Break out thy bonnets, handmaids, and cast down thine eyes. Gilead is coming, and it cometh right soon.
On 15 November in the United States, the Ohio state legislature passed the so-called “heartbeat bill”. This criminalises abortions performed after a foetal heartbeat is detectable (which happens before most women are even aware they are pregnant).
It is currently with the Senate. Now the Ohio House of Representatives is considering another bill. This one could make abortion punishable by life imprisonment and even the death penalty. House Bill 565 makes no exceptions. No, not for rape. Not for incest. Not when there’s a danger to the mother’s life.
Whether the two cells capable of generating life have been brought together by accident, forcibly or unsustainably, the new bill counts them as an “unborn human” and their removal as murder and – uh – you can be murdered for it.
I am glad at last to know where we stand. Because if you want to kill a person who terminates a pregnancy then it seems to me that we at last have proof of the lie at the heart of anti-choice activism: the idea that it has anything at all to do with being pro-life.
This has always been readily inferable, of course. If anti-abortion campaigners really believed in the sanctity of human life, their list of priorities would read like this:
- End war
- End famine
- End poverty
- Pour money and time into scientific research that will vanquish all known diseases
- Oh, and climate change
- Sustainably redistribute global wealth and power across nations so that 1-3 don’t creep back
- Ditto across gender
- Prosecute anyone who is still having abortions as a hobby and not as some consequence of problems 1-through-7.
But it doesn’t. Nor, if we were to draw their circle of influence slightly more reasonably – do these people spend their time financially supporting the babies they claim to “save”.
You know, through generous benefits programmes, or housing provision or cheap and readily accessible health and childcare for the mothers, perhaps, or any other costly but effective way. They do not attempt to cut the problem off at source by lobbying for free contraception, or running educational or vocational courses to build vulnerable girls’ and women’s self-esteem and independence so that they are better able to choose when and with whom they have babies.
Nor do anti-choicers spend their days trying to instil in boys and men a sense of responsibility regarding the possibility of impregnation, the women they impregnate, or the children some walk away from. Instead, they just direct all their efforts towards forcing women to go through with pregnancies.
Which has always covertly told us what House Bill 565 makes explicit: this is not about the right to life or the sanctity of life at all. It is about controlling women’s bodies and punishing them for having sex.
Always has been, always will be. It’s about mindless sentimentalism for a clump of cells rather than genuine compassion for what constitutes a life. If it weren’t, they would be able to comprehend the suffering of an adult woman too and – at the very, very least – rebalance their approach, and long before they reach the stage of calling for her to be murdered by the state.
It’s about many things. But not about the child. Unblessed is this fruit.