On the morning of May 3, 2022, every girl and woman who’s ever read Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” woke up in a nightmare. As Roe v Wade is on the precipice of being overturned by the US Supreme Court, America is trying to make sense of what just happened.
Since 2020, both liberals and conservatives have been unwittingly complicit in undermining Americans’ civil rights and liberties. They are ideologically arriving at the same place: A nation divided. As the two parties govern themselves into deep contradictions that cannot rationally coexist, they both share responsibility for this recent assault on girls’ and women’s reproductive rights.
The conservative hypocrisy
After spending the last two years fighting against covid public health mandates to protect their rights to medical privacy and bodily autonomy, the conservatives who want less government and more overall freedom, are still rationalizing turning every American girl and woman into vessels whose bodies are separate from their hearts and minds. According to them, wearing a mask, social distancing, and mandated vaccinations were a major violation of their bodily autonomy, while they continue to advocate for state mandated unwanted pregnancy and childbirth through abortion prohibitions.
They spout grand moral stances on the sanctity of life while defending their rights to their guns—objects whose sole purpose it is to kill. They consistently cite George Orwell’s “1984” as a cautionary tale of a dystopian world and a utilitarian society, while conveniently ignoring Atwood’s horror of fertile girls and women forced to become handmaidens by decree, existing solely to procreate on demand. They say unwanted zygotes have the right to be born, while adamantly affirming that it is not their job to help children born into poverty, or into violence. Babies born of rape or incest? “It’s God’s will,” they say.
According to their puritanical ideologies, women who have premarital sex for pleasure should suffer the consequences of their “sinful” actions. In other words, “Eve” should be punished for the original sin. They impose their punitive religious beliefs on girls and women, condemning them to mental anguish and corporal punishment through unwanted pregnancy and childbirth at “gunpoint,” as a form of disciplinary action. They must “suffer the consequences of their actions” even at the cost of their mental and physical health, and of their lives, even though there exists more humane medical alternatives.
The religious paradox of “pro-life”
Anti-abortion fundamentalists rely on dogma, and on a merciless God to justify their stance. Their contradictory beliefs don’t leave room for the possibility that an unborn soul exists in another dimension, on a spiritual plane of existence. They prefer potentially condemning an unborn soul to an Earthly life of despair, rather than to allow it to exist in a better place according to theology. They play God with the souls of the unborn, washing their hands of all responsibility when that soul is born into misery. The deep religious and spiritual paradox? “Pro-lifers” don’t seem to believe in the right to life before life.
They say that “abortions kill babies,” while conveniently minimizing the horror of girls and women dying by childbirth. “They chose to get pregnant,” they say, as though girls and women are sacrificial lambs who should happily die for the birthing cause. A woman choosing to abort a 7-week old bean? “It’s murder!” they say. A full grown woman dying in childbirth? “It’s the cycle of life,” or in other words, she is fodder whose life is expendable.
They insist that abortion is genocide. The 23 million miscarriages suffered every year by women who want children? It’s an “act of nature,” they say, conveniently overlooking that according to religion, God is everything including nature. When “it’s nature” it’s not murder. When it’s a woman deciding what’s best for her nature and overall health, she’s a “baby killer” and a “murderer.”
When questioned on whether governments should mandate reversible vasectomies to lower the abortion rate—procedures that are much less invasive than mandating unwanted pregnancies and childbirth on young girls and women by restricting their access to safe abortions—they come up with every hypocritical rationalization against it. For “pro-life” men, the thought of their bodies being governed by any political institution remains unfathomable, while they are more than willing to barter girl’s and women’s uteri in exchange for the rights of the unborn.
The liberal dissonance
In comparison, after spending two years building the case against freedom, the liberals believe in overarching government authority, and in the micromanaging of people’s lives and choices. They believe that civil rights and liberties are not absolute, that public health and government authority supersede people’s civil rights and individual freedoms.
While they’ve spent two years instrumentalizing death-by-covid to further their authoritarian agendas—patting themselves on the back for “doing everything right” while over 6 million children under age 5 died of preventable diseases in 2021—they somehow argue that “my body, my choice” applies to abortion, but not to other medical procedures such as injections.
