What You Wish For

I admit. I think about the abortion issue as little as I can. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m deathly sick of abortion being the barometer by which we judge all servants in all branches of government. I think it’s a poor test of governing skills and it’s criminally shortsighted to base one’s assessment of a person’s fitness to govern, ie to do a job that encompasses national security and tax policy, on whether they’re willing to sentimentalize infants. We’re not hiring National Doctors in our elections, no matter what Bill Frist thinks. There need to be far, far more queries on the questionnaire.

And I think about this issue as little as I can because I’m a middle-class married girl at present obsessed with conception, not its contra. I have the luxury of not having to fear pregnancy, of viewing it with hope and not horror. That’s a privilege, and don’t think for one minute I don’t recognize it as such. Don’t think for one minute I’m going to use that to justify telling any other woman how to live her life.

But what it does mean is that I’m looking at what happened in South Dakota in a very bloodless way. And since my drug of choice is right-wing hypocrisy, since what I really like parsing is just what on earth these people are thinking, I’m looking at South Dakota and wondering if all those people who walk up and down outside the women’s clinic are happy now, if they’re satisfied.

I wonder what’s in their heads. They got what they wanted. Did they toast with champagne? Is this a moment of rejoicing for them? Could they, who’ve spent hours upon hours oppositing abortion and must have done some kind of studying, must have accrued some knowledge, truly think that this is all they had to do? Is this it, are they done? And if the Supreme Court convened tomorrow and approved South Dakota’s law as the law of the land, what would they do on Monday?

Where would they next turn their attention? Would it be to eradicating poverty? Perhaps we should ban that, perhaps a law would take care of that as well. Maybe we should ban hunger, ignorance, fear, selfishness, greed. That would be a strong statement about our society’s values. Where would they go from here? Would they build societal structures that would address the huge numbers of poor and desperate women who now don’t have this way of dealing with their circumstances? Would they do this, these upright pro-life activists who stand outside clinics and scream “sinner” and “whore?” Comfort the whore, take the sinner’s hand? Listen to their little plastic Jesus and actually act?

I suspect a few of them might, actually, really I do. My faith in humanity is not that crushed, not yet. However, I suspect most of those who live their lives screaming condemnation at top volume would rather bask in their victory, send out fundraising letters. Reward our successes. Help us pay our telemarketers. Fall for our act one more time, $25 for the chance to feel righteous. What are the chances they’d look around, see what else society is willing to sanction, actually see what would lead a woman to the clinic door, and go to work on that as well? Really, tell me, what are the odds?

Or would they wake up Monday, the prayers of their preachers still ringing in their heads, and feel their lives empty without this crusade? In the throes of adrenaline hangover, you reach out for the hair of the dog. Birth control, certainly, that’s already begun. Divorce, maybe? Sex before marriage? There’s some things it’s easy to punish. Cowboy up. The fight’s not over. And all around the country people who opposed abortion rights because the slogans are just so shiny, just so impossible to resist (pro-life, it’s a child, not a choice, abortion stops a beating heart, adoption not abortion), because the bumper stickers look so damn good on the car, will look on in horror at the people who played them like pawn shop violins. They’ll look around and see the beautiful society they were promised has not, in fact, come to pass as a result of a change to this law, and they’ll wonder how these crazies got to be in charge.

By then, of course, it’ll be too late.

A.