This week, a leak revealed that the current uber-conservative and overwhelming Catholic SCOTUS intends to overturn Roe v. Wade. This is being done despite the transparently false protestations of Supreme Court (In)justices Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett who claimed in their nomination hearings that “Roe v. Wade was settled precedent.” This act will allow individual states to ban abortion and even enact vigilante laws (like SB8 in Texas) to punish any who are involved, no matter how peripherally. When pressed about it last year, Coney Barrett was dismissive of the disruption to women’s lives if forced pregnancy becomes legal, stating that babies can be legally left at public places like firehalls without legal consequence, so why are they whining?
When Do Human Rights Begin? (It’s a trick question!)
The significance of a Catholic SCOTUS is the theological belief in Catholicism that conception is the point at which human life must be protected at all costs, as well as a theological belief that birth control is morally wrong. These are not beliefs shared by all or even most faiths in our pluralistic society, including Mormonism. These beliefs specifically contradict Jewish dogma that the life of the mother should supercede the viability of her fetus whenever there is a conflict. When the state, rather than churches, takes on the role of enforcing a moral code, particularly in areas where people disagree in good faith, we no longer need churches. Churches cease to be the moral authority in such a state, because the state is impinging on the practice of one’s religion.
Well, let’s not get too far afield here. First, what is the state? In the case of SCOTUS removing federal protections for women by overturning Roe v. Wade, the state reverts to one’s state within the fifty states. If you live in Texas, your state will have a completely different set of laws than if you live in New York. That might not be objectionable if an entire state was all the same religion, but that is not the case. It really has never been the case, and make no mistake, this is a religious decision. Even before the United States was a country, different communities were formed around religious groups, notably the Puritans. But within those communities were minority religions like Quakers. Some states allowed the dominant voices to rule over the others, giving preference to them (including tax breaks, access to lands & funds, and allowing them to determine policies for everyone) while suppressing the rights of others. Others, objecting to this theocratic rule, founded Rhode Island, a pluralistic community that did not give preference to the dominant religion. Thus the separation of Church and State (that current conservatives want to erode) was born.
Many states, including Utah, have what are called “trigger laws” that go into effect immediately if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Utah’s law will sound familiar to those who actually know what church policy is regarding abortion. Unlike many Evangelical-dominant states in the deep south, Utah’s trigger law will carve out exceptions. However, unlike Church policy, in making these exceptions the legal standard for abortion, they are to be regulated by government officials and include some difficult hurdles that further restrict the human rights of women (and girls, unfortunately, who are the most likely to bear the brunt of these additional requirements). Here are the legal exceptions Utah has created:
- A woman can still receive an abortion if the pregnancy poses a life-threatening risk to the woman or “a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”
- An exemption is also granted if two physicians who practice “maternal fetal medicine” concur that the fetus “has a defect that is uniformly diagnosable and uniformly lethal or … has a severe brain abnormality that is uniformly diagnosable.”
- Those pregnant as a result of rape or incest are also eligible for an exemption. The physician must verify with law enforcement that the incident was reported.
So, what’s different between the Utah law and Church policy? The specifics of regulating the exceptions. Unlike Church policy, there is a requirement that the woman have two OB-GYNs who concur that there is a birth defect. (Will insurance cover the second consultation? Will the state? I’m pretty sure my insurance only covers one referred specialist, not two). Also unlike Church policy, the rape or incest must involve a police report. While that may sound reasonable to most non-rape victims, it practically ensures that minors who are victims of paternal incest will be forced to carry a pregnancy to term. It also assumes that the rapist was not a police officer, and that the police department will file the report even if they don’t find the victim credible. It is also unlikely that women who were victims of marital rape will file a police report; violent spouses behave unpredictably when confronted.
While it’s a pretty commonly cited statistic that only 2% of rapes ever result in a conviction (and 60% aren’t even reported), if the price to get an abortion is filing a police report, I’m sure more women will do what they have to do so that their lives are not ruined by an unwanted pregnancy. Other states are actually emboldening rapists by giving them and their families the right to sue a rape victim who got an abortion. The date of viability is also placed at a somewhat reasonable 18 weeks rather than the 6 weeks in Texas (which is before most pregnancies can be detected).
Of course, Mormons who live anywhere other than Utah are subject to whatever laws their own states decide to employ, including those as egregious as the Texas and Mississippi laws. The conservative preference for state over federal law reduces the scope of the Church’s influence to one little state rather than leavening the whole loaf. Utah may continue to be a peculiar people, and maybe will have a less violating policy on abortion than other conservative states, but other states will continue to ignore what Mormons think on this and most topics.
Reasons for Hope
One of my favorite podcasts always ends with “reasons for hope” from each panelist.
There’s an argument that Roe v. Wade wasn’t the right law anyway. It’s based on privacy because abortion is a private act that shouldn’t bear public scrutiny, rather than a woman’s right to the pursuit of happiness, which one would assume includes bodily autonomy. Often when an extremist act like this one, striking down a protection that the majority of Americans believe should exist, will result in a better future law, one that is probably much better than the anti-woman crapfest happening in Southern states.
The other important reason for hope is that abortion to terminate a pregnancy is not the only solution anymore. Arbortifactants (abortion pills) as well as various morning after pills are widely available (although some Southern states are trying to prevent their residents from obtaining them through mail delivery services), and effective up to ten weeks. Surgical abortion is not the only method to terminate an unwanted pregnancy anymore.
Before Roe v. Wade, women seeking an abortion went to another state, and there are many groups that will assist with the costs of transportation, hotel, and the procedure. Bear in mind that anti-abortion laws are a regressive tax: they hurt the poor, especially those who can’t afford time off work, more than the middle and upper classes. Those with means are in a better position to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy.
Moral Authority v. Compulsion
The real problem with these types of rules is that the state should always be less morally restrictive than one’s Church because churches interpret moral codes differently. The law should allow for these various interpretations without compelling any of them to behave in a way that is more restrictive than their own codes.
