Friday, February 24, 2006


As many of us feared, so it has come to pass. The South Dakota state legislature has approved their abortion ban. (Article here.) It includes no provision for a mother's health and wellbeing. It not only does not permit exception in the case of rape or incest, but provides parental rights - actual equal rights to the child - to the rapist who wants them.

If that isn't proof that the Radical Right hates women and thinks that we are subhuman, I'm not sure what is.

A little under two years ago, I stood on the Mall in Washington, DC with over a million fellow supporters of every woman's right to determine the outcome of her own pregnancy for herself. I had so much hope back then. The election had yet to take place. I could not in my right mind envision another four years of the Bush regime. I can't fully understand how this has happened, but it has.

So, what happens now?

Planned Parenthood of South Dakota has promised a legal challenge. But I am concerned that they may be stranded out there alone while the right exploits our lack of resources and organization.

I can't help asking myself - what would the right do?

The first thing that they would do is rally around together. So what if they don't all wholeheartedly agree? They understand the value of presenting a united front, and they understand the power of the quid pro quo. Are there back room deals to be made with liberal organizations that aren't explicitly pro-choice? (And if not, why the hell not?)

The next thing they would do is make up a catchy epithet that we can repeat over and over when we talk about this bill. I propose calling it the Forced Pregnancy bill.

And then, they would trot out all of their heavy hitters. They would use the nutjobs for the controversial stuff - say, the Michael Moores of their world - because they know that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and we can always apologize for him or her later. Then they would trot out the elders, members of Presidential adminstrations past and present, to discuss in reasonable ways how appalling it is that in 2006, the South Dakota legislature can't even seem to agree that women are human, so it may be difficult to take their definitions of human life at all seriously. Can any one of the 50 house members who voted for the bill honestly stand up and say that if they were raped, that if their sisters, daughters, wives, friends, or neighbors were raped, that they would be comfortable with having that person who assaulted them or their loved ones in their lives as the father of a child?

And by the way, are they withdrawing their National Guard troops from Iraq anytime soon? If not, how can they profess to care about life? (A famous right-wing tactic, the bait and switch!)

If they are smart, they would even get some religious figures to chime in. For example, even some of the most strict forms of Judaism not only permit, but require that an abortion be performed to save a mother's life and health. How can we expect Jews in South Dakota to be subject to a law that infringes on their religious freedom?

Perhaps they would even organize a boycott of South Dakota products, citing human rights concerns.

There is a pro-choice majority in this country. It is about time leaders on the left started acting like it. You never catch the right arguing that a fetus is a human life. Why not? Because they know it for sure. They know that they can't be attacked on that basis, so they take it completely for granted.

Every time abortion is attacked, we waste valuable resources trying to prove to people that women deserve the right to make our own medical decisions. And we lose, even though most of the people in the country agree with that women should have the right to choose. Until we on the left internalize that and own it, the right will continue to win, because their game makes for better television. I would love to see us play the game their way, for a change. I would love to see if maybe, just maybe, it would give the right to choose a fighting chance.


Anonymous vevedation said...

Unbelievable. Land of the free my ass.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Sofiya said...

This was an excellent post, Hybrid. But I feel a bit differently on two of the points you made. I wouldn't exactly say the RR hates women and thinks they're subhuman. I just think they're wrong. Horribly, patenalistically, abusively, possibly criminally wrong. I'm sure there are people among them that *do* hate women, but some of them genuinely feel that this sort of abortion ban is *good* for women. I do accept their grief for aborted fetuses. I think it's misplaced (because there are a bunch more deserving things to grieve about in this world), but it's real, and a lot of the time, not disingenuous in the slightest.

I also wouldn't dispute that a fetus is a human life. (I'm not sure if that's what you were saying - feel free to smack me down if I interpreted what you said incorrectly!) I mean, it's clearly not dead, and it's clearly not a puppy. But what the RR ignores is the fact that the fetus is a woman's property. It's in her body, it depends on her body for survival, it lives off her body, therefore, it's hers. I'd like to see our side focusing more on that side of things.

