There are plausible reasons why the draconian South Dakota law hasnt gotten the attention of men. Why only women seem to be writing editorials and blogs condemning this action. Why only females appear to get that the Religious Right represents a dreadful threat to democracy.
Obviously, only women get pregnant. They are the sex that has to carry a fetus for nine months; whose physical and psychological health is challenged by pregnancy. Ultimately, women have to bear the consequences of failed contraception or an ill-considered liaison; they have to suffer as the victims of rape or incestwhich the South Dakota law makes no provision for, by the way.
And we know that this is a patriarchical culture. A lot of us dont believe that it should be that way and are working to change it, but the fact remains that America is run by guys. A culture where it is still more important for men to be seen as tough, rather than as caring and compassionate. Because this is a macho, male-dominated culture, it remains the case that its usually women who have to worry about contraception. And, sadly, it is often the female in the couple who has to think through the consequences of an unintended pregnancy.
Obviously men would be more emotionally involved if the issue affected their bodies. If Christian conservatives passed legislation forbidding vasectomies or making it illegal for anyone who was not their brand of Christian to have sex. (Something theyre probably working on, as I write.)
My theory about why the Religious Rights systematic attack on reproductive rights gets so little attention from mainstream men, is that most guys arent conceptual. The notion that Christian Conservatives are pushing the US into theocracy is just too big, too sophisticated a concept for most men to grasp.
Whats this got to do with abortion, with reproductive rights? Theyre the most visible symbol of mens control over womens bodies. Thats been one of the hallmarks of ultra-conservative Christianity since the third century, around the time of the first Council of Nicea. Thats when it was officially decided that women couldnt be priests or take positions of power in the Church.
The US has the highest abortion rate in the developed world80 percent are performed on women over 20. But, the Religious Right doesnt care about reducing abortions. If they did their focus would be on reducing unintended pregnancies by providing sex education and contraception; making the morning after pill widely available. Its the Pro-Choice movement that has done the most to reduce US abortions. The Pro-Life movement is all about control of sex.
Christina Pages new book, How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America makes some of the same points that Ive been making, particularly that the Pro-Life movement is all about regulating how we have sex. But Id go further and argue that the Religious Right wont stop with sex. They want to regulate our behavior. One of the characteristics of the American Christian Conservative hierarchy is that it stifles dissent. Their motto isnt really Jesus loves you, its Do it my way or burn in hell.
The organized assault on reproductive rights, which produced the South Dakota legislation, is part and parcel of a plan to shift America from democracy to theocracy. Its a threat to everything that most of us believe in. Today theyre trying to control how we make private medical decisions. Tomorrow its how we think.
Americans are so used to being a secular state that were relatively unprepared for an attack by well-financed theocrats. Weve been conditioned to expect an attack on democracy to come from without, rather than within. Nonetheless, were under vigorous, continual attack from the Religious Right.
Thats why the abortion issue is of vital importance. So important that men need to pay attention and write articles. Abortion is not just a womens issue.