When the state is more restrictive than the Church, and as we can see in the case of Utah’s trigger law, that’s a natural byproduct of turning a church policy into a regulated law, then the state is the moral arbiter of behavior, not the Church. There is no room for the Church to create a moral argument or to carve out a space for belief to flourish in such a situation.
This is also a problem when the state creates a restriction that contradicts one’s religious moral code. This occurred when a Sikh student attending BYU (BYU was the state in this situation) was forced to shave in accordance with the school’s honor code, an act which violated his religious code. While this decision was later reversed, the damage had already been done. As I said in my Mormonland interview a few years ago, legislated morality is not morality at all. Morality must be the result of moral deliberation and persuasion, not compulsion.
Speaking of BYU and thought experiments in which BYU is the “state,” creating laws to enforce what it sees as morality, there are many more examples of why creating a rule or a law, including the methods to enforce it, undermine moral arguments. Is it a sin to wear knee length shorts, shoulder-length hair (for a man), or to be in an apartment after 1AM? No, but it’s against the enforceable rules which implies it is morally wrong. And that erodes the actual moral argument of the law of chastity. The law is replaced with the hedges around it. We all need to bear in mind the scripture chase verse we had to memorize when I was a teen:
[T]he Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.1 Samuel 16: 7
Making moral issues compulsory makes them something other than moral issues. No thoughtfulness required. Your heart doesn’t have to be changed. You just have to be willing to outwardly conform and in some cases police and judge others, turning them over to the state.
This is kind of the opposite of reasons for hope. Here are some of the potential “doom and gloom” scenarios that are possibilities for our near future.
The first that is kind of obvious is an erosion of the legitimacy of the court. The court is a small, self-policing body with no real oversight by rules of conduct. You can be married to an insurrectionist and not be obligated to recuse yourself from cases that literally involve her and her causes. If the court acts in ways that the public don’t agree with, they don’t have a military to enforce their rulings. What happens if a contested election goes to them and they behave according to their political views rather than the law?
Some are concerned that this unfettered court will proceed from overturning Roe protections enacting a total federal ban on abortion, similar to fascist countries. Some states might be tempted to outlaw or limit access to birth control for citizens, as in now defunct laws that many states had on the books decades ago.
Additionally, could this court seek to directly attack gay marriage and overturn Obergefell? Would this revert us to a state-level legal patchwork where gay people can get married in blue states, but not red states? Are trans rights similarly on the target? It’s not unfathomable, since these rights are still emerging and are not long-standing. What about anti-CRT laws at the federal level, or limiting federal funding based on a conservative wishlist?
- Are you concerned about the overturning of Roe v. Wade?
- Do you like Utah’s trigger law? If so, why? If not, what would you change?
- How do you see the role of state usurping ecclesiastical authority when laws are more restrictive (or differently) than a church’s moral teachings?
- What do you think is next? Are you hopeful or not?
*The Handmaid’s Tale was written during the Reagan era, when a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy was protected by federal law through Roe v. Wade. In the novel, the United States is partly overthrown by a religious conservative group called Gilead who, among other things, greatly restricts the rights of women. Women are assigned various roles: Marthas to cook, Handmaids to bear children, Aunts to enforce the sexual slavery and training of the Handmaids, and Wives to oversee the other women in the household. It sounds a little like polygamy. Lesbians who are caught are sterilized, deemed gender traitors and sent to a penal colony to do forced labor. Homosexual men are hung on a public wall for others to see. The beginning of this dystopian hellscape occurs when women’s bank accounts are shut down, and all their funds are given to their nearest male relative. While some of the men are upset by this, most of them try to comfort their wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters by telling them, “Don’t worry. I’ll still make sure you have access to funds.” But that was the first step, and it wasn’t long (in the novel) until women were rounded up and forced into these aforementioned roles. Because of their proven fertility, the Handmaids were the least lucky of the women. Their existing children were taken from them, and doled out to the “righteous” families of Gilead leaders, and they were forced into sexual slavery in similar households, undergoing a monthly ritual to impregnate them.
 As Sam says to Farmer Ted in the problematic 80s teen comedy Sixteen Candles “You get to be King of the Dipsh!ts. That’s kind of cool.”
This whole issue just breaks my heart. My Mormon family members feel they are being so righteous by their ‘never-abortion’ stance, which, on a certain level, I can see. However, society being what it is, abortions (or other back-alley solutions) will continue regardless of their legal status. In my particular case, my wife would be dead now if a 3-month abortion had not been allowable when she developed a uterine infection and a D&C (dilation and curettage) was required. So, our “righteous” R leaders are literally dealing death sentences out when they push for abortion-right reversal.
Angela is absolutely correct that this is just another attack on the poor among us. Wealthy women will still have all the means and access to do as they wish with their bodies. The poor bear the burden of this hypothetical.
I take solace in the fact that (1) I live in California which I presume will continue to protect a woman’s right to choose and (2) I can use the funds once earmarked for tithing to help women in need get to California for any necessary procedures.
Utah’s law essentially says that we still don’t believe women to make this choice on their own so we will require a man’s sign off via multiple doctors and/or law enforcement. Very sad.
Indeed Margaret Atwood is a prophetess. Which makes me sad.
One small step for the children.
More proof that the Supreme Court is a complete sham acting ideologically and out-of-line with proper procedure. More proof that Susan Collins was either duped or is a complete liar. That she is one of the few Republicans that Democrats can actually have a negotiation with is not reassuring in the least. The Republicans rigged the Supreme Court. They obstructed Obama’s very legitimate, very qualified pick of Merrick Garland well before the election arguing that the election was too close. It should have been Garland, not Gorsuch. They then forced through a predator who showed repeatedly during the hearing just how unfit he was for the job. Republicans then acted in the worst faith possible and revealed their incredible hypocrisy by forcing through Coney Barrett. Not to mention the fact that the wife of Clarence Thomas (yet another predator (the GOP loves the predators)) is an insurrection-supporter. The Supreme Court is a pathetic joke.
