If you think that uteri have nothing to do with politics, you are mistaken. Alas. If there is one area which is ultra-politicized, it’s precisely the uterus (let’s clear the air: I will talk here about the woman’s uterus but the concern encompasses any person in capacity to bear a child). Remember: tubal ligation is almost impossible before a mature age in many so-called developed countries and there is a reason for that. Because let’s face it: politics is very much interested in uteri, even if it is camouflaged behind legal or religious excuses.
Let’s start with the legal smoke screen. The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States “Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization” dated June 24, 2022 grounds its decision not to recognize the right to abortion as a right binding on all states on the fact that this right is not enshrined in the US Constitution – unlike the same Court’s decision of January 22, 1973 “Roe vs. Wade” which invoked the right to privacy, almost 50 years earlier.
Therefore, the decision whether or not to criminalize abortion is, according to the decision of June 24, 2022, within the jurisdiction of each of the 50 states. It is estimated to date that 25 or 26 states could ban the right to abortion.
The right to abortion is not enshrined in the Constitution – how could it be? The American Constitution, which dates back to September 17, 1787, is one of the oldest constitutions still in force and mainly governs the state organization and the rights of citizens towards a new state which armed itself with constitutive texts both nationally and internationally. The Bill of Rights define the fundamental rights of Americans vis-à-vis their nation (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to a fair trial, definition of citizenship, tax collection, limitation to two presidential terms, etc).
The American Supreme Court, which has no equivalent in France since the state structure is totally different (unitary state versus federal state), is the court that dominates the entire judicial system: it interprets the American Constitution and issues judgments without possible appeal which sets precedents.
Who sits on the Supreme Court? Well, this is where politics reappears: nine judges including a president (Chief Justice) are appointed for life by the President of the United States. The Supreme Court, whose main mission is to verify the constitutionality of the applicable legal corpus, is therefore unfortunately extremely politicized.
Among these nine judges, Thomas (appointed by G.H.W. Bush), Alito (appointed by G.W. Bush), Gorsuch (appointed by Trump), Kavanaugh (appointed by Trump), Coney Barrett (appointed by Trump) and Roberts (appointed by G.W. Bush and he is the Chief Justice) are seen as conservatives and Breyer (appointed by Clinton), Kagan (appointed by Obama) and Sotomayor (appointed by Obama) are seen as progressives.
I’ll let you guess who voted against the abortion ban. The respective vote of each of the Justices of the Supreme Court goes exactly in the direction of their political opinions, which obviously suggests that the “Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization” decision is more political than legal. And it shows because the US political landscape is polarized and bipartisan, unlike France for instance.
Finally, we must be honest: the reversal of the “Roe vs. Wade” jurisprudence may have occurred under the Biden presidency but it has been prepared by conservatives for many years and the appointment by Trump of three conservative judges to the Supreme Court in recent years has largely contributed to this reversal.
With politicization, of course, come conflicts of interest that can cast doubt on the integrity of Supreme Court decisions. The position of Justice Clarence Thomas (who voted the abortion ban) is for instance more than questionable since his wife Ginni, who was appointed in 2020 by Trump as a member of the Library of Congress, is a fervent supporter of Trump and campaigned for the January 6, 2020 insurrection to have Trump recognized as the winner of the presidential elections.
Also, politics inevitably leads to money and power, which are at the center of the American game. Money and power rot the entire American system in an absolutely assumed way since the activity of the many lobbies present in Washington is totally normalized. The NRA is perhaps the best known and most powerful of these organizations, but make no mistake: there are thousands of lobbies working, each for their industry, in Washington.
One could say that the “pro-choice” lobby – that is to say in favor of the legalization of abortion – may not have done enough to preserve a favorable “Roe vs Wade” legislation but it must be said that the “pro-choice” movement ultimately goes against a system which has always been the same for centuries and which has several faces: capitalism, patriarchy, religion and racism.
All of these concepts have always worked hand in hand. Let me explain.
The first traces of violence between humans appeared in the Neolithic, when man became sedentary. With the new notion of patrimony to be preserved appeared the enslavement of others and the permanent concern for transmission of the newly acquired land to an heir, and thus the permanent concern about the woman’s uterus.
And we naturally come to religion, which has accompanied humanity since the dawn of time.
The Bible, which has always been and still remains today a political instrument, has only “spiritually” justified or disqualified certain practices or acts, and the purpose of this set of religious texts has never been other than to regulate the behavior of people within a civil society. As such, the Ten Commandments are nothing but a law applicable to a civil society.
The pre-eminence of men over women irrigates the Bible, which itself irrigated and structured the society over the past centuries. The woman, who is the culprit of the Garden of Eden, receives as a viaticum to grow, to multiply and to give birth in pain, under the domination of her husband (if I believe Genesis 3,16).
Concerning the so-called inferior populations, their enslavement was largely permitted by a nauseous ethnocentrism corroborated by religious texts which allowed violent evangelism, then by the pseudo-science catalog of the Age of Enlightenment – which by classifying, created hierarchies between sexes and between races.
To put it simply, either white men eradicated the native populations to take their lands (I am thinking of the Amerindians to whom the missionaries offered the infamous “firewater” and sheets infected with smallpox so that they would die), or put them in slavery to benefit from free labor (I am obviously thinking of the triangular trade).
The control exercised over women and over so-called inferior races had no other purpose than to ensure the material and political seizure of power by men, often white. All with the “spiritual” support of the Catholic religion.
