An Open Letter to Women Concerning Roe v. Wade
It’s about a lot more than abortion, and it’s closer than you think.
The religious right’s anti-abortion agenda is well advanced. After the failure of peaceful appeals that ranged from religious arguments to secular morality to simple pedestrian guilt in order to compel the compliance of non-believers, the religious right returned to historically proven basics. And so abortion providers and their actual and prospective clients were subjected to a generation and more of intimidation, terror, and violence. A careful survey of news stories from as early as 1976 and as recently as 2009 will yield an appalling amount of violence nationwide perpetrated against property and people, including but not limited to bombings and fatal shootings. This protracted war of attrition didn’t simply lead to the closing of most existing clinics providing abortions. The reach of the cold hand of terror caused providers, whether personally targeted or not, to get out of the business, and led most medical schools to stop teaching the procedure altogether.
Often low-profile but blessed with a relentlessness characteristic of the devout, the religious right movement managed to accomplish in practical terms what it couldn’t via peaceful persuasion. Consequently today an abortion, while still essentially legal, is very much harder to obtain than you might think.
And it’s getting harder.
A successful strategy of incremental erosion is making the legal window narrower in terms of acceptable circumstances and shallower in terms of how late in the pregnancy an abortion may be performed. If you are poor and living in parts of the rural South, it is virtually impossible to obtain an abortion, regardless of when or why. And the potential demise of Roe v Wade would NOT be the end of the matter. It is, in fact only the end of the beginning.
The religious right movement is opposed to all forms of contraception. If asked directly its leaders will deny or dissemble, but their movement’s ultimate goal is to eliminate all forms of contraception. This is clearly exposed by the response of the religious right to Plan B. Plan B, commonly known as the “morning after” pill, chemically prevents conception if taken within 72 hours of intercourse. It is officially designated as emergency [oral] contraception. The religious right has christened Plan B an “abortion pill”, characteristically ignoring the science supporting its clearly contraceptive action. From the perspective of the religious right this is a distinction without a difference–contraception is abortion. It also clearly illuminates their end game. Once abortion is criminalized it will be a relatively simple matter to legally designate all oral contraception as abortion. All it would take is a bill introduced by any pro-life Congressman (or Congresswoman), and a President willing to sign it.
No President can guarantee any specific amount of job growth (ask the current one), unless he’s willing to create new job openings in the Federal Government. Failing that, one highly lauded approach is to attempt to create an environment that will presumably encourage new business formation and new hiring among existing businesses. Anyone who understands and accepts this should also understand and accept that nothing about these speculative jobs can be guaranteed by the President–not their quantity, not their quality, not their equitable, effective and timely distribution among those who need them. All these things are in the hands of the private sector, dictated by the market, and at the mercy of its timetable. In this scenario, aside from providing what big business considers a “business friendly” environment at the Federal level, the President is effectively impotent in terms of job creation. But the appointment of Supreme Court Justices who will criminalize all abortions, a President actually can do. A President can sign immediately into law any anti-abortion legislation that comes across his desk, regardless of when he might become aware of it. Right now, today, the foes of women’s sexual and reproductive freedom have the wind at their backs, and they know it. They have virtually the entire Republican caucus in the House, along with a significant minority of Conservative House Democrats. All they need is a willing President.
The end of Roe v Wade is not simply the end to the legality of abortion; it heralds the end of every American woman’s control over her own reproductive, and yes, sexual life, something which affects every other aspect of her life. So, women and mothers of daughters, consider this as you consider the merit of Mr. Romney’s economic arguments. Within 4 years, and at the stroke of a pen, both you and your daughters could find the choices for how you might choose to live and direct your lives circumscribed in ways that your grandmothers would recognize. The sexual emancipation of women, which led to so much else, could be effectively reduced to the willingness of a man to use a condom. It can happen very much quicker than you might think. How long it might take to undo it is anybody’s guess. With a President Romney you won’t get his economic plan without limits to women’s freedom. The religious right can and will see to that.