(This being a big subject that has been largely ignored it needs a lot of explanation, the essay is split into two parts. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow)
It has not worked.
The pro-choice movement opposed by the religious right has been making an enormous mistake. We know that because it is facing disaster. That when a solid majority of Americans favor abortion rights. It is all too clear that what it has been done in support of women being full class citizens has been gravely defective. It follows that it is time to move on to a more effective strategy.
Roe v Wade rests largely upon the 14thAmendment principle of privacy as a legal and societal expression of individual freedom from invasive state control in favor of personal responsibility. The thesis is valid, but it is a defensive posture that has proven insufficient to fend off assaults from a dedicated forced birth campaign. The situation is so bad for the sovereign rights of American women that even as Catholic heritage nations like Mexico and Ireland place their trust in the gender to make the best choice, the USA is reverting to the paternalistic misogyny of the early 1900s.
The women’s right movement must go on the offensive to regain the legal and moral high ground over the force birthers. Doing that requires utilizing two interrelated lines of argument.
The Big Medical Lie
One issue that has for reasons obscure long been oddly underplayed is women’s health. The ant-abortion conspiracy promotes the anti-scientific disinformation that first trimester feticides are artificial and therefore bad for mothers, while child birth is natural to the point that the government must force all pregnant women to do what is good for their health physical and mental. Law enforcement must protect an apparently gullible gender from a diabolical abortion industry that is so clever that it somehow seduces many hundreds of thousands of each year — a third of the national female population over time – to commit a dangerous unnatural act that is against the wise ways of God’s benign creation. That when not getting an abortion is as easy as simply not going to a provider. Yet many go to great lengths to get to such, sometimes traveling long distances if necessary, knowing exactly what will happen when they do so, yet only a small percentage report having significant post procedure regrets [https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/01/416421/five-years-after-abortion-nearly-all-women-say-it-was-right-decision-study].
The hard truth is that nature is not always the best. Modern medicine is the artificial practice that has saved billions of lives from the deadly side of the biological world, including the many risks of pregnancy. Early term abortions surgical and medicinal are over a dozen times less lethal than going through the months long complexities and risks of pregnancy [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22270271]. And because the latter pumps lots of mood altering hormones into mothers, they are highly likely to experience serious mental distress before and especially after birth, post-partum depression being very common and often serious. Early pregnancy does not involve such hormone loads, and mental trauma is much less frequent after termination. That is why the regrets are rare, of the many women I know who have had abortions none was gravely upset about it. Which makes sense since a woman is making the safest decision when ending a pregnancy as early as feasible. Legally sentencing a woman to bear her pregnancy violates her core medical rights. It’s like preventing someone from taking say statins, or forcing them to smoke or use mind altering drugs.
But there is another major right that the anti-abortion project violates big time. the one that the pro-choice forces have been resisting despite its potential potency.
Forced Birth, it’s a Religious Thing
Here’s the fact that is as screamingly obvious as it is irrationally paid much too little attention by the body politic. Almost the entire movement to render women second class citizens by making them reproductive slaves of the state once pregnant, stems from one source. The religious right. That is a historically rather novel entity formed by a once unimaginable collaboration of evangelical Protestants with the Church of Rome. The anti-abortion project is the core engine of a brazen attempt by one religious clique that constitutes about a third of the population to impose their hardline faith-based beliefs on everyone else. Outside of the religious right who opposes abortion rights? Nontheists against women’s full reproductive rights are as scarce as hen’s teeth, I personally know of only one. Polling suggests that one in ten atheists are forced birthers, but the sample is small and the figure appears inflated. Many if not most Christians — Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, etc. of the center-left — favor reproductive choice, along with most Jews and other theists. That alliance of nonrelig0ious and believers form the solid majority who want broad abortion rights to remain in force in all 50 states.
The overwhelming and narrow religious basis of forced birth differs strikingly from other conservative causes such as limited government size and power regarding guns and economics, and heavy law enforcement against crimes and drugs. Those secular theses enjoy substantial support outside theoconservatism, including many nontheists — advocates of laissez faire capitalism for instance have included such prominent nonbelievers as Herbert Spencer, Ayn Rand, Milton Freidman, Penn Jillette and Michael Shermer.
