It’s been a while since I took a science class, but from what I can recall, humans do not reproduce asexually. I bring this up because we tend to talk about reproductive rights as if it’s a women’s issue.
Sure, if the Supreme Court guts Roe vs. Wade next year, there will be a number of men who will not care. I could not imagine being a father or brother or son and thinking none of this has anything to do with me. But men, including many who called themselves “girldads,” a viral hashtag on social media after Kobe Bryant died, should care that a patriarchal government wants to force their daughter to give birth against her will.
And be not mistaken, at its core, that’s exactly what this debate is about.
Not the morality of abortion, or religion, or states’ rights. No, this is the latest incarnation of government-sanctioned misogyny that was evident in the writing of the Constitution; evident in the 1927 Supreme Court case Buck vs. Bell in which the justices voted 8-1 in favor of forced sterilization; evident in state laws that punished women for seeking contraception until Griswold vs. Connecticut ruled such laws unconstitutional in 1965.
The phrase “pro-life”?
That’s just good PR. We all know in a country where universal health care is considered political poison and mass shootings are no longer shocking that being “pro-life” was never really our thing.
During her recent book tour stop in Los Angeles, Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of The 1619 Project, said “we have to stop letting the language hide the crime.” As an example she pointed at how the word “plantation” was just a way to rebrand the “slave labor camps” the nation’s wealth was built on.
The most recent example of this linguistic trick is watching elected officials use the word “rioters” to describe armed terrorists who overran Capitol police and sent members of Congress running for their lives. And so it is also true that the phrase “pro-life” distracts us from the fact that the same patriarchal government that once denied women the right to vote or own property wants to force them to give birth against their will. It is a scenario ripped from the pages of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
The reversal of a woman’s right to control her body — undergirded by religious fervor — moves the conversation away from routine partisan politics to being Taliban-adjacent.
Political analysts are already calculating how this issue will reshape the 2022 midterm election, which is a bit too cynical for my taste. What’s at stake here is not a policy fight but rather the morality of the republic.
We are on the cusp of trading in American ideals (even if often unfulfilled) for a society that forces rape victims to give birth because of the laws of a government overrepresented by men.
If we do that, the democracy banner we fly — already fraying because Republican members of Congress are pretending that Jan. 6 was nothing more than some rowdy tourists on Capitol Hill — will be left in tatters.
Roe vs. Wade may have become shorthand for abortion, but that Supreme Court decision meant so much more than that. It meant we were becoming a nation that valued women’s lives and their right to participate fully in this society. It signaled progress toward what America could be. Demolishing Roe is a big step back toward what America claims it is not.