It is conceivable that removing a federal or constitutional standard and sending an issue back to the states would be workable. States set their own speed limits and that isn’t a problem. States and municipalities regulate professions and run their own school systems and establish their own building codes and so forth — and all of that works pretty well.
The problem with abortion is that is such a controversial issue with so much political capital invested by both sides that throwing the issue back to each state to decide for itself is just a recipe for civil war. [Recall that it was a misguided Supreme Court decision set the stage for our first Civil War.] Every indication is that Republican-led states will attempt not just to criminalize abortion under any scenario but also that aggressive states will seek to extend that prohibition as far as possible to conduct in other states. Maybe we need a wall around Texas, not a wall around Mexico.
Generally speaking I am a “states’ rights proponent because I believe government is more effective to the extent that it is more local and having lived in Red and Blue states I recognize the cultural and political differences. A mainstream view of things in Massachusetts (lived there in 2000s) is much different than one in Utah (live there now) generally. So with respect to abortion, I used to believe that Utah should allowed to do their thing and Mass. should do their thing without a federal standard. Let the liberals be liberal on abortion and let the conservatives restrict it.
But I no longer trust the states to do the right thing with respect to abortion and I believe we need federal protections (this really goes against my general philosophy). And why do I feel this way? Because you have extreme leftist states that have tried to propose abortion up until the birth of the child. They proposed it in NY. And remember governor Northam in my home state of Virginia? I find late-term / partial-birth abortion despicable. On the other hand, you have states on the extreme right like Texas who outlaw abortion after six weeks. As the father of many daughters, I’ve been educated on the fact that if you don’t have a very regular menstruation cycle, you might not even realize you are pregnant before six weeks. And then it’s too late? So a poor girl in Texas has to travel to Oklahoma to get an abortion after 6 weeks (and now Oklahoma is mimicking Texas so she’ll have to go even further away)?
No matter how you personally feel about abortion, you need to recognize that many states are controlled by extreme conservatives and extreme liberals. At least Roe vs. Wade provided some federal guidelines (the trimester system) to keep the crazies in check. I’m afraid that is gone now.
Dave B, totally off subject, well Margaret Atwood was mentioned, so maybe not too far off. But I just finished another series of book by her about a dystopian future in the US, and the wall was between the US and Texas. I was amused. The Tex-Mexer were among the illegals. In that one, political and religious extremists had not taken over, the big corporations had.
Anyway, back to the supreme court, (not capitalized because it deserves no respect) and their fall from any semblance of political neutrality. The Repugnant-ones knew that if they loaded the Supreme Court with the perfect candidates, who put politics above principle, that they could essentially turn the court into their personal political hacks. It started before the repugnant-ones refused to even consider any candidate Obama picked, when they pushed an unfit, sexual predator through in Clarence Thomas. His politics were known, and the Repugnant-ones wanted him because they knew he had political loyalty but zero respect for the rights of women. It was known that if he got half a chance to do away with Roe that he would. Same with their more recent political hacks. The repugnant-ones never cared about any qualification other than would they vote against a woman’s right to control her own body, even if her life is at risk.
I used to vote Republican, but now 90% of the party has lost any respect for the rule of law, voting rights, free speech for anyone but themselves, democratic government, and our constitution. They happily wave American flags, but have forgotten everything those flags stand for.
As far as other issues ruled by the Supreme Court, back when it didn’t let itself be ruled by religious right politics, such as Gay marriage and inter-racial marriage, they could take away the right to marry for same sex couples, but I doubt they would dare void the ruling against interracial marriage. But then again many were saying they would not dare overthrow 50 years of president to the right to abortion.
josh h, please educate yourself about late-term abortions. The only time they happen is when something is extremely wrong — either the mother or the fetus or both will not survive. Restrictions on them lead to even more danger for those involved, with the expense and delay of travel to one of the very few clinicians who will perform the procedure causing the risk to mount. Do not let the anti-abortion lies about the prevalence of late-term abortions for “convenience”. https://jezebel.com/interview-with-a-woman-who-recently-had-an-abortion-at-1781972395 is far more representative of the circumstances that lead to late-term abortions.
On late-term abortions, here’s from the WaPo: “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1.3 percent of abortions were performed at or greater than 21 weeks of gestation in 2015. In contrast, 91.1 percent were performed at or before 13 weeks and 7.6 percent at 14 to 20 weeks.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2019/02/06/tough-questions-answers-late-term-abortions-law-women-who-get-them/
Essentially if you had a law that banned abortions after 20 weeks of gestation but made an exception for post-20-week-gestation abortions in cases where the mother’s life was at risk or where the baby would be born with severe health problems, would current trends change all that much? If such a law were passed throughout all states, I can’t imagine that many pro-choice folks would be losing much sleep about it. It should also be borne in mind that when you look at the statistics, the Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of gestation really isn’t doing too much to stop abortions from happening. The regular trends, under the new law, are probably still going to mostly hold. If what we’re getting with the new Supreme Court ruling is a punting of the issue to state legislatures and ultimately a bunch of Mississippi laws in red states, it doesn’t appear to be a huge loss of freedoms for women to get an abortion. Unfortunately, it appears to be the tendency of the Republicans to repeatedly give in to the most extreme members of their electorate, in front of whom they have cowered repeatedly, and I fear that what will happen is the emergence of a bunch of Oklahoma-like laws in red states with abortions being completely banned altogether, women being forced to harm themselves, and vigilantes going after women who get abortions.
Deborah: when I say I find late-term / partial birth abortion despicable, of course I’m referring to abortions that are for convenience and not due to health issues with the mother or fetus. I’m surprised you wouldn’t assume that given the rest of my post.
