by Lynn Mandaville
When word surfaced of the leak of a draft decision from the Supreme Court regarding Roe v Wade, my first inclination was to let it go.
One, this is a no-win issue to write about. There will be substantial name-calling and aspersions cast about my character. Some will misunderstand me and try to use it against me.
Two, I’m going to be 72 this year, far past a personal stake in the abortion issue.
Three, I’m just so damn tired, dealing with chronic pain that makes concentration hard, and seems to interrupt a reasoned train of thought, as well as early-stage leukemia that tires me so I can’t finish a task without needing sleep.
I don’t need pity or sympathy. But I would appreciate a little leeway as I try to express all the levels of concern this leak has triggered.
First, but not foremost, it bothers me that someone at so high a level as the Supreme Court, be it a law clerk or a justice him or herself, would violate the confidentiality of a draft document of such a sensitive nature.
There has been much too much erosion of the basic standards of comportment in government recently. Most significant to this event is the readily apparent fact that at least two recent candidates for the Supreme Court – Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – lied blatantly to the congressional committee interviewing them for confirmation. Neither believed Roe v Wade was settled law.
In light of these lies by prominent judges, maybe it isn’t a surprise that a draft opinion was leaked. But it sure is disappointing that there is so little reverence for truth, confidentiality, standards, or procedures at this high level.
I don’t blame Donald Trump for these lapses in character. Lying and defiance of confidentiality existed long before he ever came to office. But Donald Trump did nothing to raise the bar where moral behavior is concerned.
But let’s get beyond the violation of confidentiality in the rooms where Supremes deliberate vital cases.
Let’s consider the ways in which Supreme Court appointments have been weaponized by the two political parties since the Reagan administration.
Gone are the days when we really believed that the Supremes engaged in deliberating whether a given case fell within the guidelines of the U.S. Constitution. Gone are the days when Congress looked for someone experienced in jurisprudence, who didn’t have a personal agenda in interpreting our most important national document.
Nowadays it is commonly agreed that vacancies on the Court are open game for the ruling political party to appoint justices who lean liberal or conservative, thus creating a distinct bias based not on the candidate’s ability to interpret the Constitution, but on whether he or she represents the ruling party’s prejudice toward certain issues.
The recent appointments by Donald Trump are prime examples of this. Trump knew that Kavanaugh and Barrett held strong personal views against abortion and the Roe decision. And the two lied successfully to Congress so that they confirmed both appointees.
Parenthetically, the weaponization of these appointments is blatantly clear by the double standard used by Mitch McConnell when he refused to allow simple debate over Obama’s last nomination of Merrick Garland to the Court yet was rabid about the quick confirmation of Amy Barrett just before Trump left office.
These things being said, it’s now time to address what creates most of my anxiety: the imminent reversal of the Roe v Wade decision of 1973.
It is assumed that the abortion issue has only two possible points of view. One is either Pro-Life or Pro-Choice. But both labels are misnomers for the arguments their proponents make to defend their points of view.
In truth, Pro-Choice people are in favor of leaving any abortion decision – to have or have not – up to the woman and her medical advisors/providers. This would include counselling about alternatives to abortion – options for the baby after delivery- or for how to handle unusual, tragic or dangerous complications involved in continuing a pregnancy.
Pro-Choice people put a premium on the life of the already living woman who is faced with an unwanted or complicated pregnancy. This could, however, be interpreted as a Pro-Life point of view, favoring the life of the living, breathing woman.
Self-identified Pro-Lifers, on the other hand, seem to be more concerned with the birth of all babies, regardless of the physical or emotional/mental health of a pregnant female. (Even a young girl impregnated against the basic mores of our society would be compelled to deliver a baby despite dangers to her own health.)
Pro-Lifers would require even the least viable fetus – including stillborn children – be carried to term. A tubal pregnancy would be mandated to continue even though tubal pregnancies almost certainly doom the woman and the baby if the pregnancy continues.
I have seen the Pro-Life movement described as merely Pro-Birth.
Rarely do traditional Pro-Lifers raise the particulars for caring for these unwanted babies. They rarely favor programs that provide adequate pre-natal care for the mother, paid parental leave following birth, or programs that provide free or affordable child care, good nutrition for the growing child, or for free preschool or pre-primary education for the child before he or she begins traditional school.
