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Horrifying. Chilling. But do not call it shocking.
Ever since Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court in 1973 in favor of women getting to decide for themselves whether or not to bring a child into the world, anti-choice activists, conservatives, and evangelical Christians have been salivating to overturn it.
Despite the fact that Roe. v Wade is overwhelmingly popular, they are succeeding.
The new law in Texas that effectively undercuts Roe v. Wade did not materialize from nowhere.
We could see this coming when Trump was elected and essentially bribed the Republican establishment into supporting him by promising to install the judges they wanted.
We could feel this coming when Ruth Bader Ginsberg died and left a vacant seat to be filled by none other than Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was an outspoken critic of abortion and showed every sign that she would not uphold Roe v. Wade if given the opportunity.
From this article:
“Judge Barrett voted in favour of a law that would have mandated doctors to inform the parents of a minor seeking an abortion, with no exceptions. She also called for a state law that sought to ban abortions related to sex, race, disability or life-threatening health conditions to be reheard.”
Red state after red state will likely now follow this draconian path carved out by Republican Texas lawmakers, with Florida and South Dakota already promising to do so.
This Texas law deputizes ordinary citizens—neighbors, family, and even strangers—to sue anyone who aids or abets a woman seeking an abortion.
Are you the Uber driver who drove her there? You could be sued.
Are you a counselor who advised a woman about her decision? You could be sued.
Did you give a woman money in order to get a procedure? You could be sued.
Does it matter whether or not you live in Texas? What if you live in a blue state and you contribute to Planned Parenthood; can you be sued? The answer is, we don’t know for sure. We won’t know until these cases are heard and decided.
The vagueness is not a problem, though. The vagueness is the point.
We don’t know how many steps removed one might need to be in order to avoid getting sued. We might not know until we’re being sued. It is designed to send a chill through all of us, no matter where we live or what our situation is.
The point is to outlaw abortions without expressly outlawing them.
It’s brilliant in a sick, twisted way that only a mind like Mitch McConnell could love.
Texas lawmakers have decided that they don’t have to officially attack Roe v. Wade—not yet anyway—in order to create an environment in which abortion is technically legal but effectively illegal. They’re getting what they want without needing to directly overturn Roe v. Wade.
If you’re anti-choice, and you’re looking for a new income stream, you can now earn a $10,000 bounty if you sue and win a court case against anyone who aids or abets a woman seeking an abortion. You will also get all of your legal fees reimbursed. Forget about your day job; you can now spend your days like a Wild West gunslinger, doling out justice on your own terms, telling yourself you’re a hero.
Listen in on women’s phone calls and conversations? Research.
Following a woman around? Investigation.
Checking garbage cans for pregnancy tests? Just the facts, ma’am.
Accusing someone of seeking or helping a woman get an abortion? Saving unborn lives.
The Proud Boys might very well have a new target to harass. Incels might have a reason to get out of the basement.
It is not dramatic to say that Texas has legalized domestic terrorism.
And honestly, I don’t care if I do sound dramatic. A better question might be: why don’t we all? How are people just going around buying groceries this week? Probably the same way human beings went about their days as the ashes of their fellow human beings floated in the air in Nazi Germany.
Still dramatic? Fine.
Under this new Texas law, someone could, on the vaguest of premises, accuse someone of seeking or assisting an abortion in the same way humans once accused each other, on the vaguest of premises, of witchcraft.
And if we remember our history, that didn’t go so well in Salem, MA.
This concept of pitting humans against each other is sick, but it is not new.
And we know where it leads.
The people at the top of the food chain in our society like to keep their hands clean. They like to be entertained. They don’t want to be inconvenienced.
They’ve often used people against people to carry out their sickest desires.
In the book “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson:
“The dominant caste often forced its captives to exact punishment on one another or to dispose of the victims as their tormenters watched. In Nazi Germany, the SS guards were not the ones who put the prisoners into the ovens. The captives were forced into that grim detail. It was not the SS who collected the bodies of people who had died the night before. In the American South, black men were made to whip their fellow slaves or to hold down the legs and arms of the man, woman, or child being flogged.”
The wealthy and powerful in our society have long pitted people against each other for their own benefit and entertainment. Cruelty has been a form of entertainment all throughout human history. There’s always been one set of laws for the rich and powerful and another for the rest of us.
This week, I watched with tears in my eyes as Claire McCaskill, the former Missouri Senator, shook and nearly broke down on MSNBC while talking about what this law now means for women while a slow-blinking, gloating Rich Lowry, National Review editor, told her (ever so calmly) that she was letting the “rhetoric get out of hand” and while Chuck Todd, ever the stoic moderator, acted like this was just a simple, everyday dispute between right and left.
It’s the same recipe again and again: dehumanize women by making them look hysterical and dramatic next to men who appear calm and rational.
“See?” they say. “How can they make good decisions when they act like that?”
Dehumanization is how we make some people feel justified in stripping away rights and “doing their part” to deliver justice (and, oh yeah, the money is a nice perk).
Dehumanization was the method Trump used against migrants seeking asylum (“animals“). It’s a winning tactic used against black boys and men seeking to walk down streets (“thugs”). It’s used against families using food stamps (“freeloaders”). And, of course, dehumanizing language is used against women (“hysterical”).
This law is not about babies. It’s about controlling women’s bodies.
Consider that men can get birth control over the counter while women need a doctor’s note. Imagine if men were the ones who got pregnant in our society—abortion clinics would be accessible, affordable, and definitely not anyone else’s business.
Someone only feels entitled to insert themselves in the personal decisions of others when they are led to believe they are better than they are. What leads them to feel this way? Patriarchy, which puts white men at the top of the value pyramid and women—particularly women of color, unmarried women, or women at or below the poverty line—far below.
When the punishment for abortion in cases of rape is greater than the punishment for rape itself, you know that there is a war on women and women’s bodies particularly.
A leader of the Taliban once said to an American military officer: “You might have the fancy watches, but we have the time.”
I think of that quote now, as we’re watching women’s rights be stripped away under our noses. Anti-choice activists have never been in a hurry. They’ve never needed to be. They’ve been slow and methodical, slowly choking women with restrictions. They will do until we women can longer breathe. Note how many women’s clinics have already been shut down. Consider how many laws have already been enacted to restrict abortion. Consider the inhibiting regulations against the clinics and doctors that provide these services that practically, while not actually, shut them down.
The rug is being pulled out from under us, but ever so slowly that we don’t always find the will to pull back. But when that final tug comes and the rug has vanished, there will be nothing left to do.
People might say, “Women can go to another state.” Until that state, too, is no longer an option.
If conscientious, mindful women and men around the country don’t wake up and take this assault on women’s rights seriously and squarely, we may wake up one day to the scene in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” when June Osborn goes to the store only to learn that her credit card no longer works and her ability to be financially independent has disappeared overnight.
Does that sound extreme?
It’s not. Not anymore. This is a crisis. It’s an abomination. It’s a travesty.
But it is not shocking.
Anti-choice advocates may or may not win in their quest to reverse Roe v. Wade. But they may not have to. They may have found a better way to control women and take away their power and sovereignty over their own bodies: sic citizens against each other.