How anti-abortion activists across the country are once again endangering the lives of women everywhere

As best I recall, sex education of any sort was not part of the public school curriculum for either pre-pubescent or fully-pubescent hormonal turbo-charged kids/adolescents in the Columbia, South Carolina of the 1950’s and early 1960’s.

My guess is that most kids and teenagers in my little orbit got what sex education they got via sermons provided by their preachers, lectures provided by their parents, pamphlets provided by the family doctor, stories and tales about the previous Saturday night (in the back row of the Starlite Drive-In), provided with the appropriate embellishment by friends and, well, by hands-on experience.

Some of us were fortunate enough (or unfortunate) to receive bits and pieces of what passed for sex education from all of these sources. Though, because my mother reads these columns, I’m not copping to the “hands-on-experience” source. I would have never been caught on the back row of the Starlite Drive-In on a Saturday night. And, I wasn’t. Caught.

Of the various sources/experiences by which I was thusly educated, the second most memorable was “The Talk” given to my brothers and I by our mother when I was 14 and they were 12 and 9 respectively. Developmental issues were obviously of no concern to her.

“The Talk” was made memorable not by its content, which basically consisted of (1) giving each of us a booklet, with pictures (of what, we did not know) provided by the family pediatrician, (2) ordering us to read it, (3) making available to us her wealth of knowledge should we have any questions about either the text or the pictures and, (4) assuming that biology would be stronger than willpower, offering a reminder that “there are ‘things’ you can use to protect yourselves.” (My middle-brother and I suspected that those “things” were what we had found in a box in the top drawer of my dad’s chest-of-drawers, but we still lacked clarity about what one did with them, from what they protected one and how they protected one from whatever they protected one.)

No, “The Talk” was made memorable by the event which occasioned it; i.e., the whispered announcement that one of our cousins, two years older than me, had “become” pregnant. Clearly, someone (or, both) had forgotten about the “‘things’ you can use to protect yourselves.”

Though my mother’s 15-minutes-from-hell intervention served as both the beginning and end of any formal sex education to which my brothers or I were privy (I don’t think anyone ever asked her questions about the little book’s text or pictures) it was not the end of the story relative to the “event” which occasioned it, i.e., my cousin’s pregnancy.

Being obliviously 14, I immediately forgot about my cousin’s dilemma in favor of beginning my own personal odyssey toward the mysterious experience in which I was expected by my mother to engage but from whose potential harm I could somehow be protected by what heretofore had served either as a workable water balloon or something that, when I pulled it out of my wallet, drew oohs-and-aahs from my buddies at school.

However, the issue of her dilemma was brought to consciousness again when, six years later and a college student, I was asked by my cousin – yes, that cousin! – to be an usher at her upcoming nuptials.

In the days immediately preceding her Big Day, it occurred to me that I was ignorant about the resolution of my cousin’s dilemma. My mother, on the day of “The Talk,” had seemed clear that she was “with child.” So, why had I not ever seen that child? Had the doctor misdiagnosed her pregnancy? Did she have a miscarriage? Did she give the child up for adoption? Where was that child?

I asked my Dad, figuring that, because it was a matter involving my mother’s family and not his, he would be more open about what seemed to have become a closely-kept family secret. He hesitated for a moment, probably deciding whether to answer my question and, if so, how. And then, eyes averted, he carefully said, “It is always good, I suppose, to have a friendly family doctor.”

That’s all he said. But it was 1972, I was slowly but surely becoming more aware of a world much larger, much more demanding and much more complex than my own, the country was lurching toward Roe v. Wade, and my dad’s brief, almost off-hand response not only introduced me to abortion in a personal way but became a touchstone to which I would – and, still do – return time and again as a first principle in my ever-evolving thoughts about the competing, complex, nuanced and contextual moral/ethical issues raised by the voluntary termination of a pregnancy.

Anyone who considers abortion to be a single issue as opposed to being a constellation of entangled, interrelated issues has clearly not given it much consideration. Anyone who considers the debate about this constellation of issues to have clearly-defined “sides” has, again, clearly not given it much consideration. It is less like a dime, having two sides, than a diamond, having innumerable facets.

But settled law has given a measure of certainty and clarity to one issue in the conversation per abortion and/or abortion rights: As provided in Roe v. Wade, a woman, within specified limits, may right-fully and legally choose to terminate a pregnancy.

As any of us knows, however, the passage of Roe did not represent a demarcation line between (1) a time when abortions did not occur because they were illegal and (2) a time when abortions did occur because they were legal. Abortions prior to Roe, though illegal, were relatively common—a fact, both then and now, almost universally known and, more often than not, winked-at or ignored.

