Commentary

Wait, I thought we wanted government out of our lives

May 5, 2022 4:17 am

Protestors gather outside the United States Supreme Court on May 3, 2022 after a leaked draft court opinion appears to show the high court overturning Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion in 1972 (Photo by Jane Norman of States Newsroom).

Much of what probably needed to be said or could be said about abortion was done in our ninth-grade persuasive speaking class.

Even by 1990, the topic of abortion seemed radically overdone, with few minds ever being changed. Even as the number of abortions fell with better contraception and fewer providers, it was the one galvanizing political topic seemed to unite the right, somehow cementing the Tea Partiers and the gun nuts.

Abortion is an amazing topic, really. It has helped build a political party that is nearly militant about guns and gun rights while simultaneously preaching the sanctity of life without the least bit of irony.

In the already much-discussed leaked first draft opinion that was authored by United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, he defended the gutting of the 1973 case, Roe v. Wade because he, and other conservatives, believe this right to an abortion is unique because it is the only one that implicates the life of another.

But Alito and his fellow conservatives don’t appear to be trying very hard.

States are still executing criminals, which most certainly implicates the right to life. And, life is implicated as those dying of terminal illness want the right to determine if physician-assisted death is correct for them.

Conservatives tasting victory are telling the rest of us delicate liberals buttercups that we should practice some deep breathing and stop fretting because the likely overturning of Roe is narrowly tailored to the very specific medical practice of abortion. And for a moment, we’ll set aside the horrible notion that for many states, overturning the law may mean those young girls who are the victims or rape or incest may be forced to carry a pregnancy to term. So much for conservative compassion, I guess.

My concern comes straight out of a conservative textbook, though. I don’t think the government has any business telling a consenting adult couple what they can or cannot do with their bodies.

Apparently, abortion should be made illegal because it stops the potential for human life, correct? Again, set aside for a moment, that at other times the government is comfortable with judging when and under what conditions a life may end.

However, if the government can decide that abortion is illegal, what is to stop it from deciding that any type of contraception is equally morally incorrect? If stopping a pregnancy that’s progressed to a microscopic cluster of cells is a moral imperative, then shouldn’t it also be equally reprehensible to stop the fertilization of an egg via a pill or condom?

Some will say such an argument is absurd – that no one is threatening to take away birth control pills or other contraceptives, but the federal government looks to be in the position of telling women what kind of birth control is acceptable, and has now decided that pregnancy must be protected at all costs, even as the result of rape or incest. So if that’s the case, is any contraception safe? What about vasectomies? Isn’t that intentionally, surgically stopping a male’s ability to procreate or stopping the natural processes of reproduction? Funny how male contraception never enters into the conversation.

Beyond the problem of allowing government into the most intimate and private aspects of our lives, something every citizen should fear, it’s that this decision continues to perpetuate the stereotype that marriage, sexuality and families are only meaningful in context of reproduction. The forthcoming opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court discounts humans, reducing them to nothing more than breeding stock.

I have three children. I have never once considered abortion as possible means of birth control. However, I have been lucky or blessed that life circumstances have not forced me to consider an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. There’s been a great mischaracterization of those who favor choice as being pro-baby killing.

It’s not that I like even the thought of abortion. I just dislike the idea of a government that can dictate whom I marry, when I can have children, and what I can do in the privacy of my own home more. And, I resent that the only interest the government has for my children or my family is defined by my spouse’s ovaries.

Meanwhile, the same families and individuals who will now have fewer options when it comes to reproductive choice will continue to struggle to find affordable housing. Those same families are also challenged as food, gas, and energy prices climb faster than paychecks.

Spare me the lectures on morality and values, because it seems patently cruel to fight so hard to ensure more children are born, and then leave them hungry and homeless when they arrive.

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming. With Darrell at the helm, the Gazette staff took Montana’s top newspaper award six times in seven years. Darrell's books include writing the historical chapters of “Billings Memories” Volumes I-III, and “It Happened in Minnesota.” He has taught journalism at Winona State University and Montana State University-Billings, and has served on the student publications board of the University of Wyoming.

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