Intentions and Consequences

You know what the road to Hell is paved with

Photo by Bradyn Trollip on Unsplash

I really do believe that a lot of people who consider themselves to be “pro-life” are honest in their intentions. They really do like babies and hate the idea that a prospective baby would be thrown away like so much biohazardous material.

They’re the most dangerous ones because, unlike the bigots and misogynists, who form a large part, if not the majority of the “pro-life” movement, they come from a place of good intentions. They’re motivated by love, rather than hate.

Well, most people like babies. I like them too, as long as they belong to other people.

Not that I didn’t try to have one. But it wasn’t meant to be, and I wasn’t going to go out of my way to make sure it happened. It’d be too costly, not at all certain, and, more importantly, too much of a physical ordeal for my wife. We weren’t desperate to be parents.

With things being what they are right now around the world, we’re not regretting the decision.

I digress.

The cost of motherhood

Some people like babies so much that they’re willing to ignore everything that raising a baby entails. They’re even willing to overlook the very real possibility that childbirth could have serious health consequences for the mother, up to and including death.

Yes, the possibility of that is fairly low, but it’s there. And so are all the costs related to giving birth safely. God forbid there are any complications, as medical costs in the U.S. are notoriously high. According to ValuePenguin:

The average cost of a healthy pregnancy and childbirth totals $6,940 with health insurance.

That’s assuming that there are zero complications. And, of course, not everyone can afford health insurance. The average cost of childbirth is $13,024 for a vaginal delivery without insurance.

There are a lot of people who can’t afford that. There are families living from paycheck to paycheck. Those people usually can’t afford the cost of raising a child either. And among those who can, some will have to work two or even three jobs to make it. That leaves precious little time for parenting. Making certain that a child is raised properly is really a difficult, full-time job. It’s impossible when you’re always at work.

Most people like babies. Not many think of the responsibilities that raising them entails and the consequences of parenting failure, whether deliberate or as an unfortunate byproduct of a society that abhors safety nets.

All that without addressing the glaring issue of truly unwanted pregnancies, such as those that are either dangerous for the mother or the product of rape and/or incest. A 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio had to be taken to Indiana for an abortion, while it’s still legal to do so. A 10-year-old girl SHOULD NEVER be allowed to give birth. EVER. It’s insanity to even think otherwise. Her body is not in any way ready to handle such a thing, not to mention that mentally she’s still a child herself. A rape victim of whatever age should never be forced to give birth if they don’t wish to do so.

The act of forcing a minor to give birth to a product of child abuse is in itself another count of child abuse. The act of forcing a girl or a woman to give birth to the product of rape is just another count of rape. The act of forcing a mother to give birth when her life is at risk is, essentially, playing God with someone else’s life. It’s state-sanctioned attempted murder.

You might love babies, but when somebody else has to have them, it’s none of your goddamned business. Because you don’t have to bear the consequences.

But there’s another aspect to this issue, with consequences that are even more far-reaching.

Infringing on rights

You see, the good lawmakers of Texas, opened a very unpleasant djinni bottle last September, when they allowed “concerned citizens” to police others and report doctors or centres that perform abortions. Turning your citizens into informers is what totalitarian regimes do. It’s mind-boggling that conservatives consider universal healthcare to be a “communist” notion, and see nothing wrong with turning neighbours into spies.

And apart from that, this inconceivable law was just a preview of what is happening right now. By effectively taking the option of legal abortion off the table, the state is forcing underprivileged women to do what they were doing before abortion became legal: seek anyone who is willing to perform the procedure, no matter how shady, or try to do it themselves, often with fatal results.

Or, if they have the means (and that’s a big if), they might attempt to have the abortion in another state, where they can legally do so. And here comes the even bigger problem: some legislators are considering making it illegal for women to cross state lines for this purpose.

Sorry, what?

How in all the world will the authorities be able to ascertain that? Are they going to set up border checkpoints between states? Are women of fertile age going to be under surveillance? Are they going to be banned from leaving a state when there’s suspicion that they intend to seek abortion? Are they going to be subjected to forced pregnancy tests? Are pregnant women in Texas going to be confined to the state until they give birth?

