Sometimes I don’t recognize the country I thought I knew. The news is filled with terrifying reports on all kinds of things as the world grapples with the ongoing struggle between authoritarianism and democracy as various individual rights are being restricted in ways that were incomprehensible just a few years ago. The struggle is exacerbated by the huge wealth disparity in the U.S. between a small number of ultra-wealthy individuals and a large number of regular people just trying to live their lives. The world is far more connected now that it was 50 or 60 years ago. Since the widespread use of the internet, information that used to have daily, weekly, or even monthly cycles now flows continuously with 24/7 access to current information, some of which is factual, and some of which is entirely fictional. The sorting is left to the interested reader or viewer, and it can be exhausting sometimes.
Growing up, I remember how revolutionary the Roe v. Wade decision was. Even as an adolescent, I understood the ramifications of that decision. It meant that women had control over their bodies. It meant that they had numerous options to deal with an unwanted pregnancy, although even before the attacks on that freedom of choice gained a strong foothold, efforts were underway to restrict access to services guaranteed by that decision. At best, access to services was plentiful in major metropolitan areas, but in the more remote regions of the country, access was not guaranteed.
No woman should be forced to endure a pregnancy that she does not want. Pregnancy can be very dangerous to a person’s physical and mental health, and because of the need to work to survive, their financial health as well. The Roe v. Wade decision guaranteed every woman a Constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy if she so chose. She could also bring it to term, but the point was that it was her choice. Having this choice gave women tremendous freedom that went far beyond whether to procreate or not.
This freedom translated into better career opportunities as companies could no longer legally discriminate against putting women in positions of responsibility because they “might become pregnant.” This freedom also improved women’s health and reduced the number of unwanted children that were born.
The dirty little secret is that even if those trying to eliminate access to safe, legal abortions are successful and manage to prohibit the practice of performing legal abortions nationwide at some point, that won’t stop all abortions. It will only stop the safe and legal ones, and as a result more women will die. For those who live, the cynic in me wonders if that’s really the plan. If seeking medical assistance becomes illegal, more people will be jailed. Given that so many of the states enacting draconian penalties for the crime of even seeking an abortion have also privatized much of their penal systems, somebody stands to make huge profits if more people are incarcerated.
The loudest voices in the anti-choice movement claim to be concerned about the sanctity of human life, but were that really true, they’d care about the lives of the women they are destroying with their growing restrictions. Unfortunately, the only lives they seem to care about are the ones who aren’t yet breathing without regard for the hardships they cause the living.
Beyond the fight against women having control over their own bodies, the same groups are working hard to push us closer to being a Christian theocracy, something that is expressly prohibited by the Constitution via the First Amendment. That pesky amendment that guarantees the right to free speech, assembly, press, also guarantees the right to not have the government sponsoring or enforcing any particular religious doctrine or practice. The wall separating religion from the government has long been under attack. Before June 14, 1954, there was no mention of any god(s) in the Pledge of Allegiance. When first written in 1892, it read:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Then in 1923, it was changed to:
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
It wasn’t until 1954 during the McCarthy era that it was changed to be less inclusive and to invoke God. A rewrite that was and remains unconstitutional. The breakdown of adding God to our money started earlier and ended later appearing on coinage in 1864 and on paper money in 1957. The original motto of the United States was E pluribus unum until 1956 when they changed it to In God we trust. E pluribus unum was a far better and more inclusive motto.
I remember being excited when I turned 18 and was first able to vote. Voting was a duty that I took very seriously. In the early years, I wasn’t concerned about party affiliation but was instead concerned with voting records, platforms, and in my home state, the propositions that appeared on the ballot as those would have direct effects on daily life in the local community. Negative campaigning was a concern, but we were still able to understand the issues and what various candidates stood for with respect to those issues. Once elected, state and federal legislatures argued over details, but they cooperated and compromised to enact legislation that attempted to improve the lives of the people of the country.
During the campaigns, candidates were allotted time on the local stations and in the papers to present their positions. We didn’t see or hear about big money determining the races until a little later. The final nail in that coffin was the Citizens United decision in 2010 that opened the flow of money into campaigns from a garden hose to a white water river where corporations could determine elections by pouring as much money as they wanted into various campaigns. At that point, he who had the most money often won rather than the results being based on ensuring that the government worked for everyone. Big money interests gained far too much influence. And beyond big money, partisan legislatures are trying to restrict which eligible voters will even be allowed to vote, and if they are allowed which votes will be counted. That’s not democracy.
It’s ironic that corporations are considered “persons” and fetuses are considered “persons” and even some other species are sometimes considered “persons,” but in far too many cases, female and various non-white people aren’t.
Sometimes I just don’t recognize the only country I’ve ever really known.