Alabama, Women’s Rights
”If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best-colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th U.S. President
May 15, 2019 (Analysis) We all woke up to the news. The Alabama Senate passed the most restrictive abortion bill in recent memory. It effectively bans a medical procedure and can land a medical provider in prison for upwards of ninety-nine years. Many people outside the Deep South, or the culture outside of the South that embraces this, see this as overreach. To be fair, so do some White Supremacists posting at sites that most people stay away from.
This is not a surprise. For they see Dominionist and the religious right as enemies of the White Race. However, they are a minority. Most on those sites are also celebrating, and the reason is simple. It prevents the abortion of white babies.
Those who do not understand the culture are posting memes, claiming this was an overreach. They are joined by a strange bedfellow, Pat Roberts, who does understand the politics better than most, The reaction from liberal twitter has gone so far as to state that this act will surely lose them the legislature. This reveals them as the misogynist they are. It was all men who passed this. Women will surely rise. And in these expressions of rage observers reveal just how out of touch they are with history.
None of this is accidental or came out of the blue. Nor is this just limited to men, oh never mind that every one of the people voting for the bill is white males. The governor is a woman, a conservative Republican, and she is hardly out of the norm for the culture she lives in.
To those familiar with the history of the South in general, or Alabama in particular, none of this is a surprise. None is shocking either, or the fact that the legislation was crafted in a way to ensure it goes to the Supreme Court. The goal is to overturn Roe v Wade and to return the country to an era when the South severely limited the rights of women. It is an attack on the civil rights of women, and it is not the last attempt to return the country to an era when people knew their place. This is the language that you can hear coming from politicians that seek this. It does not matter if those politicians are people like Donald J Trump, who is their avatar, or the local member of the school board who believes society worked better before others got their rights. And by others, they mean Blacks, Mexicans, and women. This is no longer coded either.
This is the same environment that produced the system of mass incarceration that replaced the Jim (and Juan) Crow systems of social control. It is the same world that told us that the South would rise again, and return the world to the right way. What is baffling is that many people on the coasts do not understand this. The Civil War did not end in 1865, or with Reconstruction. The battles that were once waged in places like Shiloh or Gettysburg have now fought in the halls of Congress or your local city council. And for the moment, the forces of regression are winning.
We live in a country that has an unstated caste system. It is far more obvious in the Deep South, or in rural areas away from cosmopolitan liberal cities. This is what is so hard about it. If you live in a large city, especially near, or at the coasts, you will be in an environment where it is not transparent.
We have seen way too many allusions to the Handmaiden’s Tale. This novel, and it is supposed to be a dystopia, was written by Margaret Atwood and was first published in 1985. Though the novel is set in New England, it could easily have been set in the Deep South, or any deeply rural area of the United States. This idea that things work best when people know their place runs deep and goes back centuries.
One of the questions we have seen on social media is whether the Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, a woman, will sign the legislation. Of course, she did. It is not just because she is a Republican, a favorite talking point on social media. It is almost expected of her. She lives in a social milieu where women are not equal to men, even if she pursued a career in politics. Oh and nearer mind that she has benefited from more liberal laws that allowed her to divorce her husband and return to Alabama. We shall not speak of that transgression since divorce in this ideology is not done.
Her formative years happened during the height of the civil rights movement. Many who lived through that era was scarred by it. They saw outsiders coming to their states and forcing them to adopt laws that they did not agree with. It is not just abortion. It is also the whole civil rights legislation, which is also under attack. This is where history comes in contact with policy. The other major policy matter that came to clash with the very proper society where people knew their place was Roe v Wade. If you ever wonder why all this effort is in place, it has very little to do with unborn babies, and all to do with social control and a caste system that devalues women.
This is also an essential element of far-right ideology. Women are subservient to men is central. So women having agency over their bodies is not something to be considered as important. Or for that matter, that this is a civil right. Those who are inferior to the dominant group are not entitled to the same rights.
There is another aspect to this law. It is who it affects. If the Governor’s niece had the misfortune to become pregnant, this would be taken care of. It’s not like it was not done before *Roe.* Those who have the means will travel to states where the practice is legal. They will be sent away for a vacation, and be back on Monday for work or school. But it is illegal if you leave the state! (That be Georgia, but this is similar) Who cares? If you are well-connected none will prosecute you for the affront. It was the same way before Roe. People of means got their young ladies the abortions they needed when they got pregnant. It was a polite secret that none spoke about.
The poor, on the other hand, will have no choice. There will be, for sure, an Underground Railroad like before *Roe*. But most women of lesser means will be condemned to either carrying that baby to term or seeking a back alley abortion. And like well before Roe many will die. Others will be left sterile, and more than a few will carry babies to term. A few of those will try to raise those children, and a few more will give them up in adoption. This is the reality that expects Alabamians, and other states where this is going to come if this law is sustained. Those who wrote the law are not making this a secret. They intend this to go all the way to the United States Supreme Court in order to overturn Roe.
They are hardly alone and another 20 states have passed similarly draconian laws. While this one is the worst, they all have the same intent. They know that they have a far more friendly judiciary and that the courts are in the process of getting packed with right-wing ideologues, some who are Dominionists.
The question is not just Roe or women civil rights. There are other laws that are settled law that the far right in this country hates. They don’t like them because it gives people some freedom, and allows them to survive with some illusion of comfort. Whether it is social security, Medicare or the Civil Rights Act, all these are an affront to the far right. They are not the way things should be. And they have also been under attack by the same exact forces of reaction. Why? We live in a caste society, and your betters want to keep you down.
We also live in a society that increasingly has closed the routes to leave poverty. If you are born into poverty, you are not deserving of this ideology. You are a lesser person, and society owes you nothing. So if you starve, that is your issue. I alluded to the *Handmaiden’s Tale* above. It is supposed to be a dystopia, but it is becoming increasingly real. Why? The goal is to keep the order of things and to establish one religion above all others. What you are seeing is the imposition of Dominionism step by step. You are also seeing the undercurrent of White Supremacy as well. One reason why health care for all, or the safety net, or for that matter abortion, is seen as morally suspect since it helps minorities.
These trends did not start with President Donald Trump. They did not start with George W. Bush either. They go all the way back to the 1980s and Jerry Falwell. This is a new form of religious social engineering, and it is not unlike other religious majorities around the world. Some of us have written about this over the years. Some of us have warned of this. Now we sit and watch.