I was very interested in your comment about Judaism and abortion. I wasn't aware of this, and it certainly puts an entirely different perspective on the situation. I haven't heard much about anti-semitism in the RR recently, but I hope this becomes a central issue in the dispute. This is a terrible time for our sisters in South Dakota. It's awful to be sitting here on the other side of the world, totally outraged, but unable to do a single damn thing about it.

3:31 PM  
Blogger skylanda said...

Hybrid, great post. I think you hinted around at something that's been bothering me for a long time about the pro-choice movement: we are always on the defensive. The far right minority says jump, and we jump. The far right says we're going to have a law, and we scramble to react. We're rarely on the offensive, we're just putting out little and big fires here and there. I think it's time we go on the offensive - time to introduce reproductive rights laws into state legislatures, time to push hard for EC to go over the counter. I know that takes money and organization and all that, but we've got the majority, it just takes mobilization like you outlined.

2:29 AM  
Blogger frog said...

vev, I couldn't have said it better myself.

hybrid, great post.

4:12 AM  
Blogger bleustockingconspiracy said...

Skylanda, I agree, but have you taken a look at state legislatures lately? Women, especially pro-choice women, are patheticically under-represented. And the commitment to women's rights from male legislators is laughably weak; the right to choose is the first concession they'll make.

What do you all think we need to do to enact S's suggestion? I have ideas, but I don't want to monopolize the conversation on this.

10:04 AM  
Blogger thistle said...

Sadly, I have few ideas. My ideas at the moment are more along the lines of "let's all start saving our money to fund women's travel to other states when abortion becomes illegal in South Dakota and Mississippi and many other states." Or, "let's all start learning how to perform abortions at home, so that when they make abortion illegal, it can at least still be somewhat safe." Etc. In other words, I've kind of given up.

I will say, though, that part of what keeps us on the defensive is our reliance on constitutional law to protect us. I think we need to accept that while in principle this issue shouldn't even be on the political table because it's a denial of a woman's fundamental right to deny her the choice to have an abortion, in practice Roe is not a protection and the issue is *fully* on the political table. Which means that we have to contest it politically, not just in the courts. Which is what I like about hybrid's post, that it does that :)

11:31 AM  
Blogger Sass said...

Fantastic post, hybrid.

12:29 PM  
Blogger bleustockingconspiracy said...

Jane, jane jane...

3:33 PM  
Blogger skylanda said...

Bleu, I think you're right that we're not in a good position now in regards to state legislatures and such. That's what I like about Hybrid's post - using tactics that have worked for the right wing against them. I mean, works for them, right? When should we stop playing nice and start playing for keeps?

3:35 PM  
Blogger skylanda said...

No, not now, FIVE MINUTES AGO! ;)

3:40 PM  
Blogger bleustockingconspiracy said...

NOW! :)

3:40 PM  
Blogger skylanda said...

Wow, look at me, I have mastered the art of going back in time and posting responses to bleu before she even posts her own thoughts! ;)

3:41 PM  
Blogger 4 said...

I think you can't get anywhere unless you take your position to the extreme. That, in my opinion, is why you are having such trouble.

4:23 PM  
Blogger hybrid said...

Lots to respond to here!

Sofiya, in general, I think that the RR is just plain wrong as well, and I don't actually disagree with you on that. I think it is hard for me to see how the people who wrote this bill, though, have anything but hatred for women. It was the rapist part that really got me there.

WRT to whether fetus=life, I was actually trying to make the point that we have internalized the idea that arguing about that goes nowhere productive. While I don't disagree with that, it does give the right an advantage, because they end up not having to answer the question about when life begins. In other words, it is accepted as true by everyone on both sides of the issue in a way that I wish that our right to bodily integrity were also true, if that makes sense. (If it doesn't, let me know!)

Skylanda, I think you really articulated the question that I was trying to get at - "When should we stop playing nice and start playing for keeps?" That's it exactly.

Thistle, Bleustocking, I completely agree that we can't rely on Roe, and that we need other plans, and we need them yesterday. I really hope that I would have the courage to participate in a Jane type of organization. Another thing that I've been thinking about is the floating clinic idea - it would only serve the coastal states, unfortunately, but it might be another place to start.

4:44 PM  

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