Why I am outraged
I am way beyond angry. I am even beyond pissed off. I am Howard Beale in the classic 1975 film Network. “I am mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
In brief, my headline describes why I am in a rage. There are multitudes of news articles daily about the abortion bans or restrictions being passed by state legislatures. While the most draconian of all the new laws, the one in Alabama which allows no exceptions, even in cases of pregnancy by rape and incest, and which makes it a felony for Alabama doctors “to perform or attempt to perform” an abortion, Alabama is only one of many states denying women their right to bodily autonomy. The attention paid to Alabama obscures the magnitude of how widespread the assault on the rights of women to control their own bodily autonomy has become nationwide.
A brief list follows of all of the restrictive laws already passed by state legislatures just in 2019. And, of course, we are not even half-way through 2019 yet. Look for potential intense competition in other states trying to supplant Alabama as the misogyny and patriarchy king of the United States when more state legislatures convene in the fall.
STATES THAT PASSED NEW LAWS in 2019
Law: See above.
Law: An abortion ban after 18 weeks into pregnancy with exceptions.
Law: The state passed a “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban in May. (Please see my comments of the fallacy of “fetal heartbeats” later in this article.)
Law: The state has signed two laws this year, with the first banning dilation and evacuation (D&E, the procedure used in second trimester abortions) in some cases and the second allowing medical professionals to choose not to perform abortions.
Law: A judge has temporarily blocked a “heartbeat” bill from going into effect.
Law: The state passed a “heartbeat” abortion ban this year slated to take effect July 1. It has been at least temporarily blocked by a federal judge.
Law: The state has banned abortion at eight weeks. The last remaining clinic providing abortion serves in the state is closing.
Law: Abortion is banned once a “fetal heartbeat” is detected.
Law: Utah has approved a ban on abortions in the state after 18 weeks, with some exceptions.
Law: The abortion method commonly used in second trimester abortion (D&E) is banned in the state.
Law: Gov. Bill Lee (R) in May signed a so-called “trigger” law that would make abortion illegal if Roe v. Wade is altered or overturned.
Law: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is expected to sign an abortion bill that would punish any doctor who failed to treat an infant that survived an abortion procedure.
Law: Gov. Phil Scott (R) is expected to sign a bill making abortion a “fundamental right.”
STATES THAT CONSIDERED BUT DIDN’T PASS OR IS CONSIDERING NEW LAWS
Law: Two restrictive abortion laws were defeated in committee earlier this year.
Law: A fetal heartbeat abortion ban failed in the Senate earlier this year.
Law: A currently proposed bill would make abortion murder.
Law: A fetal heartbeat bill is close to reaching the governor’s desk.
Law: A bill requiring an infant born alive after an abortion procedure to be treated as a legal person under the laws of the state.
Law: A ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Law: A proposal would ban abortions for babies because of a Down syndrome diagnosis.
Law: A “heartbeat” abortion law banning the procedure at six weeks.
Law: Wisconsin’s Democratic governor vetoed abortion restrictions recently passed.
Some states have passed or are considering laws that protect the rights of women to a safe legal abortion in their states. These states include Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont.
It is really not specifically about state laws
Pragmatically, the reason that state laws placing various restrictions on abortion are being passed in these states is to get a case (they hope multiple cases) to the right-leaning Trump/McConnell-stacked, Supreme Court which could potentially overturn Roe v Wade allowing abortion access and/or restrictions to revert back to the individual states.
On a larger scale, the over-arching paternalistic and misogynist men who control the votes in these state legislatures (and their supporters) want to control women. More to the point, they want to control their sexuality. (I’ll elaborate on that later in this piece, please stay tuned.)
Compounding the problem is the fact that they are not strictly operating on the basis of paternalism and misogyny, they are forming and defending their actions on the basis of willful ignorance and outright stupidity.
