vol. 1 issue 6
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Now, let’s docu-mental some news.
The GOP’s lattice of hateful language aimed at women could signal the party’s demise
It’s hard not to notice that Republican men are the only ones introducing legislation aimed at diminishing Roe v. Wade. Although some female legislators endorse these proposals, at this moment, I can turn up no names of women who are introducing such bills, at least for now. We’ll come back to that in a moment.
What interests me most about the current anti-abortion furor is not who is right or wrong, but the scary language male legislators are using to frighten the female citizenry in this country into submission, which is a dangerous thing for leaders of any democracy to do.
Women are not leading with their fists
This week, Nevada’s newly elected women-majority legislature expanded access to abortion. They did so, in part, by lifting requirements that physicians tell women about the potential “emotional and physical” consequences of abortion. Here’s the bill, which was far from bipartisan, but which Nevada’s Democratic governor is expected to sign into law.
This emphasis on language has focused my attention on the words used in the swelling number of state legislative attempts to tear down the federal law permitting abortion, and how it might backfire on the GOP.
My conclusion on the evidence is that the language used to either describe or enact these all male-written bills is punitive and founded upon facile arguments clung to – mostly by men, but not entirely – who want a vehicle to control, judge and punish women while using God for cover of their own twisted notions.
Earlier this month, Alabama’s female Republican governor, Kay Ivey, signed this bill into law. In so doing, Ivey broke with the state’s four female legislators who opposed the bill, but sided with the 35 male legislators, 27 of them Republican, who committed publicly that they were in favor of insisting a woman be made to carry a child including in cases of rape or incest. The only time abortion might be considered, according to the bill, is if the woman’s life is in danger.
Here’s what Ivey said in statement after she penned the law into existence:
“To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.”
This is hogwash, and I am at a loss to explain how a woman would not see that such language glorifies rape and incest by indirectly attributing their occurrence as an act of God when it results in a child, unless she does see that and doesn’t care.
Either way, it’s creepy, not to mention a questionable violation of separating the powers of church and state.
These two things cannot both be true
Then there’s the cognitive dissonance of trying to make two things true that can’t be true at the same time: every life is sacred, but not all the time.
That’s because the bill also has language stating that abortions are permitted if it means saving the woman’s life.
Why is it okay to save a woman’s life if she’s in physical danger, but not psychological danger? And, if they bother to do it at all, how will Alabamians write the language for physicians to communicate the law to patients?
Such language would have to reflect one of two things, the first being that the law stipulates that even though it might be psychologically traumatizing, tough luck for you, lady; the other being that if bearing the child is life threatening for the woman, then she can have permission for a reprieve? “You got here first, ma’am, so it’s tough luck for the little guy.”
And if the woman should ask, “Says who?” I guess the physician is supposed to say, “God does.”
Language matters acutely here because it’s being used in specious ways by people who claim to know, conclusively, the mind of God, which is convenient because no science will ever prove them wrong, and are attempting to use this pseudo-knowledge to control and possibly warp the lives of others.
As soon as they are faced with the fact that a woman might actually die, as in physically die, then however that baby got in there — rape or conjugal sex — well, then, okay, her life is more precious.
This facile reasoning erodes the idea of being “pro-life”, because it’s qualifying life in some cases, which means there is not an absolute “pro” stance to begin with.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s lawmakers are playing “choose your own adventures in language” with their LIFE (Living Infants Fairness and Equality) law that refers to a fetus in utero as an “infant” which is not what the word means. It gives these non-infant infants full Constitutional rights. But not all ersatz infants. Again, if the woman is at risk, then it’s “See ya!” to those Constitutional rights for the little future voter.
Being God’s interlocutor is a twisted business, as you can see, but leave it to Texas to shoot straight on this one. No fuzzy logic, no fuzzy language in their bill. Rather than worry about the threat to a woman’s life, a proposed law there just advocates killing a woman outright: She gets an abortion, she goes to the electric chair.
At least the Republican state legislator who wrote the bill, Rep. Tony Tinderholt, is honest about his eye-for-an-eye approach to killing when he says his bill is meant as a punishment for loose women anyway.
Tinderholt’s perfect score on candor collapses when he tips his hand that he really does only mean to punish women, and don’t you forget it:
“Consenting adults don’t always think smartly sometimes. But consenting adults need to also consider the repercussions of the sexual relationship that they’re gonna have, which is a child,” he told the Texas Observer.
Diagramming these two poorly constructed sentences would make my smartly head explode, but aside from the fact that not all consensual sex results in a child, it’s also specious for him to suggest that two “consenting adults” should be held accountable for a decision only one of them will either literally bear the burden of or die for refusing to, because, does his bill state anywhere that the men who made the women pregnant have to be executed, too?
Uh, no. No mention of them.