No God Opposes Abortion
That feticide has become such a fixation of the religious right is remarkably ironic for a reason too few are aware of. The startling fact is that forcing women to bear pregnancies to term lacks theological justification. The central motivating claim by theoconservatives that they are sincerely merely obeying the dictates of a prolife creator is patently false both on real world and scriptural grounds. Our lovely but child toxic planet provides the proof that a prolife creator cannot exist. In the academic journal Philosophy and TheologyI was the first to calculate and publish the telling and terrible statistics that remain scandalously ignored [http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf. I further detail the problem in Essays on the Philosophy of Humanism https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1 & http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/03_Paul-SkeptoTheoPt2.pdf]. The stats start with how it is well documented that about 100 billion people have been born to date. To that add how medical analysis indicates that about three quarters of conceptions naturally fail to come to term — about half failing to implant in the first place usually due to rampant genetic defects, the rest are later term miscarriages, many of which go unnoticed. The human reproductive complex is a Rube Golbergian mess that usually fails – far from the womb being a safe refuge for fetuses, it is where most lives come to a natural early end. As geneticist William Rice states, accidental abortion is “the predominant outcome of fertilization [and] a natural and inevitable part of human reproduction at all ages.” [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326485445_The_high_abortion_cost_of_human_reproduction] That means something like 300 billion pregnancies have been spontaneously aborted to date. Currently, somewhere in the area of 30,000 spontaneous abortions occur every day in the US, over ten times more than those that are induced. After birth half those born have died as children from a vast array of torturous diseases that infest our biosphere, so some 50 billion kids have not grown up. It is the artifice of medicine that has driven juvenile mortality down to a few percent, less can be done about our deeply dysfunctional reproductive system. As I detail in the P&Tand EPHstudies, it is demonstrably impossible for a supernatural creator that allows hundreds of billions of preadults to die to be prolife.
The mass loss of immature humans helps explain a stark scriptural truth birth enforcement adherents evade as much as they can. Neither the Jewish nor Christian texts come anywhere close to banning abortions. The only direct mention of the issue instructs that if someone accidently causes a miscarriage involving a woman who is not their wife, then the negligent party can be sued by the father who owns the fetus – feticide is a civil property matter, not criminal murder in the Holy Bible. That the Biblical God orders the Israelite warriors to kill captive children as well as women even when pregnant reinforces the indifference of the deity to the lives of youngsters. The Gospels of Jesus have nothing to say about the topic. The abject absence of scriptural condemnation against abortion illuminates why most Bible believing Protestants, including the most popular evangelical of the day, Billy Graham, had no comment in the immediate wake of Roe v Wade. Then famed Southern Baptist leader W. A. Criswell did opine that he had “always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person, and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.” The sanctity of preborn life was largely a Vatican thing — it cannot be overemphasized the degree to which the Roman and Lutheran churches despised one another; a few years ago a couple of evangelicals standing right in front of me bemoaned how a relation who had gone Catholic was now worshipping the clergy, not Jesus. So why the ensuing great evangelical Protestant switch — Graham and especially Criswell evolved into staunch forced birthers — to sociopoliically weaponizing abortion as murder via a new found alliance with the heretical Catholic clergy? First a little history.
A Little History
Abortion was the norm in largely Protestant colonial and early independent America — for that matter, early term feticide has always been very common in societies whether legal or not. The Puritans of yore were not as super repressive and chaste as usually thought, oops pregnancies outside of marriage were fairly frequent. And there were women who after having birthed a bevy of babies did not want to go through thatagain. All the more so because childbirth was very dangerous, about one out of fifty pregnancies killed the mother. “Mother” nature is not much kinder to mothers than their young ones. Early term termination with herbal toxins had its dangers, but to a lesser degree. Such abortions were not a concern to the authorities if it was done before quickening. When the all-male founders, nearly all Protestants and Deists, were assembling the Constitution that instituted separation of church and state they never imagined considering feticide, that being a women’s affair outside their manly concerns. The only faction that might have been interested in the issue were the few Catholics. That they made no attempt to mention much less ban abortion was logical because the rest of the patriots would have slapped that down as an attempt to subvert the intent of the 1stAmendment to keep specific religious cliques from seizing control of governmental policies and vice-versa. Duh.
In the 1800s going into the early 1900s repression of sexuality and women reached a peak in tune with Victorian culture. Also of growing concern was that abortions were killing women, albeit less often than pregnancy. At the same time the all-male profession of medical doctors wanted to suppress competition form midwives who often aborted the much bigger money to be made from full term pregnancies. And the nativist eugenics — based on agricultural selective breeding — favored by Protestants (but not Catholics) called for WASP women to bear as many children as possible to prevent the others from dominating the population. Laws banning abortions appeared for the first time, and quickly became the national norm. (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/05/abortion-in-american-history/376851.)
