supporting the Republican platform means you support rapists

Progressives have been a bunch of well-intentioned but misguided wuss-bags. Stuck in the Enlightenment version of how our minds work, we’ve missed the brain science boat conservatives jumped onto forty years ago.

Until I read George Lakoff’s The Political Mind and now as I’m finishing Drew Westen’s The Political Brain I was misguided, too. I thought it best to stay “above” the low-brow games the right wing played, appealing to people’s fears and encouraging misinformation. Turns out they’re just ahead of the game in understanding how our brains work.

Take Cathy*, the 24 year old administrative assistant in a small southern town. Avidly against abortion, a faithful church-goer, she’s just finished college and moved into her own place with a friend. The small two bedroom apartment is above a local dive bar, but the girls don’t mind. It’s exciting and makes it feel a bit like they’ve move to the big city without having to leave the comfort of home.

On her way home from work one evening, Cathy stops at the supermarket to get some eggs and cereal. As she leaves, crosses the street, and walks toward her new home, she doesn’t notice the man in the dark hooded sweatshirt following her. She gets to her door, opens it with her key (you can’t be too careful, even in small town America), and starts up the stairs. The stranger catches the door before it closes, slams Cathy onto the stairs, and rapes her. A month later, Cathy finds she is pregnant. She was going to wait until she was married before having sex. The rape has sent her into a tailspin over the last few weeks and now, finding she is pregnant, she feels lost. She considers killing herself, but knows that is a sin. Everyone she knows is against abortion. No one would understand. But even the thought of carrying this man’s baby makes her sick to her stomach. She cries herself to sleep for days.

The Republicans with their “abortion is always wrong” position believe Cathy must carry this child to term. They believe the rapist’s right to impregnate Cathy and control her life is more important than her right to end the pregnancy.

I tweeted about this today (supporting the Republican platform means you support rapists) and got a satisfactory response. I was called stupid, told I should think before I speak, and other pathetic attempts at insults. According to the Republican platform, a woman’s right to have an abortion is less important than a rapist’s right to force her to bear his child.

This is just one of many posts I expect I’ll be making about ditching old Enlightenment ideas of how our minds work (rational reasoning) in favor of the real processes with which we make decisions (emotions, metaphors, framing, neural networks). Progressives are going to keep losing, big time, and the Sarah Palins of the world are going to keep boggling our minds and blowing us out of the water if we don’t learn these lessons fast.
*The Cathy story is entirely fictional, but to be effective progressives need to tell stories illustrating their values and principles.

a woman’s right to kill her baby

My friend won’t let me kill my baby. Or, to be much more accurate, she wants politicians and laws to decide when or if it’s okay to kill my baby. I’m 23 weeks pregnant and I’ve had a human life in me since the day I got the first positive pregnancy test. Now, we’ve named her, she’s a she (as far as we know), she wiggles like crazy, she’s about a pound and a half with almost all fully functioning organs (just her lungs need serious continued growth). She’s been “viable” since 2 weeks ago. Still, she’s inside of me. My body. Not someone else’s. If I wanted to kill her, that’s my right.

The language I’m using is provocative. If anti-choice and pro-choice believers want to come to any sort of agreement on the issue of personal choice in abortion we need to be willing to speak or at least hear each other’s language. I’ve written my description in horrifying terms: killing a baby. It makes my skin crawl just reading the title of this essay. But I realize that’s how my friend would see it. And, in my own case — for me — that’s how I see it, too.

Since I can remember, I’ve known in my heart I couldn’t have an abortion. Of course we can’t ever know what the future holds, but I went to extraordinary measures to avoid pregnancy. I didn’t have intercourse until I knew I would be able to care for a child. Then I always used birth control. No matter how wasted I got (those were some challenging times, the 90s) I never had sex without birth control. Because, as I’ve said, as soon as I know I’m pregnant, logic or science aside, I feel I’m carrying my child inside me. Immediately I begin the relationship that will last for both of our lives where I will care for that child forever.

My position as a pro-choice woman is just as strong, however, as my personal choice not to have abortions. There are several facets to this position. The first, and the least digestible for the anti-choice movement, is that I believe knowing when life begins is a personal and spiritual decision. I have friends who believe life begins with the quickening (feeling movement of the fetus). I have friends who have had multiple abortions who still aren’t sure when life begins. I also have friends who believe life starts at conception, but have had abortions. This aspect of the pro-choice movement is typically pointless as we debate with the anti-choice believers. To most of them, abortion is always murder.

Carrying a fetus, a baby, inside our bodies is an ability only for people who have a uterus. It is this fact alone that makes abortion different than all other laws governing our bodies. We have laws that say we can not physically beat each other up. We obviously have laws against murder. We have laws that try (in vain) to prevent self- or other-harm through drug use or acts like drinking and driving. And, as soon as an infant is outside of its mother, we have laws protecting that child. Thankfully, infanticide is illegal in our country. There is no comparable situation, however, where cis-gender men or boys have a life growing inside of them.

When we begin legislating medical decisions for one group of people and not for any other, we say that group has fewer rights than the others. Therefore, no matter how difficult it is for some people to accept, no laws should govern what happens to someone’s pregnancy. Until my baby is born, what happens to her is entirely my decision. And I will fight for the right for anyone with a uterus to control their body however they see fit as fiercely as I will fight to keep my own baby safe and healthy.