By Pat Hynes

Greenfield Recorder, Monday, January 31, 2022

Did you know?

… Abortion has been legal for a large part of U.S. history: Not a single state banned abortion in our country’s first century. Women used abortion-inducing herbs and medications described in early pharmacological literature and were assisted by skilled midwives, nurses and women’s health care providers. Half of these skilled women were African American, some enslaved; others were indigenous and white. Enslaved Black women, however, never had the freedom to choose abortions: their pregnancy meant another slave, another financial asset for their white slave owner who raped them and prohibited their abortions. Thus, Black women developed an underground of herbal abortifacients and skilled women’s health care.

… Not until the 1860s, with the end of the Civil War and the rise of Jim Crow laws did some states pass antiabortion laws, forcing women to seek covert abortions. By 1910, abortion was illegal in all existing states.

… The Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion reversed its historical position in that same period, the late 1860s, and banned abortion from the moment of conception. Prior to that ban, prominent churchmen debated the point of ensoulment — that is, when a fetus gained a soul — days, according to some; months, according to others. When the Catholic Church moved to standardize its teaching condemning abortion from conception, historians have pointed out that it was losing its secular empire of Vatican lands and needed to reassert spiritual power in the face of this defeat. Pope Pius IX then established that all abortion was sinful, and excommunication the penalty; simultaneously he established the dogma of “papal infallibility”— that is, on matters of church doctrine, the Pope is infallible.

White supremacy and patriarchy asserted full control over women’s bodies until 1973.

… Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision, recognized a woman’s constitutional right to decide whether or not to terminate her pregnancy, acknowledging that women have autonomy to make that decision. The 1973 ruling established that women can abort in the first trimester (12 weeks) and the states could regulate but not ban abortion in the second trimester (13-24 weeks); and that the state could regulate or ban abortions in the third trimester (25-36), except when necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother. When Roe v. Wade came into effect, 46 states had to abandon their restrictive abortion laws.

Do you know? … Today, a majority of US adults — including Catholics, non-Evangelical Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Unaffiliated, Asian, Black, Latino and White adults, moderate and liberal Republicans, and a vast majority of Democrats, both men and women, agree that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Despite the fact that the majority of Americans support abortion, 21 states are certain to attempt to ban abortion, and five more are likely to do so, if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. Most have pre-1973 laws poised to go into effect.

Government is ignoring the will of the people.

… A majority of these 26 states are among the worst states for women’s employment and earnings, including the eight poorest states for women. They are also among the most restrictive states in which to vote. Women from Louisiana and Florida, states prepared to ban abortions, and from Texas, which already does so beyond six weeks — would have to travel from 542 to 666 miles to reach a clinic that provides abortions.

… In national surveys and interviews with women who have had abortions, most women report multiple reasons for their decision. These include financial and other responsibilities — not able to afford raising a child or another child; the need to finish education, to work, or to care for those they already care for; and problems with the male partner — lack of support or relationship difficulties.

… Misogyny and injustice fuel the control of women’s bodies.

*    There is no comparable moral or medical control of men’s bodies.

*    The moralistic urgency to preserve life in the womb evaporates once a poor child is born. One in 6 children lives in poverty; four million youth are homeless; and the enhanced child tax credit has expired.

Two final ironies: Las Libres (“the free ones”), a Mexican feminist network, is now providing abortion pills to women across the border in Texas and other U.S. states. So also is Austria-based Aid Access, which prescribes medication for women in Texas, who receive the pills from a pharmacy in India.

Our government kills innocent children and adults with impunity in its Global War on Terror, while many states and the Supreme Court are poised to criminalize women’s reproductive freedom.

Pat Hynes, a retired professor of environmental health, is a board member of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice. Haley’s Press, Athol, will publish her new book, “Hope But Demand Justice,” in late February.

Copyright © 2022 Greenfield Recorder 1/31/2022