The result. A little over a century ago the religious right owned these United States. Well over nine out of ten were Christians, nearly all conservative. It was a culture of imposed Judeo-Christian “virtue.” A pious repressive hyper misogynist patriarchy in which women were second class citizens required to wear heavy clothing even at the beach, and mandated to remain nonsexual until marriage in which husbands could legally rape their wives and she had no legal choice but to bear the child – that by the way helps elucidate why modern forced birthers are often not concerned about if a pregnancy resulted from nonconsensual sex. The draconian Comstock laws banned mailing information on contraceptives in flagrant contradiction of the Bill of Rights. The culture of repressed sexual liberty had to have a heavy government hand to it. Lacking the force of law to keep people in reproductive line, most folks feel free to have way too much fun for the likes of the power craving forces who enjoy imagining they know what it best for all of us, feckless women especially. Note that the Dour Culture was to a fair extent a white matter, black culture was less uptight, as reflected in the advent of the “sex music”, jazz that quickly gained a following among white youth.
The rather Taliban like mainstream Christian scheme began to unravel what with women (mainly white) getting the vote, and the first sexual revolution of the Roaring Twenties. That unprecedented loosening of sexual habits was never entirely beaten back by the right, but as late as the 1950s women were still expected to be virgins on their wedding nights who then became stay at home housewives, access to contraceptives remained limited, and abortions forbidden. With blue laws keeping most retail closed on Sundays three quarters of American were church members according the Gallup, as virtually all professed a belief in God.
Since then it’s all gone to theocon hell. Even in the 50s the hot black culture continued to infiltrate the white majority via the first wave of rock-and-roll – previously black slang for intercourse. What was Elvis doing up there on the stage with his pelvis? Seeing the way things were going Billy Graham started his mass crusades to try to restore America to its righteous ways.
That did not work.
Nowadays, with women being emancipated, first class citizens free to have sexy fun, sinfully tempting females strut down streets in minimal clothing. Sex outside marriage is actually the accepted societal norm. Marriage rates are down while divorce rates are sky high – that started with the WW 2 generation in the late 60s BTW — including among conservative Christians. Birth rates are below replacement level – that when many on the right oppose the immigration of nonwhites that’s needed if an expanding population is to help grow the economy. On the networks people can say screw when not talking about hardware. Then there is cable and the web. Most women have careers. The grand corporate project to convert pious frugal church goers into hedonistic materialists and digital social media addicts has succeeded spectacularly as Gallup tracks church membership plummeting from 70% at the beginning of the 2000s to 50% today [https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx] as white Protestants are a fast shrinking minority, the religious right the once ran the country has been reduced to a widely disparaged subgroup, and the nonreligious balloon by an amazing tenth of the population each decade [for a look at that see http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf]. Even Republicans are becoming less religious for Christ’s sake — listen to how the Trumpites swore like sailors as they stormed the capital, and denounce Biden with vulgarities like Richard Pryor.
Their Real Goal
That is what the forced birth movement is really about. Having lost the mainstream culture big time over the last century theocons have no viable means to recover it by persuasion, and deep down they know that bitter fact. All those crusades, religious TV channels, megachurches, and Christian rock are getting nowhere with the mainstream. What are they to do in their desperate power trip to return the country to the good old days of largely white righteous Christian domination?
It’s obvious. Try to do what worked up to the 1920s, and see if reapplying governmental coercion will get America back to its straighter laced Godly ways. There is nothing else for them to. This invidious strategy to employ laws to achieve religious aims requires the high grade hypocrisy of theoconservatives who love to proclaim individual liberty while decrying government power when the latter promotes what they see as ungodly secular-liberal values, but to without batting a cynical eye deploy said government power to lever America back to something like it was in the 1950’s. When father knew best and subservient women properly behaved themselves sex wise and raised their many kids and heaven forbid could not terminate their sacred pregnancies and the churches were packed on Sunday mornings rather than folks hitting Walmart and Home Depo.
It is not like it is a carefully hidden secret. The president of the U. S. Catholic Conference of Bishops Jose Gomez has railed against secular liberal movements such as social justice, wokeness, intersectionality, and critical theories that have arisen in recent years as part of a effort to “suppress any remaining Christian influences” and replace “traditional Christian beliefs.” That’s a clear enough clarion call of the dire need to try to recapture the culture by desperate means as necessary.
So. How to get the government back under the blessed control of the theocon minority? You have to be fairly sneaky about doing that. Openly admitting that the ultimate goal is to use the state to bring back the good old theoconservative days by banning abortion et al. would intensify majority opposition, while fatally undermining the legal case for making a private procedure that the Puritans were OK with into murder.