Also: not sure how you could know that that “the only time they happen is when something is extremely wrong”. There’s no way to know that.
Josh H: “There’s no way to know that.” Yes, there is. There are tons of stats available on abortion, and many if not most states already have strong restrictions on any abortions after the date of viability (at which the fetus can live outside the womb). John W. already provided some stats to you. Of the 1.3% that are “late term” most (again, according to articles that are a quick search away) are because the fetus is severely damaged / not viable, has defects that will prevent its long-term survival, and carrying to term is contra the mother’s health.
Josh h, I just feel the need to push back whenever people bring up especially late abortions as an objection (where “late” isn’t actually a well-defined term), because those sorts of objections are almost always rooted in misinformation. As John W notes above, only 1.3 percent of abortions happen at or greater than 21 weeks, and when we start talking about circumstances where “partial birth abortions” may be necessary, that’s more like 30 weeks or greater, and the number is so vanishingly small as to be not even clumped in the data. (Trust me, I’ve looked.) And whenever disgust at a particular procedure comes into the conversation as a reason for bans, then it distorts the conversation, focusing on something that, statistically speaking, basically doesn’t happen, and taking the discussion about real things that happen to real people.
I suppose I can’t know 100% why each very late abortion happens, but given that we’re talking about major surgery, incredible cost and/0r fights with insurance companies, it’s likely that the people I’ve talked to who have had second-trimester pregnancy terminations + the accounts I’ve read about are likely to be representative of what actually occurs. For example, I know personally of two people who ended pregnancies in the 23-24 week range because that’s when they finally had the information that their fetus would not be able to live.
Going to Hawk’s questions, yes, I’m concerned. Maternal mortality rates will increase. Poverty will increase. The most vulnerable will become more vulnerable. Utah’s law tries to carve out exceptions at first glance, but in practice they won’t help many victims of intimate partner violence. For example, say someone becomes pregnant as a result of “stealthing”, which is removing a condom without consent. In many states, this is not a crime. So the person would have to report this and hope that the police took the report and categorized it as rape. There’s also the fear of retribution for making a police report, which might put the pregnant person’s life in jeopardy even more than a pregnancy would.
Everything seems pretty bleak today. The problem is that the government’s structure is set up in such a way that those in power can strengthen their grip on that power, and “just vote” isn’t good enough, not when those in power do everything they can to prevent “those people” from voting, and when those in power can draw voting boundaries to cement their power. Alito is clearly laying the groundwork to roll back other rights, and same-sex marriage is probably next in his crosshairs.
Sd: Those who claim that outlawing abortion is going to be a good thing for “children” are truly living in a fantasy world, imagining that an unwanted and unsupported child born into an unstable environment is better than that spirit going to a different body in different circumstances. Even if it is an abortion of so-called “convenience” (a word only a man could apply to what unwanted motherhood does to a woman’s life), the fact that this unplanned child has completely derailed the life choices of its parent can have impacts we shouldn’t so easily dismiss. If we love children, we should want them to be supported and wanted. Only women can decide this. Most intimate partner violence is perpetrated by men on women.
Of course, that different theological interpretation relies on one’s belief of what happens to the soul or spirit of one who is never born. Catholics believe that the soul is inside of the fetus. Mormon theology is absolutely unclear on this point, and if you take the Book of Mormon seriously, one would assume the spirit does not enter the body until just before birth, or at the time of birth (based on Christ foretelling his birth the next day). If so, abortion simply prevents the spirit from entering that specific body. It would go to another body that is in another, hopefully better, circumstance.
“ Those pregnant as a result of rape or incest are also eligible for an exemption. The physician must verify with law enforcement that the incident was reported.”
That absolutely needs to be changed.
Ideally it would be best to lock up all rapists. But that isn’t what happens. The woman might not have evidence—becoming a he said she said case. Reporting the rape may also put the pregnant woman at higher risk of getting murdered.
A recent study published in the journal Gynecology and Obstetrics found that homicide, not medical issues, is the leading cause of death for women who recently gave birth.
The truth is abortion rates are declining. I’m betting if men were the ones that gave birth, abortion clinics would be as ubiquitous as gas stations.
(Where do young men and women learn about birth control in Utah?)
One of the sad side effects of this whole issue is that it is getting Americas all roiled up again during a particularly difficult time in our history. This decision is totally unnecessary. All it does is further separate and cause further contentions among Americans. The fact that is being made by several on the court who are nothing more political hacks is deeply troubling.
I listened to Handmaid’s Tale for the first time in around 2017. I think if I had listened pre-Trump it wouldn’t have been that big a deal to me – I would have found it far-fetched. But it was legit terrifying to listen to on the heels of electing a president who openly sexually assaulted women and a religious right that had become far too powerful in American politics.
Re: federalizing abortion, I agree with Josh H that it should be federal but not for the reasons he mentions. It should be federal in the same way that other civil rights legislation is federal. State legislatures cannot be trusted to protect minority rights. Civil rights are a necessary counterbalance in a democracy to protect the minority from being trampled by the majority.
Here, that’s true in a couple of ways. We have to protect people from being trampled by conservative religious groups who want to legislate their brand of morality.
More importantly, we have to protect women. Women hold only 31% of state legislature seats and only 28% of state senate seats. There is only *one* state (Nevada) where women hold a majority of legislative seats (58%). That we would allow a bunch of men to make decisions that women bear the brunt of is really beyond me. Yes, I get that there are plenty of women who are pro-life – like Amy Coney Barrett, obviously, who must have had really easy pregnancies if she thinks forcing women to endure an unwanted pregnancy is no big deal because they can drop the baby off at the fire station – I’ve had 4 c-sections and my health has been permanently negatively impacted by childbearing, which is fine because I wanted kids (although I don’t think I fully understood all the health ramifications), but I would never ask another woman to do that if she didn’t want to. But the fact that some women are anti-abortion doesn’t change my view that it is absolutely absurd to permit men to legislate the destiny of women’s bodies and healthcare.
