In an op-ed entitled What ‘My Body, My Choice’ Means to the Right, Michelle Goldberg puts the issue (based in the Christian jihad against abortion, no matter how unbearable the circumstances of the pregnancy, or how terrible the consequences for the mother are) into stark perspective.
I read Michelle Goldberg’s piece before yesterday’s theatrical down at the Supreme Court. There is much to say about that, and time to write about it soon. For now, her piece beautifully sets up the grotesqueness of the “my body, my choice” troll picked up recently by the nation now called Trumpists.
It also sets up a discussion of this cynically installed, unappealable, lifetime right-wing fraternity chosen for their cult-like willingness, in the case of abortion, to absurdly pretend that conservative Christian religious belief is the only real constitutional consideration at play — the question of the immortal Christian soul of that poor fetus, even when it is little more than a collection of cells, potential life, and no matter what the mother will have to suffer to protect this potential life.
Remember, this religious-based argument about preventing the mass-murder of innocent embryos and fetuses (condemned to eternity in purgatory after their killing, the faithful believe) was the galvanizing issue chosen, among many field tested and focus-grouped issues, as the single cause to unite the millions of religious Evangelical Christians with religious Catholics and the rest of the “moral majority”, that solid 39% percent of largely rural Americans who seem to faithfully believe whatever their leaders tell them to believe. It used to be abhorrence of homosexuals that drove this demographic to the polls, that was the difference maker in the 2004 reelection of Liz Cheney’s dad, and it’s still an issue to a lot of them, but this abortion one is the winner, by a mile, has been a standby and rallying cry for decades.
Here’s Michele Goldberg:
Here’s a bit of evidence that we live in a simulation controlled by someone with a perverse sense of humor: At the very moment that Roe v. Wade could be overturned, the American right has become obsessed with bodily autonomy and has adopted the slogan “My body, my choice” about Covid vaccines and mask mandates.
Feminists have always known that if men — or at any rate cis men — could get pregnant, abortion would be a nonissue. The furious conservative reaction to Covid mitigation measures demonstrates this more than any hypothetical ever could. Many on the right, we can now see, believe it’s tyranny to be told to put something they don’t want on or in their bodies in order to save lives.
There is, to be fair, at least one prominent illiberal conservative, Harvard’s Adrian Vermeule, who has defended vaccine mandates, writing, “Even our physical liberties are rightly ordered to the common good of the community when necessary.” More typical on the right, however, is a paranoid sense that the vaccines are tied up with occult forces of social control.
In “Why I Didn’t Get the Covid Vaccine,” an essay in the Catholic anti-abortion journal First Things, the theologian Peter Leithart quotes a book called “The Great Covid Panic”: “A very effective way to dominate people is to convince them they are sinful unless they obey.” He invokes totalitarian “biopolitical regimes” that seek to exercise power over the body: “Once upon a time, the ruler bore a sword; now, a syringe,” he writes.
Of course, many American women will soon be faced with an infinitely more invasive form of biopolitical control, courtesy of First Things’ allies. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case dealing with Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks. It’s possible that the justices could gut Roe without overturning it outright, but after they let Texas’ abortion bounty law stand, at least for the time being, I’m expecting the worst. If Roe is tossed out, most abortions will instantly become illegal in at least 12 states, and they will be severely restricted in others.
We are seeing a preview of what this world will look like in Texas, whose six-week abortion ban remains in effect. There are no exceptions for rape and incest. Women with wanted pregnancies that go tragically wrong have to either cross state lines for treatment or wait until their lives are in immediate danger. “Many doctors say they are unable to discuss the procedure as an option until the patient’s condition deteriorates and her life is at risk,” The New York Times reports.It’s striking, the gap between the bodily impositions people on the right will accept in their own lives and those they would impose on others. When it comes to themselves, many conservatives find any encroachment on their physical sovereignty intolerable, and arguments about the common good irrelevant. Yet their movement is dragging us into a future where many women will be stripped of self-determination the moment they get pregnant. Choices, it seems, aren’t for everybody.
As the feminist Ellen Willis once put it, the central question in the abortion debate is not whether a fetus is a person, but whether a woman is. People, in our society, generally do not have their bodies appropriated by the state. It’s unimaginable that they would be forced to, say, donate blood. As we’ve seen, even mask and vaccine requirements elicit mass umbrage. Americans tend to believe that their bodies are inviolate.
“You can’t make a case against abortion by applying a general principle about everybody’s human rights; you have to show exactly the opposite — that the relationship between fetus and pregnant woman is an exception, one that justifies depriving women of their right to bodily integrity,” Willis wrote in 1985. To ban abortion is to say that pregnant women are not entitled to the authority over their physical selves that other adults expect and demand.
Mississippi’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch, who will defend her state’s ban before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, has also filed three lawsuits against President Biden’s vaccine mandates. On Nov. 12, a federal appeals court stayed one of them, the mandate dealing with companies that have over 100 employees. Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt, a Trump appointee, wrote that the public interest is “served by maintaining our constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals to make intensely personal decisions according to their own convictions — even, or perhaps particularly, when those decisions frustrate government officials.”
Engelhardt, a former member of Louisiana Layers for Life, obviously doesn’t believe that all individuals should have the liberty to make “intensely personal decisions according to their own convictions.” But that doesn’t mean he’s a hypocrite. He simply appears to believe, as much of the modern right does, that there are some people who should be subject to total physical coercion, and some who should be subject to none at all.
What kind of monster can possibly be against innocent life?