Is bifurcation good for our health?

Blank map of the United States
Blank map of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New York Times Columnist Charles Blow posted a column titled “Carving up the Country” not long ago that paints a sad picture of how this country is, in his words, “drifting back toward bifurcation.” He outlines the deep division of our not-so-United States into one group of states, primarily coastal, multi-ethnic , urban, liberal and leaning Democrat: and another group, mostly Southern and Western, rural, conservative and Republican.

Most of Blow’s focus is on how legislators in the latter group are rushing to enact laws that will strengthen Republican control following the Supreme Court’s essential voiding of the Voting Rights Act. It cannot feel good to be a citizen of one of those states and watch your right to vote disappear. It’s all about “sanctity of the vote,” the Republicans say; anybody with a brain knows it’s really about suppressing any votes that might go to the Democrats.

The other root of bifurcated America is deep in reproductive rights.  Blow cites a recent Guttmacher Institute report that in the first six months of 2013 a total of 106 laws restricting reproductive rights were enacted, the great majority of them in Republican-controlled states. Twelve in Kansas alone, for example. Six in North Dakota, five in Oklahoma. It’s all about “protecting (fetal) life,” and “women’s health,” proponents say; anybody with a brain knows it’s simply about making abortion inaccessible. Only women without money or resources face suffering and danger from these restrictive measures — but then, they are less likely to vote anyway.

My question is: couldn’t some better solution be found than just to condemn millions of poor women to desperation and danger? Even the staunchest among pro-choice advocates (among which I strongly stand) would like to see fewer abortions. So common ground actually exists there. Not even the staunchest of anti-choice advocates really wants women to wind up maimed or dead: more common ground. Nobody wants more children who are unwanted and uncared for. Nobody can say when exactly life begins, unless their religion tells them so — but we still have remnants of common-ground belief in the separation of church and state.

Couldn’t we talk? Rather than expending every ounce of energy in making abortion impossible to increasing numbers of mostly poor women, couldn’t we talk about sex education, contraception, compromise? Many of us would give a little on, say, gestational limits if we could gain a little in protection for women whose reproductive rights are denied as clinics are forced to close because they don’t have enough parking spaces.

That good word “compromise” may have disappeared from the American scene. But all this win-at-any-cost, or my-way-or-no-way isn’t making us a better country.

Women lose in Texas

texas our texas
texas our texas (Photo credit: jmtimages)

Does it surprise anyone that Texas legislators have succeeded in making abortion virtually impossible for Texas women? Probably not. It saddens me. I know how it feels to be unintentionally pregnant — in my case it followed a workplace rape — and desperate. You tend not to be thinking about that collection of cells that might possibly, eventually, develop into something viable; you are thinking about the rest of your life.

If  you are without money or resources (many women of means in Texas will manage to go elsewhere for a safe, legal abortion) you are likely to do desperate things.

Before 1973, those desperate things included attempting to self-abort with  knitting needles and coathangers, or by ingesting or douching with potentially deadly  solutions. Women traded stories, myths and reputed recipes for becoming un-pregnant again. In some cases these led to a successfully ended pregnancy; no one knows how often they ended in sterility or injury or death. When you see your life unraveling, you will take a lot of risks to keep it together.

Certainly this punitive legislation may reduce the number of abortions in Texas. The bill in toto could be a cause for jubilation or rage, depending on where one stands. But one can only feel sad for the increase in the number of unwanted children whom the great state of Texas cares little about, or the desperate women who now will take dangerous risks.