Punishing Women for Abortion: Wrong

OK. Enough.

Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee for the office of president of the United States, has stepped over a line.

In the Bible, there is a very familiar story about a woman who has been “caught in the act of adultery.” She is being taken to task for her indiscretion. The scribes and the Pharisees bring her to Jesus, and say, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say? The next sentence says they “said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.”

That scripture always got to me because only the woman was called to task. Presumably, if or since she was “caught in the very act” of adultery, there was someone with whom she was committing adultery with. Where were the men?

Jesus proceeds to bend down and begin writing in the sand, and in my exegetical imagination, I have always seen him writing the names of men who might have also committed adultery with her – or with someone else. Nobody was beyond fault. As he writes the names, the scriptures say that they “went away, one by one.” Finally, only the woman was left, but she received no judgement from Jesus. He tells her to go and not to “sin” again.

When Donald Trump said today that women who get abortions should be punished, I thought of that scripture. The suggestion is outrageous, it is draconian, it is unjust …and it is sexist.

If women become pregnant by men – which they do – and a pregnant woman seeking abortion should be punished, then so should the man who impregnated her.

There is no more immaculate conception. Men are complicit, to say the least, in the condition called pregnancy.

Trump’s statement shows his bigotry toward women. If his antics to date have not been enough, then this suggestion ought to open the eyes of those who have been wooed and seduced by his “telling it like it is.” This man is a buffoon. He hasn’t given clear policies on much of anything, and he claims not to be a “politician,” but now, as the fire heats up and his statements about women are being showcased in negative ads about him, he is being the preeminent politician by saying things that he believes Conservative, religious women want to hear.

I wonder if he’s thought it through. I wonder if he understands that women who have abortions includes wealthy white women who are no strangers to abortion procedures. Is he advocating that they be punished too?

And I wonder if he has the chutzpah to talk about how men who believe in impregnating women and then leaving them to fend for themselves ought to be punished as well. Or if he believes that husbands of wives who decide they want an abortion should be punished, too?

Is this as sexist as it sounds?

This stance of Trump’s is pure reality TV. It is an act of manipulation to get those who are fascinated with him drawn in even deeper. His supporters are not thinking. They are tired and angry and just want things to change – and Trump is taking advantage of that fact.

But to stoop this low is bad, even for Trump. His bullying has been bad. His changing his story on issues has been bad. His inability and unwillingness to admit wrong, when he’s been wrong, and to apologize for even the appearance of impropriety …has been wrong. His xenophobia has been wrong. His lack of knowledge about what is going on in the world has been wrong. His desire to deport millions of Muslims has been wrong. His statement that he’s going to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and make Mexico pay for it …has been wrong and ridiculous.

But to suggest that women who go through the pain and anguish of abortion is inhumane. His statement will give people an excuse to use their guns to shoot women seeking abortions; they don’t need much of an excuse. Such an action, were it actualized, would mean, most probably, that it would be poor, black and brown women who would be the primary victims, because rich, white women have always had ways to get around the system. Just as the War on Drugs was developed to criminalize the drug use of black people, (http://www.vox.com/2016/3/22/11278760/war-on-drugs-racism-nixon) this action would criminalize predominantly women of color, almost certainly.

Nixon got away with declaring his war on black people by declaring the War on Drugs. That action caused non-violent drug users to be criminalized. It caused their families to be destroyed. It affected their children. It ruined their lives …while white people using far more damaging drugs got away with it. There is a gathering at the United Nations in April of multi-faith leaders to protest and to encourage the replacement of draconian, punitive drug laws globally with drug policies which emphasize compassion, care and the health of those who use drugs. (http://www.unodc.org/ungass2016/) I would hate for women who seek abortions to be criminalized and marginalized even further than they are already, just as we work hard to get out of the destructive pit caused by the War on Drugs.

Enough.

Such an asinine and inhumane as this one suggested by Trump ought not be allowed past the front door out of which it has stepped.

A candid observation …

 

When Laws are Unjust

Sometimes, laws are unjust.

Unjust laws in this country allowing racial discrimination were part of the reason for the Civil Rights movement. With the laws in the nation and in many states in place, African-Americans could not feel protected by the laws, because the laws helped perpetuate their status and injustice perpetrated against them. African-Americans had no voice, “the law” notwithstanding.

In Ireland, it is women whose voices are not being heard. In that Catholic country, laws are on the books which prohibit abortion. Because of those laws, a young woman died after being denied an abortion. Her death has sparked outrage and protest by women, who rallied in front of the Irish parliament this week. (http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/11/15/thousands-rally-outside-irish-parliament-after-woman-repeatedly-denied-abortion-before-dying/)

We depend on our lawmakers to craft laws that protect the people, but in fact there are far too many laws on the books which do not protect but rather support discriminatory or harmful and unjust treatment of certain groups. Women in the United States and in fact all over the world have had to fight unjust laws so that they could enjoy full citizenship which included the right to vote, and still have to fight for equal pay for equal work. And …what women and cannot do with their own bodies is still an issue which divides the nation politically and religiously.

