I have something to say about the recent Supreme Court decision that upheld the ban on late-term abortions, whether or not the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life.
I’m a pragmatic contextual ethicist with a spiritual sensibility, and I cannot be silent. I cannot pretend that I don’t understand the next step in this game. If you stop for a moment to think about it, what will be required next is blindingly obvious.
A dead woman.
All you vultures will sit there and watch it happen. Obviously, a pregnant woman will not be able to bring a case where a pregnancy is endangering her life. The system just doesn’t move that fast. The situation is even worse than that. Not just any dead pregnant woman will do.
She has to be the right woman, doesn’t she?
I’m just cynical enough to realize that any number of women will die before anyone squeaks, before this debate will have a chance to heat up in America.
Don’t you understand that the simple death of a pregnant woman isn’t enough?
In this climate, the woman’s life will have to be perceived as “mattering” before anyone will risk the fight. She’ll have to be perceived as a true and noble victim, above reproach from any quarter. She won’t be a drug addict, and she won’t be poor. She’ll have to be married, I suppose, and maybe even a fundamentalist (that family will get the ultimate wake-up call!). She’ll be white… ya think?
Will the anti-choicers be so comfortable, even then, with the women-controlling agenda? Will they understand then the consequences of their ineffective abstinence-only pseudo-education, their hypocritical opposition to birth control and family planning, their avoidance of the contributing issues of poverty and ignorance and rape and domestic violence and drug addiction and all the rest?
Maybe it’s possible to oppose abortion in theory, because they haven’t thought it through to the moment when some “special circumstance” involves their kith and kin, when their daughter or sister or cousin or wife or mother or aunt or friend stares at death? Or will they be as fanatical as Jehovah’s Witnesses, who refuse blood transfusions even to save a life?
I hope you hold this fatal reality as a heavy, heavy burden upon you. In many places, abortion is already legal, safe, but unavailable even in the first two trimesters. Here in Georgia, a pregnant woman now has to look at an ultrasound first, as though she were unaware of the reality, as though she were a child in need of a lesson from her superiors. Now, even saving the life of the woman isn’t enough to satisfy their heartless cause? What’s next, stoning?
Will you ignore her pleas (and perhaps those of her partner) as her death approaches? Will you continue to prioritize the life of a fetus over the life of a grown woman then? When she is dead, will you offer to support the motherless babe – if it lives? Will you offer to shoulder the burdens of whatever medical or economic issues may arise?
The legal system has no right to override the choice of a woman or the advice of her medical team, but that hasn’t stopped them from sentencing some pregnant women to death with this ruling. The ones who swung the new and harsher Supreme Court were male, of course, but these days there are actually women who would have done it (more’s the pity).
One woman will be chosen to represent all those women who will die because of this unethical ruling. She won’t want to be chosen. She will not have chosen this destiny for herself. You will have chosen it for her by allowing this country (in this way as in so many other ways) to become what it is today.
She’ll be your corpse, and her blood will be on your heads.
You will have killed her by intervening in realms where you don’t belong: entering into the arena of an individual woman’s hard choices, disrupting her rightful ability to decide what is best in her own unique circumstances, overriding the medical expertise of her doctor and medical team, stepping between a woman and her God, and disregarding the support (one can hope that all women have some support) and advice and help of her friends and family. You may create a widower or an orphan. You may induce trauma in cases where the man, who was at least equally responsible for the pregnancy, may well feel responsible for her death as well. Or you may reward a rapist, who will walk away unscathed, triumphant.
You will have killed her with all your little misrepresenting slogans. You will have killed her by refusing to be accountable to reality, by making it impossible to talk about this issue in any realistic way, such as one that actually takes into account the wide range of circumstances that a pregnant woman may be facing. Roe v Wade was the attempt to find a solution, and you’re on your way to overturning it.
You will have killed her by refusing to face a set of controversial and difficult issues as responsible adults, citizens and leaders. This is bigger than your little power struggles. You should be listening to a wide range of women’s experiences, in order to put together an understanding of the different kinds of situations that women actually face – including their regrets and their gratitude. Choices are hard, and situations are complex. We should be teaching contextual ethics, not inhuman dogmas.
Heartless cads you are, on both sides of the debate, if you cannot step back into the complexity of reality and the range of what matters in human experience.
When you’ve killed this resonant symbol of a woman, you will not be able to say that you did not know what it is that you did.
You’ll refer to her by her first name when you use her and punditize her and sling her name around in your mouths – as if you knew her, as if you cared.
I hope she has the presence of mind to cry out “why have you forsaken me?” as she dies, and I hope her husband and family distribute the video all over the world. I hope her image becomes an ikon.
Keep on the lookout for her corpse. It may take a while for the acceptable sacrifice to appear, the one who will be pristine enough to satisfy all of your many requirements – and yet lack the resources to leave the country.
Sooner or later one will come who will reanimate this issue – with her death.
May her resurrection in the public sphere be powerful.
May it blast you like the proclamations of the ancient prophets.
Pass it on.