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Abortion-rights activists seated in the Missouri House react after lawmakers approved a sweeping piece of anti-abortion legislation, Friday, May 17, 2019, in Jefferson, Mo. If enacted, the ban would be among the most restrictive in the U.S. Doctors would face five to 15 years in prison for violating the eight-week cutoff. Women who receive abortions wouldn’t be prosecuted. | Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP
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Abortion fight about religious oppression and limiting rights of the majority

Like magicians, the anti-choice crowd is trying to distract Americans from what they are really doing

Magicians create a world where you can be fooled. The pretty assistant and the flapping doves, the twirled wand and the cloth-covered table — all props to distract your eye from the hidden mirrors, the invisible thread, the palmed playing card.

That’s why what they do are called “magic tricks.” The audience is tricked. We’re supposed to be: it’s almost bad form to point out the illusion.

Bad form when contemplating an innocent entertainment such as magic.

When dealing with a key political issue, however, pointing out the deception is obligatory. The showy distractions need to be understood. Especially with a crucial societal issue such as abortion. For too long we’ve accepted the chimerical world of one side, the long-established artifice of those who would suppress women down for religious reasons.

You know all the magic props: the wide-eyed Gerber baby. The constantly cooed concern for “life.” And, most recently, “heartbeat” laws.

In reality, there are no babies: most abortions are done in the first trimester, when a fetus is the size of a watermelon seed. The supposed concern for life is a sham, beginning and ending with fetuses of women they’ll never meet. There’s no sympathy for those actually living.

And the “heartbeat” laws, such as that passed in Missouri on Friday, the latest in a string of states to ban abortion after about the sixth week of pregnancy, effectively banning it altogether, since most women then are just finding out they’re pregnant. There is no heartbeat: a fetus at that point has not developed a working circulatory system, never mind a heart. Calling whatever rudimentary spasm goes on in a fetus a “heartbeat” is like calling a brick a house.

Like unskilled magicians bobbling the coin as they pocket it, those opposed to women controlling their own bodies carelessly give away the game. The new Missouri law limits the punishments for abortion to doctors, not the women having the procedure.

Why? If these fetuses are people, and if destroying them is murder, then why not charge the women, too? In any other murder, they would be equal culprits, given that they conceived, facilitated and paid for the crime.

The answer, of course, is that the fetuses are not children. The anti-choice crowd don’t themselves believe it, not really. It’s just magical words they say along with their contortions, their version of “Shazam!”

They never suggest these honorary children receive child support or be counted as tax exceptions. It’s a scenario designed to distract to permit the sawing of women’s rights in half. Women aren’t punished in these new laws because women have no agency, no self-determination in the world where the anti-choice crowd is desperate to go back to. That is what this is about.

What to do? Stop arguing. Those opposed to reproductive freedom aren’t listening and can’t be persuaded. Here, political discussion has lost its utility. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Now there is only political power and raw numbers, elections won and laws passed. Religious extremists are a minority in this country. A full 77 percent of Americans, according to a 2018 Gallup poll, want safe, legal, accessible abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.

That’s why Republicans are so keen to carve away voting rights for Democrats — as with abortion, giving their actions a dishonest label, pretending to go after non-existent “voter fraud,” when it is themselves who are fraudulently restricting the freedom to vote. As with abortion, they are putting stumbling blocks before American citizens whose only fault is trying to exercise their basic rights.

It’s a last ditch attempt, trying to make the elephant of women’s rights disappear. It’s working now, but it won’t work forever, because it can’t. Modern life has arrived and can’t be made to vanish with a flick of the wand. Their tricks will become so tired and familiar that they won’t fool people as they once did.

Remember, anyone who feels abortion is wrong is free to never have one, and always will be. What this is about is religious oppression: a small minority of Americans who are eager to return to a world that never existed, denying the freedom of others in a way they would never tolerate directed toward their own lives. This is about faith-based intolerance. Not babies. Not respect for life. Not heartbeats.

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