This week’s United States Supreme Court rolled back the hands of time by 50 years with their ruling to ban abortions. The response to the news has been inescapable and sparked cries, cheers and defiance from every corner of the country, and consternation from around the globe where the United States has been viewed as a leader in the experiment of democracy.
Based on the ruling and majority opinion drafted by Justice’s Thomas and Alito, it’s clear that the eyes are on potentially rolling back other rights as we have come to know them; including contraceptive right and the right to choose who you marry. When the ruling came down, I told a friend about the concern regarding contraceptive rights and I know she thought I was talking nonsense; until she watched the news, did some reading, and heard commentary. She has a daughter 18 years of age just going off to college; she’s scared out of her wits. She told me about her former mother-in-law who never knew her mother. It seemed her mother had 7 children and found herself pregnant with her eight. The doctor advised the couple that the child would be still born and if she continued with the pregnancy she would likely die. Living in a state where there were no alternatives and no means to seek the means to an abortion, she continued with the pregnancy. The mother died. The little girl who was 3 at the time grew up never knowing her mother.
Of course, there are stories at the other end of the issue. I’ve known women who’ve told me stories in which their grandmother or mother chose to carry their child to term who turned out to be their mother or even themselves, obviously bearing testimony to the case against abortion. What strikes me is that if against it for whatever the reason; moral, religious, no one forces a woman to have an abortion, It is truly freedom of choice. But banning abortions is forcing a woman to bring a child to term who would prefer, or can’t, for whatever the reason.
While those in favor of the ban feel victorious, I wonder how many of them would be in favor of eliminating contraception. I found one of the most thoughtful and erudite discussions of the matter in an May 25, 2022 article on the Religion News Service (RNS) by Semira Mehta. Some religious persuasions recognized that contraception does not necessarily condone promiscuity or sex outside the sanctity of marriage. Because it struck me to be written so beautifully I quote the article here:
“As new contraceptive options emerged in the first two-thirds of the 20th century, from the diaphragm to the birth control pill, Christian leaders wrestled with what to think. Many came to see birth control as a moral good that would allow married couples to have satisfying sex lives, while protecting women from the health risks of frequent pregnancies. They hoped it could ensure that couples would not have more children than they could care for, emotionally and economically.”……..
“Protestant leaders supporting contraception argued that the best kind of family was a father with a steady job and a homemaker mother, and that birth control could encourage the model because smaller families could maintain a comfortable lifestyle on one income. They also hoped that contraception would help couples stay together by allowing them to have satisfying sex lives.”
Justice Alito's leaked opinioni in May referenced Sir Matthew Hale, a jurist from the 17th century who conceived the idea that a husband cannot be prosecuted for raping his wife and supported sentencing women to death as "witches" His misogynistic predilections were considered outside the norm even during his time.
This had me think how far reaching the SCOTUS will go in considering rolling back rights we have come to rely on in our lives. . Will the court consider rolling back the right to Social Security, Medicare, etc? What will they attack next? It may be an unlikely thought and an absurd question, but even the faintest mention of considering rolling back the right to contraception seems beyond what would be acceptable for most people. Who will pay for and support the millions of babies born to people without means or ability to support them? Will the states against expanding Medicaid now consider expanding that program in order to help families? The U.S. remains a country without paid child care or family leave for child rearing.
I've had another thought for quite some time. As an eldercare advocate and outspoken proponent against ageism and our ageist society, which I believe is at the root cause of the poor and inadequate care that older adults receive in this country, I wonder if the people fighting for a few cells in a woman's body would be equally zealous fighters for the rights of older adults. In doing so, they would be fighting to ensure that people who are alive, who have lived long lives, contributed to their families to whatever degree, communities, society, country, many of whom have given birth to and raised the future generation - including the fighters themselves, receive the dignity and respect to which they are entitled as they continue on life's journey.
Our country gets a failing grade in this regard. We are far behind other countries and cultures that respect and value their elders for their contribution and wisdom. Whatever side of the abortion issue you are on, I believe a massive outcry about the value, care and treatment of our elder citizens is in order.
Only more people caring, standing cup, voices shouting out, can focus the eyes of people who are not looking....to see what is in plain sight as opposed to something hidden inside a woman's body and not even yet conceived. Eldercare is a human rights issues!!!!
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