Abortion is not the real issue in the pitched battle between the prolife folks and the proabortion contingent. No one is forced to have an abortion. Roe v Wade does not make abortions mandatory. This is a fight about morality. This is an attempt to legislate morality for every woman in a nation that has always professed to be about freedom of religion, separation of church and state. This is also a fight about the role of women in the world.
Most Americans of past generations were born in the Christian tradition, although in the twenty-first century many question the existence of any deity given overwhelming evidence that suggests that we are alone in this world. Many others feel that if there is a divine being s/he does not interfere in world events. But there is a minority group, who believes that they must fight against abortion, which they classify as murder, or they will be guilty of a mortal sin and will be unable to ‘ascend into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father almighty’. They are putting God before country, as their religion requires. But in a nation that has sworn to give its citizens the right to worship as they see fit, in order for these people to honor a Schrodinger’s box sort of God who only exists if one has faith, they must try to overturn what they see as a bad law, or if that doesn’t work, they must violate Constitutional law.
Not everyone who opposes abortion does it for religious reasons. It has become a political football by those who seek to win the votes of this minority group which may represent almost 42% of Americans according to data presented on Meet the Press this morning. Republicans have long used a prolife stance to win an election in a region of the country where religion is an important aspect of culture. Democrats have used a proabortion stance to win elections in regions where women’s rights are an important issue.
The role of religion in American culture is another factor contributing to the divides we see between red states and blue states. Red states are not monolithic in terms of religion or politics, and neither are blue states. However, it seems that state houses often are either predominantly Republican or Democratic and this is determining the kinds of legislation on offer, and even the way to treat a pandemic. Whoever thought we would be fighting in school boards about wearing a mask to prevent infections from a virus that is proving intractable? Whoever thought that school boards would become a political battlefield on a national scale, as opposed to the usual local personality or culture wars? It is mind-boggling to see how passionately we are pursuing some fairly petty battles where it seems that there should not even be two sides when there are larger issues to discuss.
Are women equal to men or not? Are women and men partners taking on a complex and not always kind world, or are women meant to be submissive to men? Throughout history it made some sense to divide tasks between men and women, but does that still make sense now? Why were women given brains with the same mental capacity as those given to men if they were meant to simply run a home? Raising children seems to work better when women are permitted to use their intelligence. Children value themselves more when they see both of their parents contributing to the society in which they live. They tend to assume that they will one day make their own contributions to making their society sensitive to the needs of all the citizens.
Why were women denied the vote until 1920? Why did they have to pitch decades of fits in order to win the right to vote? Why do they now have to fight to control their own bodies? The pandemic has offered new fodder for discussions among women about how they wish to conduct their lives. For centuries wealthy women wanted to have some control of their own lives. Since the 1960’s, better methods of contraception that did not hinder the enjoyment of men, gave even middle-class women the idea that they were now free to have lives outside of housekeeping and child-rearing. This freedom has filtered down to even poorer women.
If women have children, should they have to stay home to raise them? If women marry, should their husbands decide how many children they will bear? Men were often tyrants in their homes and women had to cope or not, depending on the level of bullying behavior. Are we still basically a hunter-gatherer culture where men do the hunting and gathering and the little woman stays home and tends the fire and the laundry and raises the children, feeds the animals, sews the clothing, plants the crops and accepts whatever moods are presented by her husband?
Many Christians who follow the teachings of a Bible that is now centuries old long to return to nuclear families, with a husband and a wife producing offspring to make sure that white Americans do not become a minority. What do women do when men choose not to stay in a marriage, or no suitable partner appears but they want to raise a child? What do women do when they don’t wish to put up with a dominating male, when they want to be an equal to their partner? More women stay single because men are unable to change the internal or external messaging that tells them that they are weak if they give into a woman who wants to share equal ground?
This discussion does not even pretend to cover all the complexities that women and men face in America, and the world, since the ‘sexual revolution’. Women had to work from home during the pandemic because workplaces closed, but they also had to work from home because schools were closed. From studies reported on sites like Linked In it appears that women took on more of the duties related to child rearing, home schooling, keeping children on-task; while also doing much of the housekeeping, and working on Zoom or other digital workspaces.
Women are once again analyzing how they wish to rate the priorities among their many responsibilities. Do they want to spend more family time? Do they want more flexible work rules? Do they think that it is time to have comprehensive childcare options in our nation? Would having these options even work if there was another pandemic, or if this pandemic keeps evolving and mutating? Why would men in government choose this moment to add to the dilemmas around the shifting nature of women’s rights? Why are we allowing a minority to dictate morality for all? Why are we pretending that this is really about babies and mothers, when it is just about finding one more tool to widen the divide between Americans so one party can win election after election, and take us back to a male dominated society that we have been trying to equalize for decades, even centuries.