Sharp Edges

Jim Taylor is an Okanagan Centre author and freelance journalist. To contact the writer: rewrite@shaw.ca

Women in eight U.S. states have now been told that they have value only as wombs and child-care workers. Eight states have now effectively banned abortion in what appears to be a coordinated attack on the 1973 Roe versus Wade decision that made abortion a constitutional right.

Arkansas and Utah moved the date up to 18 weeks of pregnancy. Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri moved it up to about six weeks, when the embryo’s heartbeat can be first detected — before many women even know they’re pregnant.

Alabama enacted the most stringent restrictions, banning abortion entirely. At any stage.

After the Alabama votes, gloating representatives declared their legislation a triumph for human rights. For the protecting of the most vulnerable members of society.

But, the smirk on the face of those representatives as they faced the media’s cameras told the real story. It said, “Ha! Gotcha, you bitches!”

This is not “pro-life” legislation. It is “anti-abortion,” pure and simple.

If it were genuinely pro-life, it would also ensure that any babies born — any babies, regardless of race or economic status — had medical care available to them. Adoption, and fostering. Universal child-care. Education and eventually worthwhile employment.

But, those are exactly the public services that governments across the U.S. are now slashing. Based on increasing budget allocations, I’d have to assume that the only options legislators are prepared to offer to all those babies they saved are military service and/or prison.

As lifelong Roman Catholic author and speaker, Joan Chittister commented, after examining the abortion issue, these legislators are not pro-life. They’re pro-baby.

Once the baby is born, God help it. Because they won’t.

It’s no coincidence, I believe, that this anti-abortion move comes primarily from the former slave-states of the Confederacy. They view women as slaves.

Like slaves, women do not own their own bodies. Men — especially older white men — have the right to decide what women may or may not do with their bodies. They’re welcome to procreate. But if a random sperm should actually fertilize a random ovum in a woman’s uterus, men, other men, now claim authority over that developing fetus.

Like slaves, women are inferior creatures. They cannot be trusted to make decisions for themselves.

The United Church of Canada — my church—- tackled this issue back in 1971. Dr. Bruce Hatfield of Calgary led the argument that “abortion should be a matter between a woman and her doctor.”

The members of the church’s general council raised all the predictable arguments against abortion. That women were emotional creatures unfit to make these decisions for themselves — especially when pregnancy affected their hormonal balance. That ending a life, at any stage, was murder. That a fetus required two persons’ genetic material, and therefore an abortion needed the man’s consent — even if he wanted no continuing relationship or responsibility. Some insisted that abortion was moral issue; therefore the woman’s minister must be consulted.

In the end, Hatfield and his supporters carried the vote.

But, it hasn’t gone away. Not even in the supposedly “liberal” United Church.

Although the anti-abortion movement is strongest in both ends of the Christian spectrum — the Roman Catholic and evangelical churches — there is in fact no reference to abortion in the bible. Not one. Look it up for yourself.

There are implications in several verses that an unborn fetus may have feelings and awareness. But, no prohibition of abortion.

The closest reference, in Exodus, states that if a pregnant woman is injured during a fight between two men, and suffers a miscarriage, the woman’s husband is entitled to compensation. Her husband — not her. Which makes it a rule about property and ownership, not about the sacredness of fetal life.

Both the woman and her unborn child are “collateral damage,” in modern terms.

The primary injunction basis for opposition is, of course, the Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Which apparently doesn’t apply in war.

Don’t accuse me of supporting abortion on demand. I don’t. I’m against abortion. But, I’m also against bringing unwanted babies into this world. That means I support contraception, to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Face it, people are going to have sex. They will not be stopped by legislation, church teaching, or even direct orders from God. And certainly not by banning abortions, later, if she gets pregnant.

Free contraception would reduce unwanted pregnancies. Condoms, pills, IUDs, diaphragms, and morning-after pills should be freely available.

To anyone. Anytime. Anywhere.

But you won’t catch the good ol’ boys in Alabama and Missouri voting for anything that sensible.

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