8/27/2005

I was watching network news last night--maybe ABC--it was that goofy-looking sad-eyed anchor with the close-set eyes--and he was introducing a story about RU-486, the so-called “morning after” pill, and just to make sure we knew what it was really about he told us: this is the latest chapter in the abortion debate. FOX has long taken to referring to RU-486 as “the abortion pill”.

The truth is considerably less gory. The pill’s supposed to be taken up to 72 hours after the act, and simply expels the egg, fertilized or not. There is no fetus and nothing resembling a fetus after 72 hours. What there is is called a blastocyst, which after even a whole week of division amounts to a conglomeration of no more than a hundred cells. It is day 22 before there is something akin to a heartbeat, in a set of cells which will only later become a rudimentary heart. You might as well say all contraceptives are really just different methods of abortion. You can say it if you want, but it's hooey.

Personally, I've never been able to understand the obsession with other people's sperm and eggs the busybodies on the right seem to have. I don't concern myself with other people's bodily fluids overmuch, as long as they keep them to themselves. Don't spew 'em at me is all I ask.

I suspect the appeal of the abortion issue to the busybodies has to do more with certain notions of feminism than with fetuses anyway. It’s about demonizing a certain kind of woman—an archetypal woman who may or may not exist in reality. I won’t say it’s a plot of the patriarchy, because the word “patriarchy” has been abused by self-proclaimed feminists who fail to see the role women play in perpetuating misogyny themselves. I’m not pointing the finger, but gender relations are immensely complicated, and throwing words like “patriarchy” about doesn't do a thing to deepen the dialogue. Creating bugbears and demonizing whole classes of people based on imaginary threats is the real problem. And it cuts both ways.

Anyway, the fact that in the mainstream debate over abortion we’re to the point where contraception is tantamount to murder is interesting. And ominous. Personally I am more or less indifferent about the issue of abortion, as it has very little, if anything at all, to do with me. I’m sure it can be a difficult, even unpleasant choice, but it’s not mine to make, now, is it? The only way to look at it that matters much to me is as an issue of the power of the state and the right of the individual to make vital choices about his or her lives: how to live, love and die.

If you look at a slew of “culture war” issues, you start to see a trend. The fact is, those red states that are most for the sanctity of marriage are the ones where divorce rates are highest. So they’re projecting their problems onto blue states. But it’s obviously not “liberal values” that are destroying marriage, since in “liberal” states like Massachusetts more people are staying married (as of 2004 the number of Massachusetts marriages ending in divorce per thousand was 2.4, as compared to 4.1 in Texas). Nine of the top ten states for teen pregnancy are red states (the ninth-ranked is California). Eight of the top ten states with the highest murder rates are red (Illinois was ranked 8th, California 9th in 2003). Seven of the top ten for violent crime. What about infant mortality? Nine out of ten highest ranked are red states.

But there’s another trend that bears considering: nine of the ten states with the highest percentage of their population living in poverty are also red states. The education level in blue states is consistently higher than in red states. When you start looking at trends you can see pretty clearly, I think, that the “traditional values” schlock Republicans are serving up is mostly to manipulate people who are being ill-served by the government where it counts. The shocking thing about the last two elections is really how the GOP got so many people to vote against their vital economic interests by convincing them that they were at war against their fellow countrymen.

Main source: http://www.census.gov/statab/www/ranks.html

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