For those of you who don’t know, the time of violent male dominance, the Victorian era, the “cult of domesticity,” the notion that a man’s wife is his, such as property, and that others shouldn’t interfere or bother if they may notice signs of abuse – now, thanks to the raising of consciousness brought about by the feminist and social movements, there are domestic abuse call centers for help – that women are inferior to men intellectually and emotionally and so on: all of this is no longer tolerable to socially conscious human beings.
When a woman becomes pregnant after suffering through a violent rape, she is to be in control of her own body and her body’s biological processes. No male authority, no authority period, has the justification for deciding for women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies and biological processes. Even setting aside the all too frequent nightmare cases such as pregnancy through rape and incest, a woman has the right to her own body and control over her own biological processes, regardless.
The hysterical and extremist anti-choice movement (such as the crazed organization “Operation Rescue,” formerly headed by the charlatan Randall Terry) that recently saw to the murder in cold blood of Dr. George Tiller (a brave giant of a man who placed his own life on the line in defense of women’s health and the rights of women everywhere), the fourth victim of the blood-thirsty, death-cult since 1993, has, especially since Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, grown in momentum.
The Bush Presidency saw to the appointing of social conservative, radical Catholic judges to the Supreme Court – John Roberts and Samuel Alito – an aggressively undemocratic political institution that the religious extremists have been attempting to control since at least Reagan’s presidency in recent times; which is one of the reasons Obama’s election came as such a relief, in opposition to the wildly reactionary McCain-Palin horror-show of a ticket.
This reactionary, extremist and murderous cult of death, hatred and oppression must be broken. It is well beyond time for people who believe in women’s health and rights to stand and hold firm to the elementary principles involved in allowing legalized abortion methods.
The claim made by those who act as megaphones for extremists, reactionaries and killers – such as the O’Reilly Factor bully-pulpit that helped foment hysteria about Tiller (“O’Reilly repeatedly attacked Tiller on air, referring to him as a ‘so-called baby killer’” and the clinic he worked in “as a ‘death-mill,’ in segments he called ‘Tiller the Baby Killer,’ O’Reilly hurled wild accusations” such as that “George Tiller…will execute babies for $5,000 if the mother is depressed. And there are rapists impregnating 10-year-olds who are being protected by abortion clinics.” As Nicole Colson observed in the Socialist Worker) – that abortion represents a holocaust of babies is nothing but vulgar propaganda.
If an abortion is performed, it is by definition not the termination of a baby, but rather, even late into the pregnancy, the termination of a fetus. This of course is irrelevant to religious extremists and their anti-legal abortion movement – comprised of the Christian equivalent of al-Qaida organizations, organizations that inspire fire-bombing, the throwing of acid upon human flesh and murder in cold blood – who consider the moment of conception and the tiny cluster of cells that will later develop into a fetus to mark not the beginning, but the full realization of a human person endowed with a “soul” (overtly illustrating that their sociopolitical views are dictated by their religious dogmas, which, observing the separation of church and state, means that they cannot enter into the realm of political and legal discourse on the matter in a society where not everyone is a Christian extremist).
Peter Singer points out that “some opponents of abortion respond that the fetus…is made in the image of God, or has an immortal soul. They thereby acknowledge religion is the driving force behind their opposition. But there is no evidence for these religious claims, and in a society in which we keep the state and religion separate, we should not use them as a basis for the criminal law, which applies to people with different religious beliefs, or to those with none at all.”
Such beliefs are so much white noise and ignorance, the product of religious indoctrination and tyranny (religious institutions being historically patriarchal, women-hating and oppressing and extremely violent and authoritarian). Peter Singer points out in his Practical Ethics (pp. 150-1) that “[t]he weakness of the first premise [it is wrong to kill an innocent human being] of the conservative argument is that it relies on our accepting the special status of human life. We have seen that ‘human’ is a term that straddles two distinct notions, being a member of the species Homo sapiens, and being a person. Once the term is dissected in this way, the weakness of the conservative’s first premise becomes apparent. If ‘human’ is taken as equivalent of ‘person’ the second premise of the argument, which asserts that the fetus is a human being, is clearly false; for one cannot plausibly argue that a fetus is either rational or self-conscious...For on any fair comparison of morally relevant characteristics, like rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, autonomy, pleasure and pain, and so on, the calf, the pig and the much derided chicken come out well ahead of the fetus at any stage of pregnancy – while if we make the comparison of a fetus of less than three months, a fish would show more signs of consciousness.”
Singer suggests “that we accord the life of a fetus no greater value than the life of a nonhuman animal at a similar level of rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, capacity to feel, etc. Since no fetus is a person, no fetus has the same claim to life as a person. We have yet to consider at what point the fetus is likely to become capable of feeling pain. For now it will be enough to say that until that capacity exists, an abortion terminates an existence that is of no ‘intrinsic’ value at all. Afterwards, when the fetus may be conscious, though not self-conscious, abortion should not be taken lightly (if a woman ever does take an abortion lightly). But a woman’s serious interests would normally override the rudimentary interests even of a conscious fetus. Indeed, even an abortion late in pregnancy for the most trivial reasons is hard to condemn unless we also condemn the slaughter of far more developed forms of life for the taste of their flesh.”
The argument centered upon the fetus as “potential life” may be more compelling to some, but is as fallacious as any and the refutation of this argument can also be found in full detail in Singer’s Practical Ethics (pp. 152-6).
There is then also the social consequences of making abortion illegal. As A. Faundes and E. Hardy state: “Illegal abortion is responsible for up to half of maternal deaths and consumes a large proportion of health resources in many developing countries, particularly in Africa and Latin America. The legal situation of abortion in a country does not influence the abortion rate, but illegality is associated with a much greater risk of complications and death. To make abortion legal is not enough. Access to safe abortion strongly depends on the capacity and willingness of physicians and the health system to provide safe services, which sometimes are made available in spite of restrictive laws. The abortion rate will drop and the safety of the procedure will improve, parallel to the position women occupy in a given society, and to the level of recognition of their sexual and reproductive rights.”
It is well beyond time for those of us who are concerned for women’s health and rights, for elementary human rights and social justice, to be loud and clear, to hold firm that these rights will not be abrogated by a reactionary movement of religious frauds, hucksters, extremists and killers – the movement must be broken, left without any credibility or illusory moral standing - and that no one will be frightened away by threats of violence and terrorism from supporting what they know to be right and just.