as long as women and girls have gotten knocked up by men and boys whose
sense of responsible propriety has been as flaccid as their libidinous
yearning was rock hard, abortion has woven a constant sub-text through our
Millions of females over the
centuries did not wish impregnation, having had countless, painfully
compelling reasons why giving birth against their wills was objectively
In the absence of legal sanction or safe and sterile medical conditions
for abortion, veritable legions of desperate recipients of misapplied,
selfish “love” disastrously took matters into their own, frightened
Others submitted to the far from tender mercies of assorted midnight
practitioners offering “help” in the form of voodoo chants and rusty
If all the females who’ve perished from officially prohibited abortions
could be assembled in one place, their ghostly ranks would stretch from
left to right -- front to back -- far beyond the naked eye’s vision. It
would be like trying to peer across an ocean.
They were once already born, fully developed, socially functioning,
productive human beings whose definite right to life -- from the clear
standpoint of logic and comparative consideration -- necessarily should
have taken precedence over the imagined, supposedly superceding “rights”
that conservatives quite irrationally ascribe to early fetuses and even
The epitome of sexism is when a real, live woman is thought to have less
worth than a recently emerged embryo, accompanied by an implicit
assumption that she can be sacrificed so that the latter might live.
Such would be the prevailing reality if Roe. v. Wade were scrapped
and America returned to the benighted butchery that many of us have heard
our older female friends and relatives so gruesomely tell about.
We can’t go back to an era when conservative Christians found Biblical
passages to justify not only Jim Crow racial segregation, but murderously
oppressive male chauvinism as well.
In fact, Roe v. Wade was as historically pivotal in liberating
women from the death and injury widely caused by back-alley abortions as
the Emancipation Proclamation was in freeing enslaved Blacks.
Imagine the travesty if slavery had been re-introduced some years after
the Civil War ended!
Such an abysmal return in connection with abortion would be every bit as
outlandish, and the very antithesis of proper “values” or “morality.”
We can lament the existence of abortion, but we can’t ignore that it’s
Furthermore, no male or male-dominated institution (government or church)
can validly second-guess or denigrate the “need” behind any particular
female’s abortion choice.
Helping, not hindering, is our appropriate role in this entire question.
We should do everything we can to remedially address the issues that make
women and young girls so desperately feel that an abortion is mandatory.
That includes targeting irresponsible male lust as the chief abortion
culprit, providing comprehensive sex education and ready contraceptive
availability, and eliminating government’s indifference to female pay
equity, living wages, affordable healthcare and daycare, etc.
We’re also obligated to challenge prevailing assumptions in advertising,
fashion and entertainment that exploitatively promote dolled-up female
“hotness” as a trigger for male sexual desire. No wonder many teenaged
boys think girls exist for no other purpose than to be laid.
Fathers, teach your sons how to really treat a lady. Wall Street and
Madison Avenue, quit putting profit derived through crass manipulation
above our sisters’ lives.
Abortion, however, must never be banned.
Almost a quarter million females perish annually around the world -- in
fear and pain -- because it’s their misfortune to live in wretchedly
retrograde societies where abortion remains outlawed.
South Dakota has enacted legislation designed to make our country join
that lethally restrictive group.
How wrong that would be becomes apparent when we read the recollections of
those who witnessed what life (and death) was like for American females
before Roe v. Wade:
“In Chicago, at Cook Country
Hospital, there were about 5,000 women a year coming in with injuries and
bleeding resulting from illegal abortions, mostly self-induced abortions,”
Leslie Reagan, the author of When Abortion Was a Crime, said in an
interview. “They had an entire ward dedicated to taking care of people in
that situation. Those wards pretty much closed up around the country once
abortion was legalized.”
Multiply that reality in a
single hospital in just one city by an exponential sum, and the staggering
dimension of what a Roe v. Wade reversal would mean grows horribly
On March 8, progressives everywhere will observe International Women’s
As always, it’ll serve as a celebration for victories already won in the
hard battle for full gender equality.
But now, more than ever, it must also be a galvanizing call to arms -- to
keep those who hold up half the sky from suffering disastrous defeat by
paternalistic, patriarchal reactionaries determined to forcefully define
how women live and die.
Deafening outrage and unprecedented protest can keep the deplorable South
Dakota time machine from hurtling into looming, fearful darkness.
Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior,
Wisconsin, has been writing progressive commentary for various outlets
since the Sixties. He can be reached at:
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