It’s truly insulting to hear the argument that abortion isn’t a right that is “deeply rooted in history.” Neither is the right for women to vote or own property. No woman, queer person, or BIPOC person has rights “deeply rooted in history.” That’s the whole point of protecting rights for minority populations who have been and continue to be underrepresented in our political and social institutions.
State legislatures need to butt out of legislating healthcare. This applies to abortion and it applies to trans care. And they need to butt out of legislating a particular brand of conservative morality.
Getting an abortion is probably never a fun thing for any woman. I would imagine that for many it’s one of the hardest things they’ve had to do. Adding a ton of roadblocks to make it harder – like having to travel out of state, wade through a bunch of protestors (one thing that this decision will do is allow anti-abortion activists to concentrate their efforts on states where abortion is legal and interfere with clinics in those states), pay out of pocket, etc. etc. is literally just cruel. It’s misogynistic. It lays bare the truth that in our country, we don’t see women as people entitled to a full life and full set of choices. We see them as vessels to bring babies into the world.
For those concerned about late term abortions (I used to be in this category), please read the opinion piece, linked below, written by two Utah experts in maternal fetal medicine and signed by twenty eight additional experts in maternal fetal medicine.
“If women are not allowed the option to end complex pregnancies with a grave fetal prognosis after 18 weeks, we will see some women forced to undergo cesarean delivery in late pregnancy, which will increase maternal risk and the risk to their future children. With certain fetal abnormalities, women who carry beyond the second trimester will require a high-risk type of cesarean, known as a classical cesarean. After a classical cesarean, she will be at high risk of uterine rupture during any future pregnancy if she labors – a life-threatening event for both the mother and child. Women with a prior classical cesarean section must therefore undergo an early repeat cesarean birth of a premature baby in every subsequent pregnancy. Therefore, ending a high-risk pregnancy with a grave fetal prognosis can sometimes be important to preserve future childbearing.”
It’s uncomfortable for me to realize that positions I held in the past were potentially harmful to vulnerable women (and children, both male and female) that may be in their care or rise out of future pregnancies. My positions on certain topics have changed in recent years as I have learned more.
I love the statement that when we know better we do better.
I call for a total and complete shutdown of Supreme Court decisions until we can find out what the hell is going on.
First Red States mimic others with their anti-abortion laws, then begin to take things a step further. Here in my home state of Missouri legislators propose that a woman (and whoever tries to assist her in any way to get an abortion) can be sued/prosecuted if conception occurs in the state and she goes outside the state for an abortion. Repubs have so gerrymandered this state that there’s no possibility that Dems can stop them. Step by step, where will it go next and whose life will be put at risk?
Setting my earlier snark aside I have few quick observations:
– I hate the Utah law for several reasons. Reason number one is that women should not have to file a police report in order to not be pregnant. We have enough of a problem with people not believing women already. I don’t ever want to hear “she only said that so she could get an abortion.”
– Kavanaugh and Coney Barret both seem to have made it their life mission to make abortion illegal. Kavanaugh in his confirmation hearing kept on saying that Roe was valid precedent, never addressed the fact AFAIK that as a Supreme Court Justice he would be able to overturn precedent. That Is the whole point of having a Supreme Court. Nina Totenburg pointed out his artful dodging of the questions at the time. Honestly, I never really believed Susan Collins when she claimed that she didn’t think he would overturn Roe. But Kavanaugh gave her just enough wiggle room for possible (not plausible) deniability.
– I’m very concerned about how this decision could be used to eliminate other unenumerated constitutional rights.
A church related concern I have:
People are talking about setting up funds or donating to charities that will assist women going to other states where abortion is legal. This could be a problem with church discipline. Currently I believe a person in the church can face formal disciplinary action, or an investigator may require extra interviews for baptism, if they receive, perform, or fund an abortion. Some people may interpret this to include assisting with transportation to a place where abortions are legal.
What’s next? Plainly anti-abortion states are now going to compete with each other to pass more and more draconian anti-abortion laws, reaching farther and farther to impose criminal punishments: from the friend who drives a woman to a neighboring state to the neighbor who gave the woman $100 to buy food and gas along the way to the church friend who prayed for her well being.
Here is an unintended consequence to watch for. If women only qualify for the rape exception if a police report is filed, there will be a lot more police reports of rape filed in red states with rape exceptions to their anti-abortion statute. No doubt some of those charges will reach state representatives, conservative churches, and all the other institutions that pushed the anti-abortion legislation. Sooner or later even idiot Republican legislators will figure out they were better off allowing raped women easy access to abortions rather than forcing them to report the event to law enforcement and identify the perp.
What’s ironic about the late-term abortions is that they actually appear to be for the most legitimate reasons (not pure convenience) that when you look at it on a case-by-case basis, I can’t see how even the most pro-life person (well, reasonable person, not a nutcase) would reject it as invalid. These abortions almost always seem to be made because of complicated pregnancies where a mother’s health is at risk or the fetus’s health is poor and viability is dire. And yet these are the abortions that the pro-life crowd yell the loudest about. Late-term abortions for pure convenience, meaning a viable fetus and good mother health, as far as I can tell, statistically don’t exist. Convenience-based late-term abortions are yet another phantasm that the right-wingers attack relentlessly for political and ideological purposes.
Missouri’s “trigger law” would prohibit doctors from implanting more than one egg at a time for in vitro procedures, thus adding greatly to expense and time required. And, of course, thus reducing chances of having a baby.
I like this observation I’ve seen going around:
“‘The unborn’are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn.
“You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus, but actually dislike people who breathe. Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.”
– Methodist Pastor David Barnhart
The pro-choice argument that strikes a deep chord with me is the fact that there is no law that requires an individual to lend their body or organs for the sake of another life. The state can’t pass a law requiring you to donate blood, even.
