A woman has the right to choose what to do with her own body. This should be obvious to anyone who cares about freedom.
It's ironic to me (but not surprising) that the people who are most in favor of subjugating women are also the people who advocate most strongly for what they consider to be Core American Freedoms. Your ability to own a gun should be unrestricted in a country where more children are killed by firearms than police officers or soldiers from any army. You should be able to discriminate against people whose love looks different to yours because you think your religion gives you the right to be a bigot. You should be able to use rhetoric that implies violence against whole demographics of people, who themselves have been subjected to violence for generations from people just like you, because you say you believe in freedom of speech, even while your speech silences whole communities and your calls of anti right wing bias are not functionally different to the people a generation ago who complained they couldn't use the N word anymore. But bodily autonomy for half of the population? A step too far.
Abortion legislation is sweeping conservative states like a virus. As many people have rightly pointed out, if it had anything to do with care for children, these same people would be providing parental care, better child healthcare, and programs to alleviate child poverty. They might not be actively creating concentration camps for asylum seekers at the border that separate children from their parents with no plan or means to reunite them later.
Instead, it's about pandering to a small, conservative base of voters, who don't just want to subjugate women, but also to re-establish segregation and "make America great again" by returning it to the dark days of white supremacy and hierarchical patriarchy. When Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, set about opposing desegregation by building a new kind of religious conservatism in the 1970s, he wrote: "The new political philosophy must be defined by us in moral terms, packaged in non-religious language, and propagated throughout the country by our new coalition [...] When political power is achieved, the moral majority will have the opportunity to re-create this great nation."
In reality, no moral high ground can be claimed by a movement whose actions will result in the deaths of women, disproportionately affecting those from vulnerable communities, let alone one so steeped in the horrors of racism and slavery.
But nobody is off the hook. Rape culture - the logical conclusion of patriarchy and its inherent dehumanization of women - reaches into every aspect of society. Many men, including on the left, believe that they have the right to dictate what their partners do with their bodies. The logic is that the father of an unborn child should have some right to decide whether the mother carries that child to term. I disagree, in the strongest possible terms: no man has the right to decide what a woman does with her body, period. It's possible that a woman will grant a man the privilege of participating in the conversation. But it's never ultimately his choice. For it to be anything else, we would have to conclude that a man has partial ownership of his partner's body. This is not and cannot be the case.
The current viral sweep of abortion bans is designed to lead us to a re-evaluation of Roe vs Wade at the Supreme Court, before a roster of judges that has artificially been curated to lean conservatively, as part of a judicial system that has been radically remade for this purpose, but which has always perpetuated systemic prejudice. I would like to think that it won't prevail, and women will still have autonomy over their bodies (hopefully more autonomy than they do now) a decade from now. But I can't predict. This is an issue of pivotal importance, potentially putting life and death in the balance for generations of women, and yet it's just one thing out of many that can be described this way. In the current moment, brutality has found a kaleidoscope of ways to express itself.
Hope seems hard to come by.
But it can be found. I find hope in the many messages from people who are willing to put up women fleeing these regressive states and assist them in finding the healthcare they need, up to and including putting up the money and posing as family members. I find hope in feminism, and activism. I find hope in the past: knowing that abortion rights were hard-won, I believe that if they are lost, they can be won again. I find hope in politicians like Elizabeth Warren, who released a plan to finally encode abortion protections into federal law.
I find hope in dissenting voices. That's why I'm writing this piece to begin with: as a white, cis, straight man, I think it's important to speak up. Silence is tacit support. I donate what I can to organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, and support politicians like Warren, but those things are baseline: they're nowhere near enough in themselves. Neither is simply voting, although it is crucial. There needs to be a unanimous show of support for women, and against the cynical bigotry of this political moment. We need to take to the streets, we need to take this to Washington, and we need to show that the moral majority are the people who believe in a women's right to choose.
Things to do right now:
Here's a list of local, grassroots organizations in states affected by abortion bans. If you have the means, they need your money.
A national day of action is planned on Tuesday, May 21st. RSVP to a local march near you here.