Where does the madness stop?

Even if the U.S. was actually a set of different countries, such as the EU, any given state has no right to police its citizens based on what they do in another country. If I wanted to go to, say, Amsterdam, legally smoke cannabis in a coffee shop then return to Greece, the authorities would have no ability whatsoever to enforce our national law on my activities in the Netherlands. The law would apply if I attempted to smuggle cannabis from there to Greece.

For lack of a federal law banning abortions, the same applies to Texas: Texas has no jurisdiction to check what any of its citizens do while they are away, let alone prosecute them for anything, unless a citizen actually breaks the law upon returning home (e.g. tries to smuggle illegal substances). Abortion pills, perhaps?

At least, that’s what happens in democracies around the world. So Texas decided it would take a woman’s bodily autonomy away. The reasoning behind this is that a fetus’ right to life overrules the wishes and agency of the woman gestating it. So some women will seek abortions elsewhere. No, says the conscientious lawmaker, I won’t let you leave the state! There goes their right to free movement. And how will the police be able to tell if any given woman is intending to have an abortion?

After all, many women in their sixth week are often unaware of their pregnancy, especially when it’s unplanned. Morning sickness might come after one month, or two, or never. More importantly, how will the police be able to tell? Usually, the first external signs come around the 16th week, sometimes even later. In rare situations, a baby bump might be undetectable until the very last months. Normally, a woman would know and would have sought an abortion well before that time.

So, we have two scenarios here: one where a woman is completely unaware of her pregnancy and is going to another state for whatever reason, and one where she is aware and is seeking a legal abortion. How will the police be able to tell whether or not a woman is pregnant, has knowledge of her pregnancy if she is, and if she did have the knowledge, what her actual intent is? How will a woman’s privacy be protected? How will she be able to travel safely if she’s pregnant?

How will this regressive decision of the Supreme Court, which is enabling trigger laws that are restricting women’s rights to come into effect not also lead to a domino effect of further measures that will take away even more civil rights from women?

Barring mandatory pregnancy tests at the state border upon crossing either way, I don’t know how else any state could stop women seeking abortion to do it in another state. And this measure alone would be a gross violation of privacy.

Bodily autonomy. Freedom of movement. Privacy. In some cases even the right to life. Something which starts ostensibly as a measure to protect unborn life ends up taking away basic rights from roughly half the population.

I’m sure some people really do mean well. But the lawmakers and judges who are pushing this agenda do not. This isn’t about the right to life of fetuses. This is about one-half of the population controlling the other half. This is about exploiting the good intentions of some to take away the freedoms of others. And it’s not just about abortions. It’s about all the consequences of banning them.

And there’s yet another level, which might not even have been on the lawmakers’ radar when they planned this, years ago.

A country divided

New York State Senator Liz Krueger has introduced a bill that will protect New York doctors performing abortions by stopping law enforcement from cooperating with out-of-state investigations on abortion provisions. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed a law that will protect those who perform or receive abortions from being sued in another state for this reason. The state of California is passing similar protection laws. Maryland is expanding abortion legislation. Michigan is coding abortion rights into law by dismantling antiquated laws from the 1930s.

Lines are being drawn. Lines that up to now might have been ideological or political are turning real.

Liz Krueger made this telling statement to the Guardian:

“At this critical moment New York must ensure abortion access both to New Yorkers and refugees from other states who are being denied their basic rights.”

Note the wording: refugees. And it’s not far from the truth. It’s like abortion-banning states now belong to another country. And, in some ways, they do. Especially if they decide to enforce border controls to check women traveling to another state.

If that happens, the situation will become an echo of the Underground Railroad which allowed slaves to reach free states and escape oppression. While this was happening, Southern states were attempting to legally expand slavery to the west. The North opposed this. The parallels are unmistakable.

We all know how this ended.

Beware of the consequences.

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Nikos Papakonstantinou

Nikos Papakonstantinou

It’s time to ponder the reality of our situation and the situation of our reality.