Women in Ireland are fighting for the right to live with dignity. Young Savita Halappanavar, 31, died because in spite of excruciating pain and several requests for doctors to terminate her 17-week pregnancy, they would not. It would be abortion because in spite of her pain, the fetus still had a heartbeat. After three days the young woman died, reportedly from septicemia.

It seems, on this side of the pond, that the laws in Ireland which would allow an otherwise healthy woman to die from a complicated pregnancy, are just wrong and unjust. They are just as wrong and unjust as were American laws which forbade black people to learn to read and write, or which prevented them, and women, from voting.

If individuals are silent in the face of unjust laws, they in essence voice their approval of those laws. That’s a lesson Dr. King drove home as people trained to be non-violent protestors. An unjust law, King said, needs to be broken, or at least challenged. Just because something is a “law” does not mean it is right or fair; some laws beg to be challenged, changed, or struck down.

People historically have challenged laws with which they did not agree. When Brown vs. Board of Education made it against the law for schools to be segregated, many cities and states balked; they thought the law was unjust and did all they could to disobey it, in spite of the law’s directive that schools should be integrated “with all deliberate speed.”  Some schools were closed rather than obey the desegregation order. Other schools took as long as 10 years to begin desegregating.

Anything worth having, including justice, is worth fighting for; and many issues of justice must be fought for. Thousands of women in Ireland are protesting the death of the young mother, and another rally is planned for the weekend. That’s a good thing.

Power concedes nothing without a demand, noted Frederick Douglass.

Douglass was right.

A candid observation …

A Broader Understanding of “Pro-Life”

I have often found myself cringing as “pro-life” advocates have stood outside abortion clinics, pleading for the rights of an unborn fetus, not because I like it that there are so many abortions, but because those who are “pro-life” seem, for the most part, to have such a narrow understanding of  what life is.

In fact, although pro-life advocates have put billboards up in urban neighborhoods, urging people in those neighborhoods to refrain from having abortions, it seems that these same advocates, once the babies in these neighborhoods are born into poverty and despair, pretty much ignore them.

Children who live in poverty, who are born in poverty, depend on the government for basic services, like food and health care. Children born into poverty have a higher chance of ending up in prison, because the schools in their neighborhoods are so bad and they end up giving up and dropping out of school.

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, a “cradle to prison” pipeline exists because children born into poverty – yet very much alive – suffer from abject poverty, inadequate health care, gaps in childhood development, disparate educational opportunities, “intolerable abuse and neglect,”  “unmet mental and emotional problems, rampant substance abuse,” and involvement in an overburdened , ineffective juvenile justice system, a system which looks at these children as a drain on society.

These children, very much alive, are despised once they come out of the womb. As a fetus, a poor child is cherished; the heartbeat of the fetus is used in commercial and religious attempts to get people to oppose abortion. Yet, there is no such drumbeat for these children, and for the things they need once they are born in order to have valuable and viable lives, once they are born.

There is something very wrong with this reality.

Martin Buber, a Jewish theologian and Zionist, wrote a powerful book, I and Thou, where he described how we as human beings objectify other human beings, presumably to protect ourselves, our thoughts, and our beliefs.

He believed that part of the problem in Israel was the inability and unwillingness of Jewish people to treat Arabs as fellow human beings, “it” as opposed to “thou.” An “it” has no feelings; it is an object, devoid of even the need for another human being to invest caring and compassion into. A “thou,” on the other hand, is a “fellow human being,” one with which one can develop an empathic relationship, based on the understanding that this “thou” has needs and feelings equal to that of the person doing the evaluating.

“I-it” relationships have made it possible for sexism, racism, homophobia, discrimination against the aged …to flourish. When we as humans do not see another human as human, we feel nothing about what we may or may not do to affirm that person’s worth and need to meet their needs.

That’s the feeling I get that the pro-life proponents carry with them. The poor are precious so long as they are in the womb. Once out, they are a bane to society, unworthy of anyone’s time or concern.

If the pro-life people would advocate as hard for quality education for poor children as they do for more affluent children, or push for legislation or some other source to provide for quality health care for these children, I wouldn’t care about their concern and love for the unborn fetus. Poor children do not ask to be born, and they are not responsible for their conditions. It is so hypocritical and sad for a civilized society to have such a narrow definition and appreciation for life.

A candid observation …