In practice, though, the passage of Roe did represent a demarcation line between (1) a time when great disparities existed between the quality of care enjoyed by women of means who were terminating pregnancies and the quality of care – if any – available to women of little means who were terminating pregnancies and (2) a time when the quality of care for women having abortion procedures became, to a relatively significant extent, more equal.

Which is why my father’s comment became a touchstone for me. Prior to Roe, “women of means” could always find a “friendly family doctor” to “take care of our little problem.”

“Women without means,” however, were left to “take care of our little problem” in filthy, one-room, back-alley haunts open only in the deepest dark of night – in the U.S. or in Mexico – and often run by women who served as midwives during the day. Or, they might have had access to one of the hundreds of disgustingly bogus “clinics” like that of the now imprisoned Kermit Gosnell.

Those who couldn’t afford or didn’t even have access to abortion mills were left to their own devices, which generally consisted of “home remedies”; i.e., herbal “potions” or a series of body-blows to the abdomen or coat-hanger D&C’s – you get the point.

Women without means sometimes disappeared following their trips to the back-alley clinics, never to be seen again. Others died from the “potions”; i.e., they died from the poisonous effects. Still others made it home or initially survived the “home remedies” only to fall victim to brutal infections, sepsis and anatomical disfiguring which, if not fatal, as oft as not left them unable to conceive and/or bear a future child.

Post-Roe, “women without means” were able to avail themselves of a variety of credible medical means and facilities heretofore unavailable to them. No longer was “a friendly family doctor” required and no longer was a woman forced to put her life at risk in order to terminate a pregnancy.

Until, of course, anti-abortion activists and conservative state officials began passing laws that, in states such as Idaho, Iowa, Utah, Louisiana, Kansas, Virginia, Mississippi, Indiana, Ohio, South Dakota and Texas, have made or threaten to make access to credible medical means/facilities for abortion procedures almost as difficult to attain as in the dark days prior to Roe.

Their typical argument, offered with a wink, is that they are acting “in the best interests of women’s safety and health.” The fact of the matter is that, as data both statistical and anecdotal indicates, they are openly minimizing access to the freedom offered by settled law – Roe v. Wade – and, in the process, driving “women without means” back to the Kermit Gosnell-like clinics, the back-alley storefronts and the “home remedies.”

At the same time, they have elevated the “friendly family doctor” back to his/her former status so that “women of means” do not have to go “out of their way” to access that for which their poorer sisters risk life and limb.

As seems to be their wont, radical conservatives are working to resurrect yet one more element of the darker side of our past such that it once again becomes our present. And, worse, our future.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Please understand my decision to play Devil’s Advocate as a sign of trust and respect for the Quiet Collective. I feel confidant no matter how provocative my rhetoric you aren’t going to grab your Second Amendment and stand your ground multiple times in my center of mass. Unlike the writers and the readers of Brietbart.com all of whom are terrifying to me.
    As a real life mentally ill, high school drop out surviving on Disability I feel compelled to explain how your opinions are wrong and how we stupid crazy people don’t think.
    “Though I seriously don’t want to engage a debate per the term Judeo-Christian.” Is exactly the moral cowardice that finally drove me to abandon Christianity. Time after time for decades I’ve been dismissed and ignored as not smart enough to understand all the shades of grey intellectual theologians have invented. I very thoughtfully considered all shades of gray before dismissing them categorically as obfuscating smoke screens.
    I’ll describe my paradigm shift as best I can with my admittedly feeble intelligence, hopefully you can condescendingly refute my comprehension. The time was a little more than a decade ago, the scene is a normal church of a very popular main stream denomination in Owosso ,Mi. After the service I sought out the Pastor for some conversation. I had respected him as a decent man and a worthy Shepherd for years until this day.
    “That was the most unchristian sermon I’ve ever heard.” I said ” You spoke entirely from the old testament today, I’m horrified to hear you say Katrina was God’s righteous wrath against evil and sin. You didn’t mention Jesus once, isn’t being a Christian all about following the path He described in the new testament? ” After a short thoughtless pause he replied ” My son, you need to understand the people of New Orleans aren’t like you and your AA friends. They drink,drug and fornicate with wild willful intent. It’s not your place to question God’s will, be grateful you turned towards salvation and avoided Divine retribution. ”
    I was suddenly aware of a vast comprehensional gulf separating us. I didn’t try explaining how I was in fact exactly THAT kind of sinner 7 years ago. I never told him I have always been attracted to the New and repelled by the Old. I didn’t try explaining my realisation that I had been on a fool’s quest my whole life, searching for a non existent “pure Christian Church” . In America there is only the Judeo-Christian faith I now recognize as Leviticanism. At that moment of clarity I accepted the obvious, I’m not smart enough to understand the Bible. My simple mind generated a simple comprehension, God started out with the chosen people and the old teachings. Judaism. Scattered throughout these old teachings were prophecies of his plan to manifest temporarily in human guise to establish a New religion for the Gentiles. Sure enough that’s what seems to have happened.. Not intending to change a word of the Old laws thereby invalidating Judaism, instead bringing Good New(s) New Words that non Jews could follow instead of becoming Jews.
    Too stupid to understand Judeo-Christian Leviticanism I gave up on religion.
    After 25 years as a twelve stepper having barely survived opiate addiction , we desperately wish Christianity offered a unifying,calming socially relevant morally coherent alternative to the self destructive and anti social escapism of opiates. Perhaps your unaware of how dire the situation is. I’ll meet between 15 and 20 people this week , 3 out of 4 will overdose or be incarcerated in the following 90 days.
    Rather than beat an already dead horse I’m going to give some logical reasons why I disagree with your support of Clinton incrementally reducing the existential threat of the status quo. Being a Flint native means the GOP is trying to kill me, emotional knowledge , some truths ought be self evident.
    If we face a Trump vs Clinton election this fall Greedy Oligarchic Plutocrats like Koch Bros. David Brooks and Jeb! will secretly vote for Hillary and publicly continue to obstruct and distort exactly as they already behave.
    In the event of Trump vs. Sanders election Establishment Greedy Oligarchic Plutocrats have No acceptable candidates to vote for.
    Please Mr. Inman think of your choices in novel ways.
    I’m just one of millions, we greedy unlovable 47% are desperate for free stuff like life liberty and the pursuit of happiness

