to make up our minds. It is time for us, like the people of Portugal, to speak.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Title Image from Crucified Woman, by Eric Drooker

Our Lady, Alma López

Portuguese campaign poster from znost, via The Daily Kos

but according to the excellent blog Coat Hangers at Dawn, the women of that state are no safer than they were last year.

Gordon "women are like cattle" Howie has offically lost it, that is if he ever had it to begin with.

At a legislative crackerbarrel this weekend Gordie again proved that he is completely out of touch with not only voters but reality. He claimed that the people who voted down last years abortion bans didn't really want to vote down the ban but really wanted to instead vote for his ban this year. He went on again to recite that he would deny any woman an abortion for any reason unless death was the result. But Howie being the generous guy that he is will give those undeserving wimmins of South Dakota some useless exceptions because according to him that is what people voting against the ban really wanted, they just needed him to tell them so.

Even though South Dakota already has an abortion ban in place.

by moiv on Tue Feb 13, 2007 at 03:19:41 AM EST

As usual, a great analysis...and spot on.

Fortunately, most young women today don't have any idea of what it's like to see a friend go through an illegal abortion or have a friend die from attempts to self abort.

Women younger than 50 have always had legal abortion available to control their reproduction.

We need to therefore remember the past in order to not repeat it.

"Be not too hasty to trust or to admire the teachers of morality: they discourse like angels, but they live like men" ... Samuel Johnson, Rasselas (1759), 18.
by AnnRose on Wed Feb 14, 2007 at 09:00:04 AM EST

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