Unable to define the word “woman,” the liberals have been working on a new lexicon which strips girls and women of their dignity and their personhood. Their identities are now reduced to their body parts and biological functions. They are now “bleeders” or “birthing bodies.” The new language qualifying girls and women as body parts as opposed to whole human beings in their own right, has created the perfect opportunity for conservatives to seize Roe v Wade; if she’s a body part, she’s not a person and her uterus can be turned into state legislated chattel.
The conservatives and liberals are intrinsically the same. Their philosophy and governance lead to the same result: A society where only a select and very wealthy few enjoy inalienable rights and freedoms—including the right to abortion—while everyone else is left ruined or socially persecuted under the authoritarian edicts of the ruling class.
And so continues systemic injustice.
The danger of overturning Roe v Wade
Many are trying to make light of a federal ruling against abortion, or outright being disingenuous about it’s grave implications. They say that it does not encroach on each state’s legal right to democratically uphold their own abortion laws and restrictions. They are not grasping the horror of any political entity legally codifying women’s reproductive organs, with the intent of coercing unwanted pregnancy and childbirth through abortion prohibitions on menstruating females aged 10 to 50.
Following two years of public health authoritarianism and fear mongering, the overturning of Roe v Wade will perpetuate an authoritarian culture at the federal level, at the state level, at the county level, and in local communities. The covid response and the ensuing micro-tyranny from citizens who felt deputized to police and torment complete strangers, is a perfect example of how chaotic and oppressive an unjust federal ruling can become.
A culture of oppression, persecution, and fear is already taking shape in regards to women seeking abortions. In Republican states where abortion is criminalized, doctors are unwilling to face murder charges and 99 years in prison to perform abortions even in the most extreme cases of rape, incest, or severe fetal abnormalities.
Even though the abortion rate has declined since Roe v Wade, “Pro-lifers” are spreading obscene graphic propaganda of alleged late-term abortions performed “just for fun” (they simply do not exist) while women suffer the cruelty of their inhuman diktats, forced to give birth to nonviable fetuses who die hours after birth. They seem to not care about the absolute suffering that their inhumane ideologies inflict not only on the women, but also on those nonviable fetuses. Birth seems to be the whole point of their inhumane philosophy.
Women who have had miscarriages, are being prosecuted in the United States for suspected abortions. It’s not enough to suffer the physical and emotional trauma of miscarriage of a wanted pregnancy. American women living in Republican states will now face suspicion of having self-induced abortions, every time they miscarry a pregnancy. Welcome to the 21st century version of the Salem witch trials.
Without a strong counterbalance at the federal level, anti-abortion fundamentalists who hold office will have more power to implement a total banning on abortions and contraception. They will control not only law, but also the culture by deputizing fanatical and dangerous anti-woman extremists who will torment and terrorize girls and women. Who will suffer the most? It will be girls and women facing the physical and emotional trauma of unwanted pregnancy, disproportionately affected by poverty, depression, and sexual violence.
The incredible irony is that these hardline, authoritarian edicts will do nothing to stop abortions. On the contrary. Girls and women will have more abortions as acts of defiance to assert their agency in the face of a brutal, oppressive, and inhumane regime. It is the theory of reactance, and psychology 101. It makes one wonder if more abortions, more death by septic abortion, and a declining birthrate is in fact the “pro-lifers” end game.
Suicide as the leading cause of maternal death
The anti-abortion movement is deeply rooted not only in the idea that women were born to suffer “Eve’s” sins. It relies on the propaganda of childbirth as a beautiful thing, while conveniently ignoring how brutal, violent, excruciatingly painful, and torturous the act of childbirth actually is. The thought of the government de facto mandating what is essentially an excruciating act of physical and mental torture on girls and women, is revolting. The thought of any political, legal, or religious entity having the authority to mandate government sanctioned rape by vaginal ultrasound wand and birthing forceps, or cesareans on girls and women who do not want to be mothers, is simply horrifying.
As the “fetal heartbeat” debate continues, and as “pro-lifers” play Russian Roulette with the lives of young girls and women, suicide remains the leading cause of maternal death in pregnancy and after birth. Yet it remains a taboo subject that—like the brutality and trauma of childbirth—nobody talks about. These women are left navigating a world of physical and mental suffering between life and death, while facing the persecution of a puritanical faction that perceives them as biological vessels.