The red herrings of language and semantics
The most common terms used to classify the two opposing sides are “pro-choice” and “pro-life”. Note that both encompass positive values that few will dispute. Isn’t the right of “choice” one of the most prized (well, until recently) American values? Who doesn’t hold dear the right to make their own choices in things both trivial and important? Who wants to be anti-choice? Likewise, does anyone (other than suicide terrorists perhaps) wish to declare him/herself to be anti-life or pro-death?
Does pro-choice mean pro-abortion? Certainly not. Many people who are “pro-choice” would not personally choose to have an abortion if they had an unwanted pregnancy. Some would. That’s the very nature of individual autonomy for all women: to make the choice which she feels is best for her individual situation.
Obviously “pro-choice” implies that each individual should have the option of either choosing to abort or not abort a pregnancy but that a person who is “pro-choice” does not feel that she or he should impose their choice on other women. That is a sound intellectual and moral position and a solid American value: the right of self-determination.
However, pro-life does mean anti-abortion. And to many who label themselves as pro-life, this pro-life position is strictly applied to the potential life that is gestating. Once it is born, she/he and her/his mother is on her own!
Questions: Will those who define themselves as pro-life work to assure that the life delivered is provided medical care, even if the mother can not afford to pay for it? Will pro-life people make sure that the new life receives vaccinations against childhood diseases and has adequate childhood nutrition? Will the new mother (and father) receive paid maternity and paternity leave from their employers to care for the newborn for a reasonable period of her/his young life?
When this young life that pro-life people defended in utero begins his/her education, will the pro-lifers be sure that she/he has access to good schools to educate her/him? Do the pro-lifers want reasonable gun laws so that the child that they insisted not be harmed in utero is safe from a “Sandy Hook-like” horror when she/he goes to school?
No, of course not. In fact, many of these same people who support pro-life causes also support the NRA and oppose any form of gun laws and are opposed to any government assistance program that provides services that may be needed by this young life. The very same life that they supported when it was in utero. It seems that “pro-life” ends at birth. This is fucking HYPOCRISY!
Inflammatory language has seized the day for those opposed to women’s choice
Before leaving language, let’s also consider the semantics used in describing the target/victim of the abortion. As viewed by advocates of pro-choice, the woman is making the choice to “abort the fetus” or “terminate her pregnancy”. As viewed by pro-lifers, the woman is choosing to “kill (or murder) her baby”. Both the words “pregnancy” and “fetus” are rather benign and somewhat clinical. However, “baby” evokes a strong visual, visceral, and emotional image of an innocent being who merits special protection by adults capable of providing that protection and care. Certainly, terms such as “killing” or “murdering” bring to mind horrible acts committed by rouge elements of society who deserve to be punished for their atrocities. The pro-lifers have certainly been successful in winning the semantical argument and in branding!
Let’s consider the false flag that pro-lifers fly to justify their actions: the personhood of embryos and fetuses. I will address the issue of prenatal personhood based primarily on physiology, embryology and scientific facts.
FYI, I am by training and profession a reproductive physiologist who is a research scientist/professor at a major university. I’ve been teaching, researching and writing about this stuff for over 40 years so, please don’t think that I am just making up shit!
Reproductive Physiology 101
First, some basic reproductive physiology terms need to be defined to clarify the discussion that will follow. The ovum ovulated by the woman into her oviduct (Fallopian tube) unites with one of the spermatoza deposited in her vagina by the man. This process of fertilization, which combines the genetic material from the woman with the genetic material from the man, produces a single-cell zygote.
When the zygote undergoes its first cellular division, the product is a two-cell embryo. Without elaboration, this division progresses and around day 6 “hatches” (escapes from a protective membrane, the zona pellucida, that had been surrounding the embryo). The hatched embryo differentiates into an inner cell mass (from which all “body parts” will ultimately be derived) and a trophoblast that will ultimately become the placenta.
Around day 7–8, the trophoblast begins to produce a protein hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin, hCG) which is called the “maternal recognition of pregnancy” signal. (The presence of hCG in the urine of pregnant women is the basis of the commercially available “pee on a stick” pregnancy tests.)
