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April 04, 2006

Male judges, female bodies

Chances are, it’s only a matter of time before the Supreme Court starts restricting the right to abortion now that Justices Alito and Roberts sit on the bench. The evidence suggests that both are longstanding abortion foes, despite their best efforts to hide behind a wall of silence during confirmation hearings.

Efforts to restrict abortion reflect a typically conservative mindsetčget the government’s hands off our wallets, but we want government intervention in other people’s private lives. A few relevant examplesčfetuses’ sacred lives must be saved, but let’s kill poor people in inner cities (not to mention Iraqis, Afghanis, and countless others who get in the way of our foreign policy). Mothers on welfare are forced to send their children away to daycare because “welfare reform” has forced them to get demeaning, minimum-wage jobs instead of raising their own children. The majority of states have obstructed access to contraceptives and associated medical services for poor people. Conservatives are trying to inflict their version of morality on everyone through “abstinence-only” sex education, even though it is a proven failure at reducing teen pregnancy.

Ban abortion? Does anyone remember what happened when alcohol was banned? I suspect not many people really want to see women going to unregulated, back-alley clinics, where their uterus walls are scraped with coat hangers to induce abortions. Yet that really happened, and it will happen again if abortion is banned. And yes, sometimes women died from it. Much of the pro-life group doesn’t care or even blames the victims.

Much of pro-life rhetoric falls apart under examination. “Life begins at conception” makes a nice catchphrase, but it’s bad science. Apparently the sperm and egg are not alive? This slogan is a misrepresentation of basic biology. Conception is where two live cells merge and combine genetic material. If a sperm and egg cell together are a person, sperm is half of a person. So is male masturbation also a terrible sin? What about women on birth control-are women who are not actively trying to get pregnant allowing eggs to die? In some form these have all been the official doctrine of religious leaders and their followers, citing, for instance, the biblical injunction against spilling “seed.” A resurgence is not so absurd. I could envision giant signs painted on barns, “Masturbation Is Murder,” except for a tendency to avoid use of that first “M” word.

But the sad part is that this is not a case of two groups in complete opposition. No one wants abortions. It is a difficult decision, and it is not done on a whim. But the most outspoken advocates of banning abortion seem to almost all be men who can never understand what goes into such decisions. This suggests that pro-choice advocates are right; it is about control over women’s bodies. As our society becomes less patriarchal, men lose their traditional control. Thus, as women become free of men directly, some men seek to legislate control to keep women in check. Naturally, this is done most easily through reproductive rights, since they affect only the female half of the population.

There is a better way to reduce abortions, but it runs contrary to everything these privileged, male senators, representatives, administrators and judges stand for. That better way is to examine root causes. Why do people have abortions? Everyone would like to see a reduction, but groups differ on how to do this. Conservatives generally want to ban it. Many liberals, such as myself, note the obvious-women who have unwanted pregnancies get abortions. Nothing will eliminate unwanted pregnancies, but eradicating poverty, offering comprehensive sex education, and making health and reproductive services, information, and contraceptives readily available to everyone, will greatly reduce them.

The choice is to ban abortion or initiate policies which will reduce unwanted pregnancies. Which is more effective? Which respects women more?

Posted by dwright at April 4, 2006 01:18 PM


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