Overturning Roe v Wade will remove the resources girls and women need to make informed decisions about their mental and physical health. Not only will women have to deal with the horrifying prospect of forced pregnancy and childbirth caused by merciless anti-abortion laws, but the girls and women suffering from severe depression and suicidal ideation induced by pregnancy and childbirth, will be left without the help or resources they need for their own survival.
So much for the sanctity of life.
International humanitarian and human rights law
When society, the government, and the courts do not uphold people’s most fundamental human rights, it is time to look to international human rights and humanitarian law, protocols, and treaties. In the case of coerced injections during covid, millions turned to the Nuremberg Code. In the case of forced pregnancy and childbirth, we must turn to the Rome Statute which established four international crimes in breach of the Geneva Conventions and humanitarian treaties: genocide; crimes against humanity; war crimes; and crimes of aggression.
The principles and protocols of the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute are universal truths that fundamentally apply not only in times of war, but also and especially in times of peace or social unrest. In other words: Torture and sexual reproductive slavery do not suddenly become acceptable or legal outside the confines of international armed conflict.
Forced pregnancy and forced childbirth happen “when a woman or girl becomes pregnant without having sought or desired it, and abortion is denied, hindered, delayed or made difficult.” Forced pregnancy and forced childbirth are acts of sexual reproductive slavery. According to international humanitarian law, human rights law, and the Rome Statute, forced pregnancy and childbirth are crimes against humanity, and a war crime.
According to every humanitarian treaty and human rights declaration—including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—and by any legal, constitutional, human, and civilized standard, forcing a girl or woman into unwanted pregnancy and childbirth is an act of barbarism, a crime against humanity, and a war crime. In peacetime, it still remains an act of barbarism, a crime against humanity, and a war crime, even if a woman gets pregnant by consensual intercourse and is simply not mentally or physically ready to give birth.
The US Constitution and abortion
Professor of law Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern University School of Law) wrote the paper Forced Labor, Revisited: The Thirteenth Amendment and Abortion. He argued that restrictions on abortion are in breach of the Thirteenth Amendment of the US Constitution. He referenced Dawn Johnsen who said that abortion restrictions “are disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude, prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment, in that forced pregnancy requires a woman to provide continuous physical service to the fetus in order to further the state’s asserted interest.”
He further stated: “When women are compelled to carry and bear children, they are subjected to “involuntary servitude” in violation of the amendment. Abortion prohibitions violate the Amendment’s guarantee of personal liberty, because forced pregnancy and childbirth, by compelling the woman to serve the fetus, creates “that control by which the personal service of one man [sic] is disposed of or coerced for another’s benefit which is the essence of involuntary servitude.” Such laws violate the amendment’s guarantee of equality, because forcing women to be mothers makes them into a servant caste, a group which, by virtue of a status of birth, is held subject to a special duty to serve others and not themselves.”
He referenced the American philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson who said: “having a right to life does not guarantee having either a right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued use of another person’s body—even if one needs it for life itself.” Koppelman argues that “Giving fetuses a legal right to the continued use of their mothers’ bodies is precisely what the Thirteenth Amendment forbids.”
This is not who America is
The America of the brave and the free respects the voices of women, their bodily agency, and the privacy of their decisions. The great America that stood the test of time—the America of democracy and liberty—knows that bringing a child into this world is a serious thing, and that every child deserves to be wanted, and given his or her best chance in life. This America knows that, in the great majority of cases, girls and women have no other bearable choice than to abort. And it knows that in all other cases, what a woman does between her legs is simply nobody’s business but her own.
Respecting the fact that female fetuses weren’t born into involuntary servitude, is the constitutional thing to do. Respecting the sanctity of women’s privacy, and not judging their choices, is the right thing to do. It is the human, and dignified thing to do.
As the world braces for the final decision in Roe v Wade, many women are left wondering how it has come to this. They are left wondering how their uteri are juggled in an endless byzantine debate on who owns them. As we remember all the girls and women who died butchered in unsafe abortions, and the more than 300,000 mothers who die in childbirth every year, this famous quote by former US president Ronald Reagan has never been more true: “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than a generation away from extinction.”