Heartbeats Under a Lone Star

The chances are that your stance on the recent Texas Heartbeat Law differs not at all from that of (at least) the majority of people you recognise as family, your close friends and your social media mutuals. Their stance, of course, is determined by their collective identity. Broadly, very broadly (because these terms are colliding and confused these days) Left or Right:

The Leftwing will believe this law that prohibits abortion (termination of pregnancy is a euphemism when the intent is always to kill, not remove) after the fetal heartbeat is discerned is the most insidious attack on female emancipation (they’d say women’s not female because that adjective, for reasons that no-one has yet explained, is now shunned by feminists) since the Epistles of St Paul. Well, okay, they won’t, because hardly any of them have ever read any of the Bible.

The Rightwing will believe that the Heartbeat law is the first step, long-awaited, towards making America great again (which apparently they feel it was, at some unspecified point) and one that drives back legions of devils (and/ or feminists) and protects women, children born and unborn, and is due, somehow, to the divine favour currently shining on one D. Trump who will yet reascend the Presidential throne—as long as they all Trust The Plan.

Both Left and Right are utterly convinced (and very self-congratulatory about it) that they, and they alone, really support the well-being of women. Ditto for children and this smug sensibility extends to the Left with the ethical sleight-of-hand that:

A) The products of abortion are no more than fetal tissue and the fact that foetus means baby in Latin is neither here nor there.

B) Abortion care includes what is being killed in the womb (or someway outside or even completely) as it’s selfish to bring unwanted children into this big bad world so it’s no more than kindness to kill them.

In my view (goodbye social media acquaintances) both sides are almost entirely hypocritical and don’t actually give a damn about the welfare of women and the idea that they actually care about life in or out of their womb is, if it weren’t so tragic in consequence, laughable.

Why do I say this? Is it just to stir up both sides so they’ll read my book on the subject? Well, they’re very welcome to but, as it was published some years ago and annual sales have risen to about the price of a posh fish supper (and I’m vegan) I don’t really see that as my major motivation.

It may be that, despite the above polemic, I see good women fighting each other over this and wasting so much valuable time and energy in a screaming match that in its modern form is at least a century old and doesn’t even attempt to be a debate. I was very careful when I wrote that book (and the many women on all sides that I reference are well worth reading) but I’m not convinced now that being careful accomplishes anything so here’s my thoughts:

The Left is hypocritical because if they actually cared about the welfare of women they wouldn’t ban any information (including personal testimony) on the often profound physical and mental stress caused by abortion that can last for decades.

The Right is similarly hypocritical because they make it so very difficult, socially and economically, for so many pregnant women to feel able to give birth—and to bring up a child with decency.

The Left concede more rights to lobsters than to babies that survive initial abortion attempts (a saline bath sounds very clinical but its purpose is to burn the skin off the screaming baby) and only refer to such situations by focusing on the distress caused to staffers! As for the findings of human pain studies in utero, they just don’t want to know.

The Right misrepresent the Biblical tradition (which is ambiguous on the moment of ensoulment) and typically promote an anti-maternal economics that ignores completely the prophetic tradition of hospitality to the stranger, care of the widow and the orphan, leaving the edges of the field for the poor to glean and forgiving debts in the year of Jubilee.

Both sides save face, reject all and any critique of their stance (selective abortion is racist, classist, ableist and sexist—and precisely those same prejudices, along with religious sectarianism and demonisation of other faiths, create a climate of snobbish rejection of pregnant women by communities intent on keeping up appearances and producing progeny of the right sort).

What’s the solution?

1) Realise that someone’s stance on abortion is likely to be coherent with their view of pregnancy (baby or blood clot) and reinforced by the collective ideological identity they value.

2) Accept that criticism of your own stance is possible—and that you may even learn from it. At least you might earn the right to be heard if you demonstrate an ability to listen rather than keep shouting THEM down.

3) Try to see your side from the other (and there aren’t just two sides on this) and acknowledge the possibility of your opponent being motivated by as benevolent an intent as yours.

4) Agree to disagree, if that finally is inevitable but ask yourself what part of the project of your interlocutor might overlap with your own.

5) Try to be honest with yourself about your real motivation regarding ostentatiously adhering to the ideological purity of your familial and social circle. Is that badge of honour more important to you than strategically collaborating with someone they despise—for the real well-being of women and children?

6) Ask yourself how much you and your cronies actually do, practically, to support women who want to give birth and bring up their children well. If you had access to the resources of the other side, how much more could you do? Would you be willing to work with them for that—knowing they’re still campaigning to change the law in a way you utterly oppose?

7) Consider the expression of ambiguity on this issue. How do you deal with it? Sweep it under the carpet or allow the uncertain voice of what “the woman who had been Jane Roe […] Norma McCorvey” called “the messy middle” to be heard?

Chrome stethoscope with yellow rubber cover looped over a red image of a heart
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