Tiptoeing Over American Vipers

“If a pregnant woman steps over a viper, she will be sure to miscarry.”

Historia Naturalis, Pliny the Elder (77 CE)

When I was 15, I had a pregnancy scare. I was in a long-term relationship and a condom had broken. I wasn’t sure if I could secure the morning-after pill as a minor, and I hadn’t yet discovered the Laguna Beach Community Clinic near my high school where I’d later receive free birth control pills.

I panicked and began leaning over a chair, letting it jut sharply into my abdomen and womb. I hoped it would disrupt any zygotes from developing in my adolescent body, not unlike the meat pulverizers desperate women used to hammer their stomachs in the decades before Roe vs. Wade. Fortunately, I got my period a week or two later, but that experience taught me that women walk a razor’s edge when it comes to sex.

Feminist Gadsden Flag, Artist Unknown

I’d always assumed that in the United States—the so-called “Land of the Free”—we would never again force women to give birth. Our mothers, our grandmothers, and our allies had fought hard for our right to choose. They had exposed the shameful hell of pre-Roe America with its poisons, bloodied staircases, abusive maternity shelters, and suicides. Even as red states slowly curtailed access to abortion over the decades, I thought the days of enslaving women as unwilling agents of religious fundamentalism were over. I was wrong.

As always, poor women will be more adversely affected by the overturning of Roe and pressed into prenatal state servitude. Rich women always have more choices, even in the most misogynistic places.

Advances in contraception and abortion pills by mail will be helpful in the battles ahead, but the reality is sobering: the Supreme Court has the power to impose its fringe theology on all of us. This injustice is both ironic and distinctly anti-American, as many of our ancestors migrated here to escape religious persecution.

The levers of power have been hijacked by a God-fearing cabal. Six of the nine SCOTUS justices (Thomas, Roberts, Gorsuch, Sotomayor, Kavanaugh, and Barrett) went to Catholic high schools. And two of them, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, attended the same all-boys private Georgetown Preparatory School. The rightward lurch of SCOTUS is not representative of our increasingly secular country. A majority of us do not want Roe overturned and support a woman’s right to choose. 

I have a dear friend in her mid-30s who got her tubes tied a couple of years ago. I asked her what prompted such an invasive surgery. She shared that when Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, she needed to make sure she was never handcuffed by pregnancy. She wasn’t only concerned about losing her right to have an abortion—she was afraid of losing access to any type of contraceptive. She’d always known she didn’t want kids and if the U.S. would deny her agency over her future, well fuck them.

To put this into terms that conservative congressmen can understand: when you remove legal access to a service people need or want, it doesn’t disappear. It just gets pushed into an expensive, seedy underground. It would be much safer and less stigmatized if we could keep women’s reproductive rights out of the dangerous sewers of American society. 

Abortion has been steadily creeping back into those dark alleys. Texas banned the procedure at six weeks in May 2021 and the law went into effect in September. When the second-most populous state abridged women’s right to bodily autonomy, Roe felt doomed. 

Denying a person healthcare or imposing a condition—pregnancy—doesn’t have any corollaries among folks without uteruses. Imagine a country where the state gets to deny individuals health services or impose unwanted bodily states:

  • Should the state be able to deny fertility treatments to people with risky genetic disorders?
  • Should the state be able to impose a condition—castration—on convicted sex offenders? 
  • Should the state be able to impose gastric bypass surgery on morbidly obese people who cost Medicare/Medicaid millions of dollars annually?
  • Should the state be able to force a person to get the Covid-19 vaccine? 

These issues of bodily self-determination expose the hypocrisy of anti-choice activists. And many of these “pro-life” Americans are the same people who support capital punishment, the same people who support deadly drone strikes in the Middle East, the same people who praised teenager Kyle Rittenhouse for murdering two protesters with an AR-15. Also, many anti-choice Americans are up in arms about mask mandates in the midst of a deadly pandemic and yet they think women should be denied life-altering healthcare. 

Republican voters don’t realize that abortion has been made a contentious issue to stir up their emotions, another steaming dish in the buffet of lies the GOP uses to galvanize their political base. Contrary to their misinformation:

  • Nobody uses abortion as birth control.
  • A zygote, embryo, or fetus is not a baby. 
  • Contraception sometimes fails.
  • Men commit rape and women are typically the only ones who face the consequences.
  • Safe haven laws don’t “take care of [the obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy]” as suggested by Amy Coney Barrett. Pregnancy is a risky health condition—not a simple inconvenience.

The Supreme Court will issue a ruling on Dobbs vs. Jackson in June 2022, which could effectively overturn Roe by banning pre-viability abortions. The cutoff would be 15 weeks in Mississippi, but all states would be allowed to set their own parameters. It’s infuriating that this will likely happen, especially since three of the nine SCOTUS justices were appointed by a disgraced, twice-impeached president who lost the popular vote.

If Roe falls, I’m most concerned about low-income women living in red states. Please help spread the word about services such as Women Helping Women and Aid Access, which offers online consultations and abortion pills by mail, effective up to 10 weeks. The FDA recently decided that obtaining this medication by mail will be allowed regardless of a person’s state of residence.

Don’t let American women’s bodies be used as tools of the government’s religious zealots. The political party that supports citizens owning assault weapons is not the party of protecting life—it’s the party of oppressing women and limiting their choices. I hope that the women of Texas, Mississippi, Missouri, and other red states seeking to ban abortion have the ability to move somewhere that respects their dignity, humanity, and reproductive rights. 

3 Replies to “Tiptoeing Over American Vipers”

  1. Thank you I live in Texas and recently had to travel to Florida because I was 8 weeks.
    The clinic I went to in Pensacola, closest place to my Southern Texan town, (Louisiana was booked as well as Oklahoma or waiting list) took 2 days driving. Once I arrived I was 1 out of 40 girls/women. There was one Doctor & 2 toilets. The medicine to soften you cervix can also make you sick. You can imagine the smell. Small waiting room. I arrived at 10am. Procedure was done at 11pm. Last client probably left around 1am. Our country is in trouble to say the least. I am so grateful I was able to get this abortion. Undoubtedly I cannot talk to anyone about this because most of my family and friends are pro life. And even if they claim pro choice they are not okay with abortion. It’s very hush hush in my community. Thank you so much for your article.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I am confident that American women will regain bodily autonomy in the long run, but anti-choicers aren’t going to make it easy for us.

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