To try to rewin the culture wars via the law they have smartly gone on the sociopolitical offensive by putting a peculiarly lethargic prochoice side on the public relations defensive, to the degree that even liberals agree that the feticide that has always been common should somehow become uncommon. A hard and sad choice consistently avoided by preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place, rather than by barring terminations. It’s the abortion should be legal but rare line, rather than rare because it’s illegal. Both are naive fantasies that have never been achieved and never will be. Early term abortions are the norm in all societies because they involve a modest collection of cells whose humanity is problematic and mainly propounded by extremist theocons, they are fairly easy to do, in secret if necessary, and are not as dangerous as is pregnancy to the mother. At least a fifth of observed pregnancies are terminated, whether that being in advanced democracies with excellent safe sex programs, or where the procedure is illegal and riskier [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343147586_Unintended_pregnancy_and_abortion_by_income_region_and_the_legal_status_of_abortion_estimates_from_a_comprehensive_model_for_1990-2019]. This is in stark contrast to murder, which is rare in many nations including most democracies — that these gun laden United States are the exception is pertinent because most who claim to be prolife support the widespread distribution of firearms that is the primary people killing device. Because murder involves a patent human being, can be difficult to do, produces an awkward corpse that is hard to secretly dispose of, and those who have been born are usually noticed to have gone missing, outlawing intentional homicide is correspondingly practical because only it renders only a tiny fraction of the population criminals while keeping the event highly atypical – there are under 4000 homicides in western Europe per annum for instance, many dozens of times less than feticides. Whatever success is or is not achieved by criminalizing the latter, it does not make much actual difference because the great majority of conceptions will continue to naturally abort, so what is the point? That when making abortion illegal means turning a fifth or more of knowingly pregnant women into lawbreakers each year, and a quarter to a third of all women over their lives, while not saving many preborn, but injuring or killing a number of pregnant women in the punitive process. It is probably not possible to drive yearly American abortions below a few hundred thousand whatever the methods used. Prohibiting abortion works about as well as banning alcohol, and we know how that worked out. A basic legal tenant is that all legitimate laws must be reasonably practicable to implement — the stop the abortions folks like to compare themselves to the abolitionists, but mass slavery can be ended simply by eliminating all laws that enforce bondage, leaving all slaves free to up and walk away from their masters — birth enforcement does not meet that feasibility criterion. Pro-choicers, use that fact.
The theocon grand Godly plan to try to overturn modernity is simple enough. Having concocted the notion that abortion is against the will of a prolife Lord Creator contrary to all worldly and scriptural evidence, make the private procedure illegal. Hopefully eventually nationwide as a form of outright murder if enough hardcore theocon justices can be plopped into SCOTUS and extend personhood to conception – the alternative is revision of the Constitution, perhaps via a constitutional convention dominated by theocons via the electoral manipulations they are working on. That doing so is not likely to actually protect enormous numbers of preborn is not the critical necessity. That would be nice if it happened in the opinion of many theocons, but the true activism driving societal hope of most forced birthers is that by making those who terminate pregnancies into criminals or at least subject to financial suits, that fear of having abortions will help tame wanton American women to be less willing to be get it on with men outside of holy matrimony. The idea is to discipline women into being both more chaste and fecund as the arrogant power hungry theocons want them to be. It’s the fear and shame factors of the rights massive national social engineering project. To that add putting strictures on contraceptives to further boost the righteous mission to reChristianize America – Catholics especially like that. That doing so may well increase induced abortions due to more unintended pregnancies is not the theoconservatives driving concern (with supreme irony, another side effect of protection reduction is a great increase in the rate of natural abortions).
The schemes of the right to push women into being proper theists are not just aspirationally hopeful via making forced birth a deterrent to women not being divinely virtuous. There are growing efforts to set up forced birth enclaves in which single pregnant women who cannot get legal abortions and desperately need maternity help will be pressured by their circumstances to retreat to (http://thewashingtonpost.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx). There they are and will be the target of heavy duty theocon propaganda designed to make them into women of God. State power will be used to boost church power.
The prochoice side often wonders – often with breathtaking naivety — why those opposed to abortion want to also cut back on the use of protection that can suppress said abortions. That is because abortion reduction is not the real point, lifestyle alternation is. Get that? That women will be injured and killed by unsafe outlaw abortions and by forced pregnancies is not a great concern of the birth forcers — those wayward women should have known better than to get pregnant out of wedlock in the first place, and if raped oh well, the growing soul inside them takes priority to its reproductive vessel who needs to understand their Godly prolife duty. If a woman who would have gotten a legal termination if she could because it is safer than not having one happens to die from what seemed like a normal pregnancy oh well that’s too bad, it’s God’s Will anyhow, and if she was right with Christ she is in a better place so what is the big problem. The wastage of pregnant women is well worth the glorious aims of the prolifers.
(Part 2 to continue 10/29/21)