If hCG is not produced, then the corpus luteum (CL) on the ovary which produces the steroid hormone progesterone necessary to maintain pregnancy will not be retained to perform that vital function. The woman would then simply have her menstrual period at the expected time. If hCG is produced, implantation (the erosion of the developing placenta into her uterine endometrial tissue) occurs and pregnancy is established.
Since there is no way for the woman to tell exactly the date at which implantation occurred, there is no way to tell the exact date at which pregnancy began. While not directly related to topic of abortion ahead. I would like to point out that in the perfectly normal (reproductive soundness speaking) female population, 40–60% of the zygotes perish before implantation.
More boring but important facts
Clinically (since the pregnancy establishment date in not known), a pregnancy is said to begin at the date of the woman’s last known onset of menses. But (assuming ovulation at ~ day 14 of her cycle) pregnancy is not actually established until about 3 weeks (2 weeks until ovulation, one week after that to implantation) after that date. Meaning that an abortion legislated to be legal on at 6-weeks or earlier of pregnancy is really a 3-week old embryo based on development. This then also means; the woman is only 3 weeks past her expected “missed” menstrual period. As you women readers know, it is not unusual for many women to occasionally or even frequently “miss a period”. Forcing women to decide on whether or not to have a legal abortion before she even knew that she was pregnant is simply ludicrous!
The misnomer of “fetal heartbeat”
There is no greater example of the dangerous convergence of ignorance, hypocrisy and fallacy than the abortion restrictions passed on the basis of “fetal heartbeat”.
Newsflash to state legislators: a six-week embryo does NOT have a heart!
At six-weeks (as conventionally dated, see previous), the embryo is 3–4 millimeters long (“pea-sized”). It has NO developed organs. At this stage, cells are just starting to group together is an organizational manner that will eventually grow into hearts, brains and other organs. What can be detected, thanks to modern-day highly sensitive ultrasound technology, is an electrical pulse in a primitive group of cardiac cells. But, Bubba in Alabama … I repeat, this ain’t a heart.
The only one with a beating heart on the examination table is the woman hosting this clump of cells. She has a heartbeat. Listen to her. Let her made her choice as to whether or not she wants to continue to host this clump of cells. It is her fucking choice and she deserves the right to make her own decisions.
Bottom line on “fetal heartbeat” laws: These laws are NOT based on science. They are based on patriarchy and misogyny. Then compounded by ignorance.
The final objective: Control and punish women for their sexuality
Think about this. Those who oppose a woman’s right to choose an abortion are not just dealing with abortion as an isolated right of women that they wish to ban. Many (likely most) of these same people who oppose a woman’s right to choose, also oppose all aspects of women’s rights. Let’s take Alabama legislator Bubba as our example,
Let’s speculate that Bubba grew up attending a fundamentalist evangelical church where his understanding of women and their rights basically was that they had no rights. He was taught the local version of sexual morality. Namely, abhor short-term mating (casual sex, promiscuity). Limit woman’s access to birth control because if she has birth control available, that will just encourage her to be promiscuous.
There should be no sex before marriage (no masturbation either). Expect your eventual wife to be a virgin. Shun her if she isn’t. Bubba learned that women have only one basic role: to always stand by their man (cue Tammy Wynette to start singing please). Women have only one honorable job: housewife. Now that he is a legislator he is proud of voting to deny women (the sluts) who take jobs that should belong to men equal pay. (Sidebar: Alabama and Mississippi are the only states without an equal pay for women law.)
He learned that sex outside of marriage was immoral. If a woman got pregnant outside of marriage, she was a sinner who deserved to be punished. She should not be allowed to “get off the hook” by having an abortion. The product of the conception was innocent, she wasn’t, she must be punished.
Bubba learned that sex is only for the pleasure of men. Women do not have sexual needs. Now that he is married, sex with his wife is only for his pleasure (or procreation). Her role is to be sure that he has a pleasurable orgasm. Of course, he thinks that his wife has no interest having in one. To cut to the chase……….
Bottom line: Banning and restricting abortion-on-demand masquerades under the ruse of protecting the rights of the unborn. But it is really more about controlling and dominating women and denying them their rights.