They were just so clever about it, those crafty Republicans and their Evangelical pals. So good at the spin/branding stuff, those guys. When the crusaders for female reproductive rights labelled themselves “pro-choice”, it threatened to paint them all into an unpleasant and probably unpopular corner, and it must have given them fits for a while there. Pro-choice? Say, that sounds kind of reasonable, doesn’t it? Kind of decent, just, and humane, sort of like being pro-freedom. Plus, what did that make the GOP, then – anti-choice? Anti-freedom? Yikes, what sort of good Murrican apple pie-lovin’, gun-totin’ friend of the Second Amendment is against freedom? Something had to be done, and by God they came up with a real PR humdinger, one for the ages: henceforward, all and sundry were to know them as “pro-life”. See? They could be just as pro-something as the other side. They weren’t anti-abortion, or anti-choice, or anything of the sort. They were fiercely in favour of the wee babies’ right to live, that’s all. Why weren’t all of you? You wanted babies to die, was that it? You were – gasp – anti-life? Good Lord save us, surely it was a sign of the End of Days when shrill, over-educated feminists went so far as to promote child murder! Surely God’s judgement awaited.
Pro-life. That’s Hall of Fame, right there.
Through all these decades of America’s interminable Culture Wars, it’s been their ultimate wedge issue, their guaranteed rabble-rouser and vote-getter. You want the Base to get off its collective Judge Judy-watching ass for a couple of hours and vote? Make it about abortion. Rile ’em up. Give ’em the pre-packaged agit-prop, but good. Spin tales of gruesome vivisection and wailing infants put bloodily to death, and don’t let it be about any other damned thing at all, especially not anything that might really affect the lives of all of those poor saps in the idealogical crosshairs. You can run whichever pig-eyed corpulent sack of bigoted corruption you please, so long as he comes out against heinous child murder. To the Base, that’ll always be a politician’s defining trait, all other considerations be damned. Well, except race. You gotta throw race in there too, sure. But abortion, I’m tellin’ ya brother, it works every time.
And so it has, so far, anyway. Why would a bunch of purportedly God-fearing Evangelicals vote for a lying, thieving, adulterous serial sex offender like Donald Trump? The guy who said his favourite book of the Bible was “Two Corinthians”? The consort of Stormy Daniels? Because Presidents appoint Supreme Court Justices, that’s why. Trump’s appointees would strike down Roe v. Wade at the first opportunity. So vote Trump! Vote for Mitch in the Senate, too, and he’ll stack the federal judiciary with as many twenty-something right wing enemies of Roe as Trump and the Federalist Society can chuck at him. The war must be won. All other priorities secondary.
This political addiction to the anti-abortion effort has become so ingrained into the GOP rank and file that they’re practically born with it. It’s practically in their DNA. Just a couple of days ago, the New York Times published this piece, detailing how pro-life fervour is keeping the party faithful in Trump’s camp, even among the youngest members who could otherwise be relied upon to turn their backs on such a craven, self-serving carnival barker:
On most hot-button issues, it seems, the youth within the Republican Party skews almost as far left as young Democrats, on a whole range of matters from health care, to gun control, to climate change, and even LGBT rights. The young women are just about as put off by Donald’s outright misogyny as self-identified female liberals. Everybody under 30 hates his tweets, his erratic behaviour, his constant lies, and, once you boil it all down, what they obviously perceive as his manifest unfitness for office. They’d wash their hands of the monster except – except – he’s with them on reproductive rights. Abortion is more important. You get the feeling they really believe the Republican position is about saving the lives of unborn children, and putting a stop to what amounts to a holocaust now being perpetrated inside the wombs of woefully misguided American women. Life is sacred! Is it not? Who says different?
Yeah, well, bullshit.
Look, I’m about as attuned to the moral ambiguities of abortion as the next Y-chromosomed dummy, and if you want to know my own tortured thoughts on the issue you can read about them here:
If anything like the Republican narrative – which harps continually upon the grim spectre of screaming foetuses carried to just a couple of days short of nine months, before being ripped from the womb and cut to ribbons right there in the OR, even as they bawl their last – was even remotely factual, well, I’d have my qualms too. But it isn’t. It’s a lie, and the lying Evangelicals and assorted other string-pullers in the GOP don’t give a damn about the sacred lives of children, or anybody else’s life either, except for a certain class of white people.
