With a Ku-Klux muu-muu in the back of the truckLast week I had an epiphany. You know, one of those moments where something goes "click", and your ideas about something fundamentally change forever. It happened while I was driving down a rural road in upstate New York.
If you ain't born-again they wanna mess you up, sayin'
“No abortions, no siree,
Life's too precious can't you see!”
What's that hangin' from the neighbors' tree?
Why, it looks like colored folks to me!
Would they do that?
They've been doing it for years!
- Frank Zappa, “Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk”
Note: This article was written before the assassination of Dr. Tiller.
As you might have gathered from reading some of my previous postings, I happen to be very much in favor of reproductive justice. (I've never been comfortable with the popular label, “Pro-choice”. It's not specific enough. Anyone who who likes deli mustard instead of the regular yellow kind on his hamburgers, or puts up light-fuchsia drapes in her living room rather than red ones can be called “pro-choice”.) Nonetheless, like a lot of people of my persuasion, I sometimes had doubts about my beliefs, born of cultural and religious indoctrination, not to mention the unceasing crocodile-teared guilt-barrage of religious (or perhaps more accurately, quasi-religious) blowhards, cracks in my will where pronatalist slogans and ideology could infiltrate. Therein lies the chief difference between those in the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” camps. Those of us in the former camp may experience occasional doubts about the validity of our beliefs just as those in the civil-rights movements of the 1950's and 60's may have at times doubted the wisdom of theirs (I wonder how many African-Americans back then dealt with internalized racist indoctrination?). Let's face it, it's tough going against a prevailing ideology, especially one which is backed up by millions of dollars and power on a national scale. Most of those in the “pro-life” camp have no lingering doubts about their beliefs. Life is a lot simpler when you're told what to believe (or else).
Any such doubts and misgivings all but vanished from my mind in the moment of which I spoke earlier. Since I was driving a car, I obviously wasn't reading “feminist” literature. I wasn't listening to a “liberal” talk show. What I was listening to was a podcast called Storylife, an audio magazine hosted by Chris Bolton. It is modeled along the lines of This American Life. The particular episode in my car stereo was called The Underwater Birth of Francis Henri. It showcased a birthing procedure popular in some circles called water-birthing (which is definitely not to be confused with waterboarding) and it featured a live recording of such a birth as it happened. The newborn infant's first cry shattered the relative quiet of my car and any illusions I might have had about the “pro-life” movement being the least bit concerned with the welfare of young human beings. It wasn't simply my mind that got made up at that moment, it happened at a body level; it was a gut reaction. From that point on, I could never again take seriously the notion, the fallacy, that any so-called pro-life pundits, pastors and politicians and their sheep- or pit-bull-like followers say what they say and do what they do out of anything remotely resembling love. (At least their allies in the Westboro Baptist Church are honest. They put their cards smack-dab on the table; their God, they declare, is a hateful God). Put another way, when was the last time you heard of anyone from Operation Rescue showing up at the front door of a single parent's home with a case of disposable diapers and a voucher for five years' worth of day care?
Addendum 1: The “pro-life” movement of today is a lot more radical and dangerous than that of thirty years ago. Back in the day, they were merely anti-feminist groups. According to Chip Berlet on Democracy Now, today's pro-lifers have solid connections with neo-Nazi groups.
Addendum 2: Susie Bright has posted the story of one of Dr. Tiller's patients on her blog. I highly recommend it.