Atonement in Blood
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
The 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.
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.
When 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.
Dr. Warren Hern [pdf link]
Abortion 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.
Joyce 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.
Title Image from Crucified Woman, by Eric Drooker
Our Lady, Alma López
Portuguese campaign poster from znost, via The Daily Kos
Atonement in Blood | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden)
Atonement in Blood | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden)