On Wednesday, in an abrupt cultural shift that would be funny were it not so tragic, our nation veered directly from shedding crocodile tears over the fate of women in Afghanistan— the Taliban, they’re so mean, they might not let girls be robotic engineers — to realizing that Texas, the second-largest state in the union with a population of nearly 30 million, has effectively banned abortion, a right guaranteed in most civilized nations and protected by law in this one for the past 48 years and something most Americans believe should be legal.
The Texas law criminalizes abortion after six weeks — before most women are even aware they’re pregnant — and imposes a Byzantine system to enforce itself, using not the state that created the law to police it but deputizing third parties, whether religious fanatics, freelance profiteers or self-appointed members of the Texas Taliban who can sue not only abortion providers but anyone aiding the process or even “intending” to aid it: boyfriends bankrolling the procedure, Uber drivers taking women to clinics, counselors providing an address.
Anyone except — and this gives away the game — the women themselves, who aren’t punished for their supposed crime.
Why exclude them? Why aren’t the women having abortions responsible? Let’s discuss.
All religions are cruel, in their original forms, offering some version of a man in the sky demanding unconscionable barbarities. “What Lord? Slay my young son, Isaac, just because you say so, to prove that I’ll do anything you tell me? Why sure!”
Christianity offers a novel spin on this, taking Jesus’ suffering on the cross and using his biblical pain as a springboard to rationalize actual atrocities committed against a wide variety of real people: Jews, Indigenous tribes, non-believers.
When you puff away the fog of obscuring BS, the endless frenzy over abortion in the United States is the Passion of the Christ writ small: the notional sufferings of imaginary babies on their tiny intrauterine crosses, seized as pretext to inflict true harm on half the population.
Not to single out Christianity. Women get the shaft in every fundamentalist faith on earth: female circumcision in Africa, the brutal restrictions in parts of the Muslim world, Hindu honor immolations. Orthodox Jews say a prayer of thanks for not being born a woman, and it’s hard to argue. Men rule because God insists we do. It isn’t our fault. Just following the Big Guy’s orders.
Banning abortion, at its heart, is a religious edict denying agency to women. They aren’t responsible for their own abortions. How could they be? Women aren’t responsible for anything except to bear the children conceived within their wombs, even as the result of rape or incest, two practices winked at in the Bible.
The timing of this would look trite in fiction. Right now, Red States are agitated over government attempts to curb raging COVID-19. They’re in the streets protesting mask mandates and vaccines. Demanding control over their own bodies, shrieking about their right to choose ... except of course for women regarding abortion. There, no control, no choice. Men will choose for women, bless their silly little heads, deciding they can’t, not after a month and a half — that particular time limit based on some fictive heartbeat as notional as the babies themselves. Sorry honeys, don’t blame men. Blame God. And babies.
Some will accuse me of mocking religion, and I’m not. I’m mocking the uses religion is put to. As I’ve said before, religion is a tool, like a hammer. You can build a house. You can hit someone in the head. The hammer’s the same.
Religion is supposed to be voluntary and tarnishes when you try to use your faith to try to control others. If I scan Judaism and then seize upon some line in Deuteronomy to demand that you eat only Muenster cheese, to the exclusion of all other cheeses, you’d laugh at me. That’s ridiculous. Yet you’ll turn around and take your own faith, gilded with a veneer of non-science over the supposed feelings of peanut-sized fetuses, and demand that half the population obey your rules. That logic would never be applied to a man, who can have a vasectomy without sparking lawsuits on behalf of the children who now will never be sired. It hardly seems fair, but that ship sailed long ago. Welcome to the Middle Ages, Texas-style. Everything old is new again.