Did you know that if you, a living person, donate half your liver to someone dying of liver failure, your liver will grow back to its full size within six months? That’s a shorter time period than gestating a baby! All you have to do is have the same blood type and you’re a compatible donor. And, get this, typically your medical costs will be covered. Wow. It’s easier, faster, cheaper and has less longterm impact on your health to donate your liver than it is to gestate and birth a baby.
We need “equality laws” that require every man who has impregnated a woman to sign up to be a liver donor. Let’s put every pro-life man at the top of the donor list. Just to be merciful, we’ll prioritize men who have good health insurance and a stay-at-home spouse who can care for them through the recovery period. That’s so much more than a pregnant woman is guaranteed! It also puts the Utah Legislators at the top of the liver donor list.
That’s a joke of course. The state can’t force you to use your body to save someone else’s life. The state can’t even pass a law requiring everyone to be an organ donor after death. CORPSES. Corpses have more bodily autonomy than women do if Roe v Wade is overturned. If a child is dying from heart failure in the same hospital with a person who just died from a car crash, and that deceased person is a perfect donor match for the child, the transplant cannot be performed without the deceased person’s consent (organ donor status) or the consent of next of kin.
This is about bodily autonomy. No government should be able to force a person to lend their body or organs to save another person’s life.
(You know how all the pro-lifers were screaming about their constitutional rights when govt wanted them to wear masks and get vaccinated? (First off, a vaccine and a mask are nothing compared to pregnancy and childbirth.) I would have supported their idiocy out of principal if I’d thought they would apply the same standards to pregnant women. If the law can’t force you to wear a mask or get a vaccine, then it shouldn’t force you to carry a pregnancy.)
@janey amen, amen, amen.
This is only an issue because evangelicals politicized it for their own gain and because people don’t see women as fully human.
A lot of illegal abortion happening in the states is going to be different than it was the last time it was illegal, because in the 1980s a combination of two effective pills was developed. There’s a cartoon on The Nib called Out of the Alley ( https://thenib.com/self-managed-abortion/ ) that does a good summary overview. Anyway I went and did some digging. An estimated 1/5 pregnancies ends in natural miscarriage (and I’ve seen higher estimates, that one’s on the lower end). 2019 there were 3.75 million births about, so that would mean at least 937k miscarriages, and the CDC reported around 630k abortions. To my knowledge, you can’t tell a natural abortion apart from one induced by the pills.
What this means is that it’s not just abortion that is going to be criminalized, it’s also miscarrying–if you’re the “wrong” sort of woman, that is. (You can bet they’re not even thinking about trans men, too, at least not in any charitable fashion.) And it already happens. ( https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/planned-parenthood-advocates-arizona/blog/when-miscarriage-is-a-crime ) And it won’t fall evenly on women, either. Women who fit the “good” approved profile, women with access to prenatal care, they’ll probably get the care they need. (And the well off ones will get the abortions they need as well.) But poor women, women that other people don’t like, women that don’t “behave”, abused women, people who aren’t women but still can get pregnant? They’ll run the risk of getting prosecuted. Poor women miscarry more. Black women miscarry more. Teenagers miscarry more. The United States doesn’t even give everyone health care, but we’re going to expect them to have impeccable behavior that could never be called into question for fetal health whether or not they have the resources and support to do so. Their fault, their fault, they must be punished.
Banning abortion at the level they’re trying to ban it doesn’t just affect people who want and believe in abortions, but everybody who has a chance of getting pregnant at all.
To help you realize how extreme the political right is in America.
In Australia we are in the middle of a federal election. Our conservative PM is a hillsong evangelical. There has been no mention of abortion in the election, though the has been some mention of trans women in sport.
In my state abortion is between a woman and her doctor. It is a medical proceedure.
We have an independant electoral commision, which sets the boundaries of electorates, organizes the election, and counts the votes. So there will be no questioning the results.
I read an article here which said religious freedom (that allows for discrimination), abortion , and defending inequality, are undermining democracy.
My great-aunt died from a botched abortion toward the end of the Depression. She got an abortion because her husband, my mom’s uncle, was a serious alcoholic (his way of coping with a horrific childhood growing up in polygamy) and couldn’t hold down any kind of a job. Jobs for women in Utah paid pennies compared to men’s jobs even if they were doing the exact same work, so even if my great-aunt worked full time she would be bringing in precious little money. (Things haven’t changed much in that department here in Utah during the past 80 or so years.) Besides, she’d be required to quit her job when her pregnancy became apparent. That was the rule in those days.
This couple already had two children that they were hard pressed to feed and clothe. Because it was the Depression no other family members had any spare money to lend or give them outright to help them out of their grim situation. My great-uncle’s chronic drinking put him beyond the help that their bishop and ward might’ve helped provide. With all other options exhausted my great-aunt chose the only way that seemed open to her-to terminate her pregnancy. She bled to death as a result and my mom’s two cousins that she’s always been closest to ended up being raised by my grandma’s older sister who’d been unable to have children of her own. Both of these cousins vividly remember their mother kissing them goodbye and not knowing that this would be the last time that they’d ever see their beloved mother.
This is the sort of scenario that will await us if Roe v Wade is overturned. While I don’t condone abortion just because pregnancy cramps a woman’s lifestyle I also don’t condone forcing women in situations like my great-aunt to have to resort to a backstreet abortionist and unnecessarily put her
life on the line because she can’t physically, mentally, emotionally and/or financially afford to have a child. Right now our country is going through difficult economic times not unlike the time my great-aunt and her family lived in. Some women are just not equipped to be a mother be it financially, physically, emotionally, mentally, etc. and I get so tired of hearing men who will NEVER have to go through the experience of having a child and all that it entails trying to tell women that there’s only one way to be.