And because these types of programs largely benefit people of color, and people of low economic status, Pro-Life is largely prejudiced against this segment of the American population.
Simply put, Pro-Life is limited to the fetus only. Quality of life for the mother, or the life after it is birthed, are without consideration.
To sum up, both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice are labels that badly represent the actual aims of both groups toward a woman’s ability to control her own reproductive health.
Maybe even more important is the fact that though there is no direct analogy to a man’s control over his own body, denying women control over their own persons is a blatant denial of womanhood itself.
Only women can conceive, carry, and birth a baby. Whether or not in-vitro fertilization or a surrogate is used, a woman is always involved in producing a new human being.
Therefore, it can be argued, only a woman should hold sovereignty over decisions regarding her body. No man, no government, no religion, no one.
If you’ve done any research at all, or paid attention to the truth behind old wives’ tales, you know that abortion and contraception have been under female control since time immemorial.
Women used to know how to prevent conception by introducing foreign objects into the uterus. IUDs are nothing new under the sun. (Desert nomads used to insert pebbles into the uteri of their camels so they wouldn’t become pregnant during long treks across country.)
Women knew herbs and plants that would make a uterus inhospitable to implantation of a fertilized egg, or which could induce premature labor to expel an unwanted pregnancy.
The introduction of modern medicine has made these practices and natural “remedies” a lost art to women.
The point is that women used to have ultimate control over their bodies and the bodies of their sisterhood.
Since this dominion has been abdicated to men in early medicine, and men in legislative positions of power, women have lost that ultimate control.
This is more than unfortunate, it is an abomination.
Reproductive rights for woman not only should, but MUST, be treated like the rights of a sovereign nation to rule itself.
Even though my ability to reproduce another human being is long past, I cannot in good conscience abide this attempt to relegate control over the female body to mostly men in government.
It is, frankly, none of their damn business!
Don’t bother to give me your arguments that abortion is murder.
Abortion is, without a doubt, the termination of a natural process of reproduction, the intentional death of a fetus.
But it is, right now, by legal interpretation of the Supreme Court in 1973, the legal right of women across the land to seek and obtain an abortion.
Despite that truth, I believe adamantly that, although legal, abortion ought to be a last resort.
In order to assure that women in our country don’t find themselves in a quandary over an unwanted pregnancy, we need to face the reality that most people are under the influence of very strong chemicals, specifically their sex hormones.
Preaching celibacy is as impractical as it is almost impossible.
Lots of people are going to have sex. And that, too, is nothing new under the sun.
Clear and unencumbered reproductive health education is necessary so that young people are aware of how pregnancy happens, how to prevent it, and how important it is to make sure they don’t make babies they cannot care for in the very best way possible for that baby and themselves! (This is knowledge they will carry into adulthood to prevent the need for abortion as an option.)
Condoms should be distributed free to any teenager who wants them.
Counselling should be readily available in all public schools for teens who would like diaphragms or prescriptions for The Pill.
Reproductive health care should also be provided free of charge to all public high school students for the prevention and treatment of STDs.
Once we treat teenage human sexuality with openness and frankness – keeping it real, if you will – there will be fewer instances where young women seek abortion.
These ideas are terribly fearsome to many, particularly among religious communities.
But they are vitally important to the overall reproductive health of America.
To sum things up, if Americans would stop being squeamish about human sexuality and face its realities there would be fewer instances where resorting to an abortion seems the only solution.
Grown-ups need to grow up and face the facts that teenagers in every generation are going to fool around just like they did when they were kids.
Grown-up politicians need to get over it and do what is best for the sake of the living as well as the soon-to-be living.
Unless and until things change regarding reproductive health education for kids, and unless and until politicians put their money where their mouths are when it comes to caring for the fetuses they insist must be carried to term regardless of circumstance, abortion must continue to be an option for women in controlling their own bodies.
The old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
If you don’t like the cure where a woman’s control of her body is concerned, you’d best be on board for the ounce of prevention that makes that option moot.
I hope the sound and the fury that this leaked Supreme Court document has caused may sway the Court to reverse the apparent decision.
No government has the right to control women’s bodies.