Less than 48 hours after the draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would scuttle Roe v. Wade was leaked in the press, the Louisiana legislature moved a bill out of committee that criminalizes any abortion, from the moment of conception, as a homicide, allowing women who have such a procedure, or anyone who performs one, to be charged with murder.
Meanwhile, at the same time, states like Illinois rush to guarantee the right of women to control their own bodies, and certain companies, like Levi Strauss, Yelp and Uber, announce they will pay for female employees to go out of state to have an abortion — raising the specter of a nation where a citizen doing something in one state can get reimbursed by her boss, while doing the exact same thing in another state lands her in prison.
Unless it doesn’t. Late Thursday, after even anti-choice advocates protested that they were overplaying their hands, supporters clawed the bill back. For now.
Punishing women who get abortions makes for bad optics and, besides, it implies that they are responsible for their own decisions, and not merely the playthings of men, who are the ones with volition and therefore the ones who should be punished.
Louisiana tossing out harsh laws and then yanking them back is the kind of chaos we can expect in the months to come. Religious fanaticism and forethought do not go hand in hand. If you set your daughter on fire because you feel shamed by who she is dating, then you probably didn’t deeply consider that you won’t have a daughter anymore and might be casting an even greater shame on your family.
Ditto for political fanaticism. If you bar immigrants because you are terrified at the thought of a diverse America, then the strawberries rot in the field, because we actually need immigrants to make the economy work — to be surgeons as well as pick fruit, I must point out.
Even after decades, saving their imaginary baby friends is as far as religious fanatics have thought this out. Nobody seemed to consider what banning abortion this will do to the country. Women are a key part of the workforce. America not only wants legal abortion, it needs it. If women are forced to bear children every time they get pregnant — and they’ll get pregnant more, since the American Taliban are coming for contraception too — they are removed from the workforce, their incomes slashed while household expenses soar.
Is it not society’s obligation to, for instance, pay for maternity leave for mothers of those legally-mandated children? To pay for child care? Red staters of course never consider actual living children — the babies are a metaphor. This is all about forcing your religious practices upon the unwilling.
Fantasy makes bad policy. Just as the getting-the-drop-on-the-bad-guy pipe dream leads to thousands of gun owner suicides and accidental deaths, so the I-didn’t-abort-my-child-and-now-he’s-Justin-Bieber trope obscures the difficulty of raising a baby that Mitch McConnell compelled you to have. We live in a nation where over 100,000 people die of drug overdoses each year. It’s hard enough to be a good parent when you want your kids.
Abortion doesn’t have to be considered legal homicide to upend American society. Even if it is merely a crime, then every teenage girl who goes out of town to cheerleading camp for three days is suddenly a suspect.
Up to 20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. God is the busiest abortionist. If abortion is illegal, then suddenly the state has an interest in what is happening under every woman’s skirt, and has a right to take a look. God’s will or homicide or merely a misdemeanor?
That isn’t freedom.
I don’t like to catastrophize. But a nation where some states are lurching back toward the 19th century, while others live in the 21st, or try to, seems a recipe for disaster. Deeper disaster, since we are already in mid-calamity with no relief in sight. I like to think that, to paraphrase the movie, all they have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill it with a terrible resolve. But that giant has been sawing lumber for a long time now, and the resolve seems limited to waving signs in the street. That won’t be enough.