In other times called “medieval trade”, “colbertism” (in France), “bullionism” (in Spain and Portugal), “commercialism” (in Holland and England), “triangular trade”, the phenomenon is called today “capitalism”. To think that money does not work hand in hand with politics would be another naïve mistake. Because don’t forget: everything is political (even if Machiavelli said it differently: “everything is not political but politics is interested in everything”). In a nutshell, the Catholic religion has often been the spiritual arm of European men’s domination on women and other races.
So much for the religious smoke screen that camouflages the political.
You may think that I am digressing? I’m not.
The political question of gender and race is at the heart of the procreation and abortion issues. The uteri are political and always have been, make no mistake. Margaret Atwood understood this well, in writing “The Handmaid’s Tale”.
The uterus allows heritage transmission at an individual level and cultural and political transmission at a national level. Because that’s what is at stake.
The challenge has never been to “protect the children”, to use the terms of “pro-life” activits. If so, free public health, social security, child welfare, fight against violence against children, fight against mass killings in schools would have been put in place. But, to paraphrase Pastor Dave Barnhart of Birmingham, Alabama, it must be recognized that “the unborn” are a handy group to advocate for. They ask for nothing, are morally pure unlike the incarcerated, the drug addicts or the poor, they ask for nothing, they don’t need money, they are the perfect creatures to love.
However, unwanted children are those who are the most at risk: between denial of pregnancy, domestic violence (when we are not talking about murders) and adoption with all the risks of abuse it entails, grave perils punctuate the lives of unwanted children.
But if the issue for “pro-life” conservatives is not to protect children, what is it? Their only challenge is to preserve the numerical predominance of white people over people of color. It is as simple and as disgusting as that.
This issue is not new: Ben J. Wattenberg, American demographer, already talks about it in his book published in 1987 “The Birth Dearth: What Happens when people in free countries don’t have enough babies?”.
In 2015, more than half of babies born on the American soil belonged to minorities, while 80% of deaths recorded for the same year concerned white people.
In 1960, 85% of people living in the United States were white, a figure that is expected to drop to 43% by 2060, according to the Pew Research Institute.
The theme, well understood by Jane Elliott, the immense American anti-racist activist and educator, is simple: as many white babies as possible must be born so that the white American population is not numerically outnumbered by people of color. Therefore, abortion must be criminalized.
The point is that of numerical, political and monetary domination and cultural hegemony that must be preserved (Europe is fighting with this same theme, but in the field of migratory crises). Trump, the day after the “Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization” decision dated June 24, 2022, praised the victory of “white life”. Because there is a point of white supremacy there and it is now perfectly assumed.
After the “Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization” decision, there will still be just as many abortions but many of them will be at risk. And who will be at risk? Poor populations, colored populations, who will abort illegally and in dangerous conditions (52 deaths out of 100,000 for the black population against 18 per 100,000 for the white population). The Southern states of the US have nearly half of the country’s black population and it is precisely these states that prohibit or severely limit the right to abortion. I guess that Black lives matter not so much, finally.
The abortion rate for black women is 23.8 per thousand, while it is 6.6 per thousand for white women, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which rightly denounces a systemic problem, with black women three times more likely to die of maternal causes than white women and black infants two times more likely to die than white infants during pregnancy or delivery. These figures will certainly worsen with the criminalization of abortion.
A woman living in Brownsville, Texas will have to travel 1,600 km (more than 14 hours by road) to reach Albuquerque and benefit from a medical abortion.
The means to prevent an unwanted pregnancy – whether it be sex education, contraception or medically supervised abortion – are beyond the reach of poor women of color.
This systemic abortion issue is exactly at the intersection of patriarchy and racism.
An ideal pregnancy is of course the one desired by both parents. No one is FOR abortion. But we must at least offer a valid choice to pregnant women. I can only ramble on and emphasize the importance of education in general, sex education in particular cases, education to be done on rape, on domestic violence, on marital rape. On a personal level, now: I can hear that someone is against abortion. But if that person never wishes to have an abortion, they should not prevent another person from doing so, because everyone’s story is different.
I have two male friends who were tricked into unwanted pregnancies by them. I have another male friend who used to consider abortion to be an absolute crime but who had to accompany his wife 15 years later in the horribly painful process of childbirth/abortion of a stillborn child. I have a female friend who has been the victim of marital rape and who found herself pregnant when she asked for a coitus interruptus (because she knew her cycle) and the only answer she received was a “voilà, I won” during the ejaculation of his partner in strong desire for a child. I have known women and men who wanted children who never arrived. I have heard a thousand stories, a thousand intimate configurations which obviously make me wish for the good of everyone that procreation and abortion remain in the private sphere, personal, without political intervention.
Why is it important to talk about it here, whereas I am French? Because the US may not be my country of birth, but their positioning on societal issues often sets the tone, so much so that it did not take 4 days for Ireland, England and France to discuss the abortion issue.
Missouri is already considering several bills that would make it possible to prosecute women who abort out of its jurisdiction. Many American activists are calling on women to delete their cycle tracking apps, worried that data may be a mean to prosecute women in the event of an future abortion.
Finally, Justice Clarence (the one who is married to Ginni) is already questioning the rights of LGBTQIA2S+.
In short, it’s a shitshow. To be honest, I’m extremely angry. I didn’t even want to accompany this text with photos, but I finally inflict on you some photos of a very sad black dress in front of the Winter Circus in Paris – because my God yes: what is happening right now is a nauseating circus.
There is now a real emergency. Urgency to write, to demonstrate, to protest, to come together, to help, to legislate.
July 1st, 2022
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