By Charles L. Rulon
Emeritus, Life & Health Sciences
Long Beach City College
HUMAN FEMALE (def.): A recently evolved hominid who, through no discernible divine plan, inherited two X-chromosomes in life’s genetic coin toss and thus was destined for unwanted pregnancies, sexual oppression & servitude to human males.
Even though a sizable minority of (mostly very religious) women oppose abortion choice[i], the overwhelming majority of anti-choice voices in power (in our pulpits, media and political machines) have always been voices that will never have to experience an unwanted pregnancy — powerful male voices — voices from cardinals, bishops, priests, televangelists and ministers — voices from U.S. congressmen and state assemblymen — powerful male voices coming from thousands of religious radio stations, mega-churches and television stations. These are the same male voices that one hundred years ago opposed suffrage for women and outlawed all birth control information. In fact, throughout history women’s reproductive rights have been legislated, adjudicated and religiously controlled by men.
Throughout history men justified their control of women by promoting the belief that males were inherently superior, more intelligent and more capable of running the world than were females. It was in their nature to be more political, aggressive and motivated. To survive, we’ve been told, societies needed both dominant, productive men and dependent, nurturing and reproductive women. Women served best in the home. It wasn’t natural for women to compete with men for jobs, money and power. By referring to both the biblical god and to our perceived biological natures, the Religious/Political Right has brought in both religion and science, (society’s two deepest sources of authority about human nature) to justify patriarchy.
Today, women make up less than 20% of the U.S. Congress and 25% (on average) of state legislatures.[ii] Furthermore, the large majority of politicians opposing choice belong to the Republican Party, the same Party which supported the Equal Rights Amendment back in 1972 before the Catholic Church became actively involved and the Party became “born-again”. The weapons used by these powerful anti-choice men include nominating conservative judges, introducing endless anti-Roe legislation, quoting selected biblical passages to “prove” that God is on their side, and threatening excommunication and hellfire for those who are pro-choice. Truckloads of dishonest incendiary propaganda, written and printed by men, elevate mindless, senseless embryos to almost demigod status.
These powerful men are aided by millions of American males who want to “keep women in their place” and by a woefully inadequate educational system, which graduates tens of millions of scientifically ignorant male and female biblical creationists and “end-times” true believers.
“Our nation has had a long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination rationalized by an attitude of ‘romantic paternalism’ which in practical effect puts woman not on a pedestal, but in a cage.”
—Supreme Court Justice Wm. Brennan, 1973
Why are these powerful men so intent on overthrowing Roe v. Wade? Do they really believe they are God’s soldiers doing His work, even though tens of millions of Christian pro-choice Americans disagree and even though the biblical silence regarding both elective abortions and the time of ensoulment has been called “deafening”?
Do these men really “anguish over the murder of innocent pre-born babies,” given that they oppose all attempts (except abstinence) to reduce the abortion rate and since very few actually want to imprison women who abort? Do these men really support strong families, given that they often oppose government supported child care services and strive to pass laws that trample on the bodies of women — the same women who actually hold families together?
Or, as has been the case historically, is this strong male opposition really more about men with awesome political and religious power using “God & Nature” arguments to increase their power? Is it more about the Roman Catholic Church refusing to relinquish its power over women’s wombs? After all, the Catholic Church still opposes all “artificial” birth control based on ancient theological arguments and “revealed truths”.
Is it also more about fundamentalist Protestant churches run by powerful men who are trying to prevent any further weakening of antiquated religious dogmas already devastated by hundreds of years of scientific and ethical advances? Is it more about fighting against the spread of secular humanism and the teaching of “atheistic” evolution? Is it about wanting to turn the U.S. into a Christian theocracy, with the anti-abortion effort being the key-stone, an essential cog in their movement?
And finally, is it more about men wanting to punish “loose, narcissistic, irresponsible women who are trying to avoid their natural roles of motherhood” — more about men wanting to keep women subservient and at home where “God wants them”? After all, disapproval of women’s sexuality is a historical constant. (Punishment and suffering are very important to the conservative Christian mind, especially the punishment and suffering of “loose” women.)
“No nation has established democracy and ensured human rights without overcoming conservative resistance from men clinging to their power. No traditional religion has supported the change.”
—Robert Tapp, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, University of Minnesota, 2009
Men don’t get pregnant
Since men don’t get pregnant, but merely aggressively inject sperm and write anti-abortion laws, they aren’t personally forced into reproductive servitude.[iii] However, if men could get pregnant — if they knew they would have to undergo many months of considerable discomfort and even danger just because of one careless night or because a condom broke, I wager that the right to excellent birth control and to elective abortions would be written into our holy books, our laws and our constitutions and would likely be no more controversial than having an appendectomy.
“A system that enforces the agenda and value system of a 65-year old male legislator onto my young patients is cruel.”
—Michael Berman, MD; Why I Provide Abortions.
We have not yet adequately documented the extent of human suffering caused by conservative religious teachings about women and sexuality. Attitudes derived from centuries of male Christian influence have been driven deeply into our collective unconscious and into the structure of our institutions in ways that make it very difficult for us to grow up with our sexuality integrated in a healthy manner with the rest of our personality.
Contraceptives are far from fool-proof and humans are depressingly fallible, superstitious and irrational. Thus, in spite of our best efforts, abortions will remain relatively common into the foreseeable future — legal and safe in those countries that value science, rationality and women freed from reproductive enslavement . . . or illegal and dangerous in those patriarchal religiously fundamentalist countries that don’t.
“The anti-choice concern is not for the zygote, nor the blastocyst, nor the embryo, nor even the fetus. The concern is for the continued health and wellbeing of the patriarchy.”
—Sherry Matulis, a survivor of an illegal abortion and a national spokeswoman for abortion rights
[i] Women’s groups that oppose abortions include Concerned Women of America (CWA), Feminists for Life (FFL), the Eagle Forum, and the American Life League (ALL), with a total combined membership of roughly one million members.
The CWA opposes all abortions except to save the life of the mother. They also oppose emergency contraceptive pills, even in cases of rape, most forms of birth control, and sex education except to teach abstinence. The mission of CWA is to protect and promote biblical values among all citizens – first through prayer, then education, and finally by influencing our society.
FFL is opposed to all forms of abortion, including cases of rape, incest, birth defects, or to preserve the mother’s health. FFL believes that basic human rights, including the right to life, start at conception. It does not take an official stance on contraception.
The Eagle Forum is anti-choice, anti-same sex marriage, anti-vaccinations, anti-sex education in the public schools and anti-Equal Rights Amendment. The ALL, a Catholic organization, opposes birth control, embryonic stem cell research, and all abortions without exceptions.
Unlike the tens of millions of pro-choice Catholic, Protestant and Jewish women, these anti-abortion women mostly grew up being taught that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and the final authority on faith and practice, that only God can give or take life, that abortions are opposed by God, that the “Will of God” takes ultimate precedence over all else, and that to do “God’s Will” is to devote oneself to outlawing abortions.
[ii] Eighty-four nations have a greater percentage of female legislators than the U.S., including Canada, Mexico, Vietnam and Cuba. The U.S. also insisted that 25% of the seats in the new Iraq legislature be held by women.
[iii] Of course, one could also argue that 18 years of child support payments because a girl lied, or was careless, or the condom broke is a form of male enslavement.