This has long been obvious. It’s almost a cliché to point out that the totality of Republican policy aims to make life nasty, brutish, and short for vast swaths of the American population, once the little bastards are born. As soon as they’re out of the womb their sacred little lives can be blighted by poverty, malnutrition, poor medical care, and a severely strained education system – that’s just fine. They can try to live on a dwindling allotment of food stamps, at least until Mitch and his pals manage to do away with them altogether. No worries. They can suffer from toxins in their water, grow overweight on the miserable junk food that’s all they can find to eat, breathe toxic air, and come down with chronic ailments at a much greater rate than those predominantly white folk who live in the good parts of town.
Anyway, if they’re feeling the pinch they can join the Army. There’s always a war going on somewhere that needs new cannon fodder. Always some foreigners who need to have smart bombs and guided artillery dropped down around their terrorist ears. Failing that, they can wilt like unwatered plants, having grown up hopeless from an absence of opportunities within neighbourhoods wracked by crime. In due course they can land themselves in America’s burgeoning prison system, which they can then leave and re-enter, revolving door-style, for the rest of their truncated lives, often because they’ve been locked behind bars for months, awaiting trial on charges relating to this or that parole violation, just because they can’t afford bail. That’s no problem either. Once convicted of anything, they can be denied the right to vote, just to make sure that they and their kind don’t try to elect anybody who might try to set some of these gross injustices to rights. For the same reason, they can live in political districts that’ve had the living stuffing gerrymandered right out of them. Hell, if they cross the line, and the cops don’t shoot them first, they can damned-well be handed a death sentence, so that their sacred lives can conclude strapped to a gurney with tubes in their arms and a pitiless crew of witnesses looking on.
And if any of those brown people from south of the border try to sneak in, or worse, present themselves as refugees begging for mercy and a shot at a better life, well, we’ve seen what Donald and the GOP have in store for them. The boys at the border have just the sweltering, lethally overstuffed gulags the situation requires.
That’s how sacred lives are to the GOP. In Republican philosophy, respect for the sanctity of life begins at conception and ends at birth. Once they pop out, they can go hang for all anybody cares, and meanwhile it would be much more agreeable if they could please stop whining about their lot in life, and leave off agitating for a better deal. Losers.
If there was anybody who still didn’t see it my way as recently as a couple of months ago, perhaps Republican behaviour during the Covid-19 epidemic has pulled the scales from their eyes? Day after day, while Trump does nothing and Mitch calls the Senate back into session to – no kidding – appoint more judges, the GOP and their media mouthpieces are agitating for the shut-down to end, so people can get back to work. The economy is more important! Nobody’s making any money! If those quavering bozos on the line at the meat-packing plant don’t want to get back to their jobs, pass a law that says they have to, or face dismissal for cause. If old folks are dropping like flies in assisted care facilities, just as inmates are perishing like it’s still the Middle Ages within all those crowded prisons, well, they’re expendable. They’re unproductive. Certain losses are inevitable and tolerable – maybe even, well, desirable. They really say that. They say the silent part out loud.
So what’s it really about then, this antipathy towards women who’d prefer to make their own decisions on childbirth? It’s so obvious, it feels trite to spell it out, but here goes: this is about controlling women. Pure and simple. It’s not about any other thing at all. For some reason, a certain type of male remains atavistically terrified by female sexuality, and has somehow convinced the women in his life that there’s some sort of moral underpinning to his phobia. I don’t know why, but I’ll tell you this, like I’ve told you before: if they really wanted to prevent the termination of unwanted pregnancies, they’d put a Planned Parenthood on every corner, right next to the frigging Starbucks. Instead, they rail against birth control with almost the same zeal they bring to bear on abortion. Even as I write this there’s a case before the Supreme Court to determine whether religious employers can impose their beliefs on female employees, and deny them health care coverage for the costs of contraception. What do you suppose that’s about? The evils of pre-marital sex? Get real. Ever notice how it’s only female contraception that’s ever the issue? Ever see any of these yo-yos spewing bile about how easy it is for any Tom, Dick, or Harry to pop on over to the pharmacy and get himself a nice big box of condoms?
Listen, men have always been terrified of women, and particularly of granting any women even the smallest leeway when it comes to sex. That much is stupefyingly obvious from the rules and moral strictures adopted within every partriarchal society that’s ever been, and most of the religions they’ve fostered. You think I over-simplify? You think I’m wrong? That it can’t be that base and vulgar?
Yes it can. It sure as hell isn’t about the sanctity of life. They can drop those mendacious pieties right now, if I get my way.
Though of course, they needn’t worry. I never get my way.