And he adds that he’s a “firm believer that God creates children in his own image, regardless of how that child is brought into the world, it’s created in his image, and how can someone want to destroy that?”
I take it he’s implying that God is okay with destroying women who get in the way of that vision. Either way, the statement puts Tinderholt in alignment with Ivey, celebrating rape and incest as glorious acts of God. It’s that kind of thinking that made slavery okay. Made the Indian Wars okay. Made Nazism okay. Makes cruelty to animals okay.
God gets chatty on the issue
Florida’s Republican Rep. Mike Hill, is covering every base: he’s a man on a mission from God to elevate the voice of women against women, citing Ivey as an inspiration. Hill recently said that in a direct conversation, the Almighty rebuked him for crafting a wimpy anti-abortion bill, anddirected him to add language that bans all abortions, including in the case of young women who are victims of sex trafficking.
And there are plenty of women who, like Ivey, are just fine and dandy with that: Hill’s comments came while speaking to a room full of them assembled in Pensacola’s City Hall, all members of the group, Women for Responsible Legislation, who reportedly cheered when he shared his tete-a-tete with his maker.
In fact, further comments Hill made lead me to believe there’s a good chance we will start seeing more women in front of these kinds of legislative maneuvers.
Hill recounted behind the scenes pushback (from an unnamed human, presumably) on his bill from fellow legislators who agreed in principal, but not with it being sponsored by him.
“They said, ‘Well it seems to be accepted more, particularly during debate, when a woman is presenting it,'" Hill told the crowd. "I said, wait a minute, a hundred percent of all pregnancies are caused by a man, so why can't a man be involved in this? And that child that is there, 50% chance it's going to be a man. Why can't a man present this? That doesn't hold any water with me at all."
I suppose I could be pursuaded this statement is not entirely stupid and self-referencing if Hill’s revised bill inclues punitive language aimed at his hypothetical man so he gets to share 50% of the death penalty or whatever God tells him the woman is supposed to get. In any case, Hill is still out of step with the majority of his state’s voters, 56% of whom favor legal access to abortion, according to a the Pew Forum.
What gets lost in all this God slinging is that we don’t know what God wants, or if he, she, or it has an opinion at all. Some rightly point out that we don’t know if God exists and if so, the nature of that being, which is why our Constitution steers clear of consulting with he/she/it.
However sincere one’s beliefs — which I do respect when they are sincere and not a vehicle for control over people who upset you — it’s always speculation. If Constitutional law is going to be made, it needs to be attributable to facts and precedent, not slyly worded intentions attributed to God, when it’s really about men controlling and punishing women.
The bullies in the pulpit
The Washington Post reported that, “Those who backed the new law said they don’t expect it to take effect, instead intending its passage to be part of a broader strategy by antiabortion activists to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide.”
This chills me as much as the idea that a woman should be electrocuted for not wanting to carry her rapist’s child.
What’s really happening between the words here is a power grab laced with anger at being forced into accepting irrelevancy. The views of these male legislators are not at all what the wider population wants. They know it, and they don’t care. If they did, the language would be less blood thirsty, and the debates less infantile, pardon the pun. It would be more respectful and compassionate.
Instead, the GOP men’s language is deliberately bullying.
If leadership of any democracy is willing to enforce policies that don’t merely inconvenience a significant segment of their population for the sake of expediency, but actually terrorizes that part of the population into submission, and then makes plain that is what they are doing, then what these so-called leaders are really doing is one of two things: signaling they plan on setting up an autocracy, or are burning down as much of the castle and grabbing as many goodies as possible before they are kicked out.
The more they burn it all down, the more they incite people to come for them, as evidenced in the last elections which ushered in more diversity than ever before at the federal level, and in many state legislatures as well.
Claiming to speak on behalf of God might make many of the men in the GOP martyrs for their cause, but I think it spells the end of the party as we know it.
Choice words: women tell it like it is on abortion
Meanwhile, there is an abortion anthology in the works. Choice Words: Writers on Abortion is the brain child of feminist poet, Annie Finch. The Washington, DC-based Finch has spent twenty years collecting the writings of women on the subject after she realized that one of the most significant choices a woman might have to make had no body of ollected literature that might offer such a woman support, solace, or any language at all beyond bureaucratise to address the psychological or physical burdens inherent in either side of the choice .
Whatever your views on abortion, I suggest we not let languge hide sloppy logic. I will be curious to see how women writers like Amy Tan, Lucile Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, Audre Lorde, and Gloria Steinem, among many others, offer their words to frame a debate that should be taken neither lightly, nor illogically.
Chew on this…
Editor and author Tina Brown recently posited in a New York Times editorial what happens when women lead like women instead of like men.
Okay, let’s lighten up around here.
Happy Memorial Day! I will see you back here the first week of June!