If we were serious about making abortion a thing of the past then we would be promoting contraception to avoid unplanned pregnancies. However, the same anti abortion advocates see effective contraception as also evil. If women have access to contraception they’ll be more sexually active goes the old song and dance, and we can’t have that can we? Have they forgotten that it takes two to tango? Let’s face facts. These activists can’t have it both ways.
As someone who taught at a low income school for 9 years I always found it ironic that the Pro-Life crowd are only pro-life until the child is born. After that, if the child is born into poverty, is of a race other than white, lives with only one parent or is in foster care, needs school breakfast and reduced or free lunch because they have very little food at home or live in a food desert, go to a school that is in poor condition and has old books and inadequate supplies, has little or no access to affordable dental and healthcare, lives in a neighborhood where criminal/gang activity is present, etc. most of these same people who were so worried about the unborn baby can’t be bothered to raise a finger to now help them. That was and is the thing that angered and disillusioned me most of all about this whole debate. The unborn are worth saving but the living aren’t. What does that mindset say about our society in general?
As a man, I believe that I have zero say regarding a woman’s right to choose. But when certain states put into place laws that will have profound impacts among the poor seeking an abortion, this is where I need to speak up. Will those state governments bear any responsibility that the child be properly raised, cared for, educated, etc in such a way that the child’s life has a shot at being better than the mother’s? Otherwise, what good have we done the mother, the child, or society?
A Poor Wayfaring Stranger:
There’s the now “classic” advice of Justice Amy Coney Barrett for an abortion alternative: Carry the child for 9 months, then once it’s born drop the baby off at a fire station.
And to think, this woman occupies RBG’s old seat on the court.
Knowing how destructive our blind spots can be, and listening to the women here enumerate issues I wouldn’t have imagined, and after hearing them, realizing I have no legitimate way to understand them, it seems to me that we men should remain quiet and listen intently and deliberately to women on this issue.
@Robert: Agreed that we men should remain quite and listen to women. In many ways, this reflects my main conclusion to the abortion issue — it is too difficult to craft legislation that can adequately respect the exceptions and nuances of abortion. Personally, I would hope that individuals would err on the side of keeping the baby, but I don’t trust legislatures (at any level) to put together a law that adequately balances the rights of the fetus against the rights of the mother. As such, I find myself preferring to err on the side of “allow abortion” and let God through Christ grapple with the difficult cases. Sure, this leads to more abortions than I would like to see, but it seems the fairest way to prevent unforeseen tragedies because abortion wasn’t available.
Abortion is a medical procedure, it’s healthcare and more often than acknowledged, it’s a critical necessity. Sometimes it’s critically needed without undue delay, for the life and future reproductive health of the woman. Sometimes there is low enough urgency that a woman can engage in a thorough review of her decision before she acts.
But there’s another aspect to the decision to undergo this medical procedure. As a person with a female reproductive system proven to be functional, and a gift for empathy, I can see some, but not all of the possible complications that can arise, that will make the decision extremely difficult and painful. Legislatures, courts, and state agencies (including law enforcement) full of ignorant, disinterested men and a few women, have nothing good to offer a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy and considering the fraught decision of whether or not to attempt to carry to term.
I’m sick to death of seeing such disinterested parties using terms like ‘convenience’ and pontificating about caring for the children. (I wonder what is the written equivalent of a smack in the face? ) One thing I know for sure is that the systems in our world are not set up for the convenience of women, or mothers, or children. The powers in charge do not care about families and children. How can I tell? We have laughably inadequate health care, birth control, decent sex education, child care, parental leave, maternal care, public schools, community support, a living wage, and all the things that help lower the rate of abortion by helping people take care of the babies that come to them. So don’t talk about abortions for convenience, or caring about babies while I’m present.
Any kind of abortion is harder than all y’all can imagine, for any reason, at any stage of pregnancy. It’s a blessing to have the luxury of butting out of someone else’s unpleasant business, and we should all allow a woman to work with her health care providers to find a workable solution.
And we should fight this court in every way possible to give women the bare minimum of health care: the right to her own decision.
I feel that the pro-life crowd is creating a strawman argument when they talk about abortions that are for “convenience.” Pregnancy and childbirth are not an inconvenience. They are life-altering. Some women have easier pregnancies than others – I count myself in this number. The only problems I had with my pregnancies were 12 weeks of nausea (not much vomiting), swollen ankles, sciatic pain, heartburn, and an inability to sleep for the last 6 weeks because I was so big and uncomfortable. I am not being sarcastic – I really do consider my pregnancies relatively easy. It helped a lot that I was a SAHM who could sleep whenever I needed to (with my first baby).
My births were easy and uncomplicated. In my first childbirth, the only problem was stage 4 tearing (causing fecal incontinence which NO ONE talks about because humiliating) (that was even with an episiotomy; baby was 9 lbs). During my second childbirth, a nurse anesthetist did an “oops” with the epidural and caused a spinal puncture which allowed blood into my spinal fluid and meant I experienced excruciating pain and couldn’t sit up for 48 hours. This meant I couldn’t even care for my newborn.
I had no co-pays because my husband was military and that means 100% health insurance.
After the birth, I was able to lose the baby weight in about 3-6 months. Breastfeeding only caused one severe and painful episode of mastitis. The sciatic pain gradually got less and less over the course of a couple of years. The fecal incontinence also healed after a few months (months! go ahead – tell me that’s just an ‘inconvenience’).
Can you imagine the “inconvenience” suffered by a woman who already has a toddler and a preschooler, a romantic partner who doesn’t do housework or help with the kids, and her health insurance depends on her working a job that keeps her on her feet all day?
The suggestion that a woman be pregnant for nine months, go through childbirth, pay the medical bills, and then just drop the baby off at the fire station is ridiculous.
I really appreciate the comments from the men in this thread, acknowledging that this decision should belong to women. You give me hope. Thank you for speaking up.