  2. The NYTimes has a revealing editorial in today’s edition (March 28). It deals with the issue of red states attempting to cut all state funding for Planned Parenthood. By-and-large, these efforts have been ruled unconstitutional. But, should a Republican win the White House in November and thus make the next Supreme Court nominee another Scalia-like ideologue (or, just another Republican ideologue like Roberts, Alito, Thomas), those cuts will, by the time the High Court deals with them, suddenly become acceptable under the law. If you’re interested:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/28/opinion/the-state-assault-on-planned-parenthood.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

    • I will have to make up a new description for our form of government – Now, IMO, we have become a “Corptocracy.” How to combine theocracy with corptocracy will become a challenge.

  3. Good article Rusty, somewhat incomplete though as you don’t address motives for this regression from Enlightenment. All of the justifications for the anti abortion movement are religious. Historically and currently the Great American Schism is between Leveticans and everyone else. The myth of Judeo-Christian religion is kept alive because the old testament can be used to justify the moral evils of racism,misogyny, homophobia, unrestricted greed and warfare. None of these morally evil activities can be easily justified by the new testament.
    The old testament is a collection of heavily edited excerpts from the Torah that only apply to Jews. The new testament is the establishment of a new separate religion for non Jews.
    Do we have a British- American government , there is no Magna Carta-Constitution.
    Christians morally opposed slavery because of the new testament.
    Leviticanism justified slavery by old testament logic.
    Manifest Destiny is the deliberately evil, nearly successful genocide of 20 million humans entirely justified by Leveticans.
    The simple truth in your article is about Christians choosing between the greedy and the needy.
    Today Leveticans use religion as methamphetamine for the masses, inciting fear, anger and self righteous judgementally.
    I gave up on trying to find a Christian Church after decades and became a humanist because Christians preferred the company of greedy Leviticans over the needy uneducated, homeless alcoholics I brought to church with me.

      • Though I seriously don’t want to engage a debate per the term “Judeo-Christian,” it is at least noteworthy that the term has evolved into being as much a sociological or even anthropological description as religious description. Those are right important distinctions.

        Is it “made up?” Of course. But that does nothing to lessen its validity as a categorizing tool relative to the foundations of a society’s/culture’s core value system (whether it exists in the same form today as it did in the beginning of said society/culture or not); i.e., you’ve got to call it something and, quite frankly, I can’t think of a better term. I know plenty of folks who think the “Judeo-Christian ethic” is bullshit. That’s fair. But the term itself is not bullshit. As a categorizing tool, it’s probably as good as we could do in describing a relevant reality.

        As to the cite you use from Daily Kos, let me suggest you find one in which the writer is at least somewhat at home with his/her material. Example: The writer equates “The Torah” with the Old Testament as a whole. Sorry, but “The Torah” references only what are traditionally known as “The Books of Moses” or, as a salute to the NCAA tournament currently underway, “The Starting Five.”

        • Black is not white – Jews are not Christians – Combine black and white, you get grey. Judeo-Christian is not another word for grey. Each has its own identifiable hallmarks, traditions and beliefs.

