Are Women Human?

Under U.S. law, the answer is “not fully” and last week the Supreme Court met to discuss a case in which a number of the justices showed they want to repeal the protection of women’s right to choice which is a recognition of a woman’s humanity.

Even those of us who think the Supreme Court’s scholarly, objective image is a load of nonsense and that the Court has been a partisan sledge-hammer for decades now, the arguments and questions from the justices were often outrageous and sometimes downright inane. Something’s going on here.

Amy Coney Barrett opined that a woman forced to bring a fetus to term can have it adopted or drop it off at some “safe haven” like a police station. That takes care of the “obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy…take care of that problem”. (She actually said that! A Supreme Court justice!).

What problem, we might ask? We are talking about a human being’s right to control her own body and that’s what Roe vs Wade is all about. Women who seek abortions aren’t trying to evade motherhood, they are exercising their rights to determine when and if they want to assume it and what will happen to their bodies over the next nine months. In short, under the law, this is an absolutely acceptable and responsible decision; in fact, it’s often more responsible that bringing a pregnancy to term. The judge obviously doesn’t understand that. This isn’t about people having the right to do bad things; it’s about people having the ability to do the right thing.

Brett Kavanaugh asked if it wasn’t true that a controversy like this might be better decided in state court or legislatures. This joker is also on the Supreme Court, I remind you. The lawyer for the plaintiff reminded him that citizen rights are a determination of the federal courts and government. If rights were decided by the States, black people in some states wouldn’t be allowed to vote or attend integrated schools. This is why we have a federal system.

It was clear the court majority was throwing cover with those dumb comments because these people have already made up their minds: the right to terminate a pregnancy should be taken away from women. That’s why three of these people were put on the Court by President Trump in the first place.

In an on-line exchange with some colleagues New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg said:

“…this will be my first experience, as a white woman, of losing rights. I’ve lived during a time when progress had seemed almost a law of history…

“Black people, of course, have experienced things going backward in much more dramatic ways, so obviously I know regression is not unprecedented. But it’s a real source of shock and grief.”

In response to the always thought-provoking Goldberg, her colleague Charles Blow said. “Civil rights in this country has always been a bit like doing the cha-cha: a few steps forward, then a few steps back. Rights are never forever won. They must be constantly, vigilantly defended. And, unfortunately, they are sometimes lost. This dance is beaten into the blood of Black people in this country.”

It’s silly to say there is a “debate” about abortion and that there are “two sides with an argument”. There is argument about it but the “debate”, as it were, isn’t about abortion or anything having to do with people’s health. Rather, it’s about what Goldberg said and Blow’s expansions of it.

Help us please if we on the Left need columnists from the New York Times to guide us, although both those people are exceptional thinkers and writers. We should be figuring this stuff out for ourselves and while it could be that some of us have done so theoretically, our movement still isn’t getting it.

This is about the humanity and human rights of women — half the human population. If you recognize that women are human and have human rights, one of the primary rights is the right to control what happens in your own body. If you can suspend that for a few months while a woman is pregnant, there is no viable, effective right.

Move this conversation over a bit and imagine if we were talking about the right to expression of opinion. Can you suspend that for a few months? Do you shut people up when a certain group of citizens don’t like what you’re saying or doing? Say you oppose a war and openly protest it. Can people who support it shut you up and ban you from public expression while it’s going on?

The opposition to abortion says it’s about the sanctity of human life but a fetus that isn’t viable isn’t a human life based on any science we know. That’s how our bodies work; viability is a progressive process. We are, like it or not, mammals and progressive viability is the life-creation process in all mammals. Religions, on the other hand, believe that human life starts with conception and that’s what’s being pushed here. I am not, mind you, saying that’s wrong; I’m saying it’s a religious belief. Well…what of people who don’t believe in God? Can religious people in the government shut you up because it’s so offensive to them?

This struggle over reproductive rights is not a woman’s issue — not alone anyway. It’s a human rights issue involving the very core of democracy’s machinery: people’s involvement in it. That’s what is missing in this conversation: the broad nature and impact of this decision. If the right to an abortion is taken away, so much else about our democratic rights becomes subject to question.

It doesn’t surprise me that this is happening while all kinds of repressive measures are being taken including the attack on the right of the majority to elect representation at all levels. While the “abortion debate” has been going on for decades, this current move by the right is part of a coordinated attack on all citizen democratic rights. Mind you, not everyone who is pushing this disaster is consciously joining in a coordinated attack; they may just be opposed to abortion and want to impose that perspective on everyone else. Believing that you’re doing God’s work is pretty powerful impetus.

But the right doesn’t need everyone to be conscious of the broader effort…just be part of it.

We on the Left can’t fall into this trap of minimizing this turn-back as affecting women alone. Women in this country and world-wide have fought hard to advance democracy in many ways, from full suffrage (a truly heroic fight on their part) to non-discriminatory education to protection against physical abuse –it’s all part of building a true democracy which, in essence, moves the struggle for a new and viable society forward. Reproductive rights is quite possible the most important contribution women have made to this democracy because it establishes that citizenship and all that includes can’t be suspended when some people want to do that.

What’s the strategy to repel that attack and reconstruct the rights women won over 50 years ago? Yeah…right…that’s what we need to figure out and implement quickly and with earth-shattering effect.

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