Rich Brown, perhaps Amy Comey Barrett was fortunate enough to have easy pregnancies and thinks that every woman that gets pregnant is just like her. Every girl and woman who gets pregnant has a unique experience. Pregnancy and it’s effects on my body were not “a blessed event waiting to happen”. When I found out that I was only able to have my son I was frankly relieved but kept my relief to myself because I knew that I would get lectures about being “selfish” and “unnatural” from certain family and ward members. It was none of their business! Later on when MRIs showed that if I’d carried a second child my spine would have sustained irreversible damage I quit feeling guilty that I’d only wanted one child.
My sister, on the other hand, had a total of eight pregnancies that all end in miscarriage anywhere from a few weeks along to 6.5 months. She had to have a hysterectomy at age 27. Afterwards she learned that she could never have been able to carry a viable, healthy fetus full term. So, now she and her husband decided to adopt a baby or a toddler. Unless a person has been through that process themselves or knows someone who has gone through the adoption process anyone who blithely recommends adoption as a remedy for abortion like Judge Comey Barrett should keep their opinions to themselves. Adoption is very expensive, time consuming, and can be heartbreaking if one of the birth parents changes their mind about going through with the adoption at the last minute. Even when everything goes perfectly in the beginning there can be serious problems down the road. My husband adopted our older son during his first marriage only to have his wife run off with his best friend three years later. She didn’t want to have any custodial responsibilities at all, but her divorce lawyer told her that as she was well known in her profession and in the community she needed to be “seen” as being a model mother and wanting to share in the custody and care of our son. Guess who suffered so that his adoptive mother could look like June Cleaver to the public even as she wanted nothing to do with him in private? Adoption is not a panacea for abolishing abortion.
As you can see, the abortion debate isn’t just about abortion. Abortion is just one tiny part of a huge interconnected web of cascading issues, causes and effects. Unfortunately, the people trying to overturn Roe v Wade have either not thought through all of the possible ramifications and consequences of their proposed actions or else they feel that because they “have God on their side” they don’t need to think about the ramifications and consequences because “God will take care of everything because their cause has His stamp of approval”. Ignorance or hubristic triumphalism masquerading as religious faith. Neither is the appropriate answer to an extremely fraught and complicated problem. Both approaches scare the daylights out of me.
I am very privileged. I have only had three pregnancies, all of them intentional, all of them resulted in a live birth. I had access to birth control that was covered by insurance, so I was able to plan my family. I was never raped or a victim of incest, but I have many friends who were. I have never been the victim of domestic abuse, but it is far more common than you might think. My birth control never failed, but it sometimes does. I was insured and had a supportive and equal partner.
Despite all of these things that were in my favor, during my first pregnancy, I had a life-threatening blood clot due to a clotting disorder I had no idea I had. According to the maternity ward nurse that first night, if I lived through the night I would probably survive. After a total of 19 days in the hospital (two different times), I had to self-administer 8 shots of heparin each day. Both my legs were covered in bruises from the hip to the knee. My delivery had to be induced and monitored closely so that I wouldn’t bleed to death. After my first delivery I had more clotting and had to go in for a D&C. When I went for my first ultrasound on my second pregnancy, the radiologist scolded me “Are you trying to kill yourself?” My OB-GYN was closely monitoring my clotting risks, and I was on two shots a day during both of my other pregnancies. Like the first one, I could not be allowed to go into labor on my own or I might have bled out due to the blood thinners that were protecting me from further blood clots. Every pregnancy meant I was covered in bruises on both legs due to the shots (plus blood thinners make you bruise more). I had to go to a clinic to have a blood test once a week to make sure my platelet count wasn’t too low or too high. Fortunately, I had a degree and worked in a professional job with an employer who was supportive and had policies that protected my job.
Clotting disorders aren’t that rare. 5% of people have Factor V Lieden. I have Pro-thrombin gene mutation factor 2 which occurs in 2-3% of the population. Increases in estrogen make clotting more likely, whether through birth control pills or pregnancy. There are very real health risks when you go through pregnancy, and we don’t have anywhere near the right protections for women in this country. There are plenty who don’t have insurance, or who will go without pay or lose their job if they become pregnant. DVTs are the leading cause of maternal death in the western world, and until you have one, you probably don’t know you are at risk.
Can I focus on the adoption side of the equation? We’ve adopted twice (after five children the traditional way). The first one in 2002 – a six year old from Korea with Down syndrome and autism. His parents left him in a box on a doorstep of a church. He came to us with scars from cigarette burns. And anal scars from being raped. Everything wasn’t rosy for him before he found a safe home. The adoption cost about $17,000.
We brought our adopted daughter home the day after she was born in 2003. She has two older sisters that were raised by her grandparents – they couldn’t take another. That adoption cost about $34,000.
There’s no guarantee that a child will be adopted as a newborn or even adopted at all. There is no guarantee that they will be safe in the pre-adoption phase. And a lot of young parents just starting out are simply priced out of adoption.
Saying “carry the child and drop it off at the fire station” is so thoughtless and ignores the realities.
I can’t bring myself to say that I’m “pro abortion” – I can’t shake all those years of conditioning. I can’t imagine (says the white male) that I would make that choice unless there were life threatening issues. But I absolutely do not want to deny others the choice – those who can’t see a positive future. Yes, life is hard – but forcing a soul-crushing future on someone isn’t the answer.
Related – there are those who don’t think same-sex couple should be able to adopt. I respond – how many kids have you adopted? If not having gay people adopt is so important to you then step up and make sure you and your friends adopt them all so that the 250,000 or kids that enter the foster care system in the U.S. every year get a nice straight family.
I trust women.
I support the right to have an abortion. I believe the forced-birthers are ignorant and immoral (I don’t care how many degrees they have nor how often they go to the temple).
Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) is its own specialty. MFMs are far fewer in numbers than OBGYNs. They are concentrated in urban areas.