          “To insist that we (Jews) have some kind of bond with religious Christians because of similar core values, is to propagate a terrible lie. Christians who base their views on what they call the Old Testament, don’t view Mosaic law as an abiding legal text. The Church has abolished Torah law as part of its attempt to abolish the very idea of Jewish nationhood.”

          “Jews and Christians differ on every single fundamental principle—even on the meaning of core Scriptural texts. More crucially, Christians rely on the Old Testament for legal delineation; whereas Jews rely solely upon our rabbinic tradition. We never, ever turn to our Bible for legal guidance, only to our rabbinic literature. To suggest that our Sages had anything at all in common with the likes of Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Carter or Pat Robertson is a slap in the face of 2500 years of scholarship.”

          “Judeo-Christian” is as valid a concept as happy-joylessness, or tall dwarves. Klinghoffer’s yearnings for this repugnant “ideal” is a deviant phenomenon without a trace of commonality in traditional Jewish thought, ancient or modern.” *

          When I hear the term “Juedo-Christian,” I bristle because I know, and now the rest of you know, it is not “grey,” it is non sense.

          *http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/yoris-news-clips/theres-no-such-thing-as-judeo-christian-values/2013/12/26/

          • Actually, I do appreciate your energetic and determined effort to establish a basis for your perspective. Too many students of mine just hear what I say, nod like they agree when they don’t even know what I’m talking about, and move on. I wish they put their backs into philosophical/theological issues a bit more. But this has been my life and it is clearly not now and probably won’t ever be theirs—the Drop/Add figures seem to say they think it will be an easy way to add to their required Humanities hours and, when they find it might not be so easy, they transfer into—who knows what?

            The phrase Judeo-Christian does not establish grey area. The point of the hyphen is to establish that these are two very different traditions that have distinct differences. However, one need only read the New Testament text to recognize that there is an undeniable linkage between the historical, written and liturgical traditions of Judaism and Christianity. That they have evolved in very different ways is also undeniable. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that any credible Intro to the New Testament course begins with a series of lectures on, for lack of better phrasing, Judaism in the Time of Jesus. Indeed, John Shelby Spong, a leading New Testament deconstructionist, has just published a book which considers the Gospel of Matthew to be a document founded on first-century Jewish liturgical practices—it is fascinating.

            To imagine that there is no connection between the foundational ethic of the Torah and that of the New Testament is to be simplistic. I am well aware of the role of rabbinic literature and tradition in some arenas of Judaism but I am also well aware of the literature which served/serves as the basis for such. Furthermore, the mention of Jewish “Sages” having anything to do with Jerry Falwell or Jimmy Carter et al is irrelevant. As you may have noted, I suggested that the term “Judeo-Christian ethic” is as much a sociological or anthropological description as it is a religious description. And none of those mentioned in the cite was formative in the development of those social/cultural norms which have evolved over the past 2000 years.

            I agree that you found someone “at home” with the material. But he is far too tied to what seems an abiding agenda to do the material justice. And his approach to the term “Judeo-Christian ethic” is far too narrow to do it justice. He’s got an axe to grind and he be grinding away with overwrought phrases such as “repugnant ideal” and “deviant phenomenon.” But the most absurd statement—historically, socially, culturally, theologically—is “the Church has abolished Torah law as part of its attempt to abolish the very idea of Jewish nationhood.” One could only submit that to a very, very like-minded group for peer review if he expected to get it published in a credible journal. I mean, Ouch!

            So, in the end, we disagree. You see grey. I don’t. You find the descriptive phrase “Judeo-Christian ethic” to be demeaning and philosophically unacceptable. I look at it in a wider context and find it to be neither.

            Again, I have great appreciation for your clear concern per the subject and the time you spend, as we sometimes put it, “in those stacks where no one else ever goes.” I do that, as well.

            • I guess we must leave it here. I did find many other missives of support but it is not my place to prove the earth is “flat.” I am no scholar and rely on information gleaned from, I know, I know, the internet. Thanks for your kind words…….the horse is dead! LOL Cheers Jack The Bear

        • I found someone who is at “home with the material” And apologize for another post on the topic you wanted to avoid. Please forgive me. Perhaps I got it right this time No need to respond Thanks See below

  4. I am sure those wanting to ban contraception and abortion in the USA are going to make provisions for welcoming the unwanted children born to women who are victims of rape, incest, retarded and etc., those who were born to mothers who died during child birth, when they should have had contraception or an abortion.

    These children loving religious zealots must be starting a national data base at this time to provide for the time when ALL the unwanted are born. A data base of those willing and unwilling to take an unwanted or physically or mentally disabled child into their home.

    If they are not, they are not really interested in the unborn, they are interested in only control and if the women of America keep voting them into office, they are getting the government they deserve.

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