Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
From “The Second Coming,” by William Butler Yeats
Things — as in rights and lives — are falling apart rapidly in the United States following the high court’s capricious and cruel decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion.
The center is not holding, as abortion rights fall in state after state. Lives are being put on hold or blighted, futures are being ruined, girls and women in “ban states” thrown into panic, despair, chaos. Everyday lives and expectations are being upended and futures are being irreparably altered and harmed. In a country where states can treat — or mistreat — women differently, depending on how (un)enlightened their cruel patriarchal lawmakers are, “mere anarchy” is indeed loosed.
Even the plight of an Ohio 10-year-old rape victim did not make anti-abortionists doubt their righteous mission. Instead, reactionary media and public officials dismissed the news of this injustice as “An Abortion Story Too Good to Confirm,” to quote the headline the Wall Street Journal despicably used. And no apologies surfaced for doubting the situation after police arrested the suspected rapist.
Now, compulsory pregnancy people are openly calling to deny abortion care even to save the pregnant woman’s life! At the Idaho GOP convention Saturday, the blinkered delegates infamously voted to criminalize all abortions, without exceptions for rape, incest or to save the life of the woman. That vote was an overwhelming 412-164 to disallow an exception even if she is in “lethal danger.” Politician Scott Hernon, who runs Abolish Abortion Idaho, is now pushing to prosecute abortion patients for murder.
It’s not just in Idaho. In Wisconsin, FFRF’s home state, Pro-Life Wisconsin is working to remove an exception to our state’s 173-year-old criminal ban. Wisconsin’s ban allows for no exception for incest or rape, but does permit an abortion to save a woman’s life. This is a “massive statutory loophole,” complains the group’s male director, who contends there are no situations where an abortion could be medically necessary to save a pregnant person’s life. Conveniently, Matt Sande [who is he?] says removing an ectopic pregnancy or a cancerous uterus is not an abortion. However, if his repeal of this exception were to pass, that’s exactly what physicians would not be able to do. But he’s too religious to care: “If one or the other inadvertently dies, that’s not an abortion, that’s in God’s hands.”
When a pregnancy endangers the woman to the point where it will kill her without intervention, it will also usually kill the potential person she is carrying. This was true in the horrifying Irish case that woke up that republic to the need to repeal its abortion ban. A native of India, the dentist Savita Halappanavar was cold-bloodedly permitted to die in a Galway hospital when she began miscarrying a 17-week pregnancy, because although the fetus was dying, there was still a fetal heartbeat. When she begged for help, she was told: “This is a Catholic country.” Savita replied, “I am neither Irish nor Catholic,” but to no avail. Three days later, she spontaneously delivered a dead fetus, went into a coma and died of septic shock and multiple organ failure. End result: A dead woman and a dead fetus. Good work, pro-lifers.
In Catholic Poland, other young women have died gruesomely and unnecessarily due to that nation’s ban. The sacrificial lambs include Izabela Sajbor, who was told her fetus would almost certainly die before delivery due to severe abnormalities. When her water broke at 22 weeks, she was admitted to a hospital where she developed a fever, vomited and convulsed on the floor — but it was the fetal heartbeat that physicians cared about, not her. She texted messages to her mother and husband saying, “My life is in danger. They cannot help as long as the fetus is alive, thanks to the anti-abortion laws.” A few hours before she died, she wrote, “A woman is like an incubator.” End result: a dead woman and a dead fetus. Great job, pro-lifers.
Miscarrying women are already endangered in this country. “In this post-Roe world, women with miscarriages may die,” warns Dr. Monica Saxena, an emergency medicine physician at Stanford Hospital, Texas. The Washington Post reports that a woman with an ectopic pregnancy — which is medically doomed and is a leading cause of mortality in the first trimester — was denied care at the University of Michigan Hospital because there was a “heartbeat.”
But wait — there’s more! In Texas, the worst incubator of anti-abortion legislation, a bill was introduced last year by state Rep. Bryan Slaton to allow women who have abortions to be charged with assault or homicide, which carries the death sentence in that cold-hearted state. Permitting an embryo or fetus to die is unacceptable, but it’s all right to kill a woman?
It’s inevitable that zealous anti-abortionists will turn their sights on prosecuting women who have abortions, just like the old criminal laws did in many states before Roe v. Wade. When they insist abortion is murder and that the product of an abortion is “an unborn baby,” then by their logic, how can someone having an abortion be anything other than a child killer?
The Supreme Court’s emboldened supermajority of heartless religious and political extremists has indeed loosed anarchy upon our world.
We are not “slouching toward Bethlehem,” as the Yeats poem concludes, but toward theocracy. And theocracy is never kind to women (or anyone capable of becoming pregnant). It is never kind to any individual liberty. Watch out!
Abortion rights is indirectly the reason that my mother and I co-founded the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Anne Gaylor’s pioneering work to repeal criminal abortion laws opened her eyes (and mine as as teenager) to the necessity of keeping religion out of any laws affecting women. We have been fighting since 1976 to hold that center, and will redouble our efforts because FFRF’s work to keep religion out of social policy has never been more urgent.