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writing for godot

The Criminalization of Thought on "When Life Begins"

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Written by Steven Jonas   
Monday, 20 May 2019 15:44

By Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H.

"Either this country will kill racism, or racism will kill this country." (S. Jonas, august, 2018)

Introduction:

A major part of this column, which is rather longer than my usual ones, consists of an excerpt from my book "The 15% Solution," a dystopic "future history" originally published in 1996 (the current, third, version, was published in 2013).  It reveals what could very well happen with the passage of legislation like the new laws in Georgia, Alabama and Missouri which criminalize any thoughts about when life begins other than the entirely religious notion that  it begins at the moment of conception.

(By the way, the Gov. of Alabama directly recognized this fact when she said in her signing statement "that every life is a sacred gift from God."  Obviously, since the Alabama law does not exempt abortions for raped or incested women, such children are God's gifts also.  For those believers who think that "God" is behind everything that happens on Earth, does that mean that such pregnancies, by those routes, are intended by "God" also, to produce a "sacred gift?"  And if not, why not?)

It's not a pretty picture, but if such laws are indeed upheld, what I described in the book is indeed what could happen.  Religious authoritarianism at work --- back to the religious wars of 16th century, folks.

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The Legislature of the (U.S.[!]) State of Georgia recently passed, and the Governor signed into law, a bill that criminalizes abortion in the state, as well as making a felon out of any Georgia woman who travelled outside of the state to obtain an abortion. [The text below summarizing the main provisions of the law is adapted from the article referenced just above.]

Among other things, the law:

* subjects women who get illegal abortions to life imprisonment and the death penalty;

* declares that 'unborn children' [sic, emphasis added] are a class of living, distinct persons that deserves "full legal recognition;"

* thus recognizes "unborn children as natural persons" as a legal rule;

* declares that fetuses "shall be included in population-based determinations;"

* criminalizes women who seek out unlawful abortions or terminate their own pregnancies (by, for example, using the drug Misoprostol) for once it takes effect, a woman who self-terminates will have, as a matter of law, killed a human thereby committing murder ---the penalty for that crime in Georgia is life imprisonment or capital punishment;

* provides that a woman who seeks out an illegal abortion from a health care provider would be a party to murder, subject to life in prison, and a woman who miscarries because of her own conduct, say, using drugs while pregnant would be liable for second-degree murder, punishable by 10 to 30 years' imprisonment;

* provides that if a Georgia resident plans to travel elsewhere to obtain an abortion, she may be charged with conspiracy to commit murder, punishable by 10 years' imprisonment; an individual who helps a woman plan her trip to get an out-of-state abortion, or transports her to the clinic, may also be charged with conspiracy; These individuals, after all, are "conspiring" to end of the life of a "person" with "full legal recognition" under Georgia law.

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Yes, folks, for those who have said "it can't happen here," IT IS.

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THIS LAW IS ENTIRELY BASED ON THE CONCEPT OF THE "UNBORN CHILD," WHICH IS A TOTALLY RELIGIOUS ONE, BASED ON A PARTICULAR RELIGIOUS CONCEPT OF "WHEN LIFE BEGINS." FOR BELIEVING CATHOLICS IT IS BASED ON A DICTUM HANDED DOWN BY POPE PIUS IX IN 1869. FOR MOST BELIEVING PROTESTANTS, IT IS BASED ON THEIR INTERPRETATION OF CERTAIN PASSAGES IN THE "KING JAMES" VERSION OF THE BIBLE. BOTH RELIGION-BASED DOCTRINES SHARE THE RELIGIOUS, NOT BIOLOGICAL, NOTION THAT "LIFE BEGINS AT THE MOMENT OF CONCEPTION." IT HAPPENS THAT THERE ARE MANY RELIGIOUS PERSONS, AS WELL AS OF COURSE MANY NON-RELIGIOUS PERSONS, WHO HAVE AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDING OF "WHEN LIFE BEGINS."

Indeed, when Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed a bill into law similar to the one enacted in Georgia, she had this to say about it: "Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, a bill that was approved by overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. To the bill's many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians' deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God" (click here).

Except, Gov., a) not every person who believes in God agrees the "every life is a sacred gift from God," and b) many persons --- an increasing number as it happens --- don't believe in God at all.  In fact, the number of “nones” is increasing rapidly (www.osvnews.com/2019/04/16/new-survey-nones-continue-to-rise).  As the cited article says: “According to an analysis of the Global Social Survey, released in March, the number of Americans now identifying as having ‘no religion’ is equivalent to those who identify as Catholic or evangelical (approximately 23% for each of the three).”

The Alabama and Georgia laws stand at the height of religious authoritarianism and absolutely violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment. And whether governors like Ivey, of Alabama, like it or not, the 14th Amendment, adopted in the wake of the Civil War, applies the liberties guaranteed by the first ten amendments to the states.

As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said: “Abortion bans aren’t just about controlling women’s bodies.  They’re about controlling women’s sexuality. Owning women. From limiting birth control to banning comprehensive sex ed, U.S. religious fundamentalists are working hard to outlaw sex that falls outside their theology [emphasis added].”

In 1996 I published a book entitled "The 15% Solution: A Political History of American Fascism, 2001-2022" (Port Jefferson, N.Y., Thomas Jefferson Press, 1996). In 2013, Punto Press published the third version of the book , under the title "The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S. 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel." (It is available at Amazon and other distributors.) The book is by a fictional author named Jonathan Westminster. (That is a play on the name Jack London, who in 1908 published the first dystopic novel about a fascist state, The Iron Heel. That was 11 years before the first one appeared, under Admiral Miklos Horthy, in Hungary [where history appears to be repeating itself, under Trump's next Chief-of-State guest, Hungarian P.M. Orban].) My book purports to have been published in 2048, on the 25th anniversary of the end of the Second Civil War, with the triumph of the "Movement for the Restoration of Constitutional Democracy." The story is told through a variety of fictional voices, the putative author being just one of them.

The putative history purports the gradual takeover of the national and state governments by the Republican Religious Right (RRR), starting with the "Gingrich Revolution" in 1994. The RRR uses elections, the legislative process, an increasingly right-wing Supreme Court, and the Constitutional Amendment process to eventually establish an apartheid state called "The New American Republics." Along the way, the RRR passes a "Morality Amendment" to the Constitution. It established, in the Constitution, that: life begins at the moment of conception, only abstinence may be taught in school sex education courses, and sexual preference is a matter of choice (so no civil rights protections for LGBTQ persons). (It also ended "welfare" completely as well as repealing the 16th, income tax, amendment.)

The balance of this column consists of excerpts from chap. 7 of the book describing what fictionally happened following the adoption of the fictional Amendment. Except that much of that the fictional language that I wrote for the Amendment, which was based on what the RRR was already telling us back then what would happen if they took total functional control of the Federal and state governments, now appears in the Georgia law (which of course is also based on language that was already appearing back then, but was and for the most part still is, unfortunately generally ignored by the pro-abortion rights forces). And so, from "The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S. 1981-2022' (remember: originally published in 1996 --- this stuff was entirely predictable):

[From the book]: The Implementation of the Forced Birthing Policy [under the fictional 31st, "Morality" Amendment]

There were some amusing as well as terrifying practical outcomes of the adoption of this Amend­ment and its subsequent legislative im­plementa­tion. For example, Section 1 was interpreted by Federal Courts dominated by Right-Wing Reac­tionary judges to ban the use of artificial contra­cep­tives, as well as freedom of choice in the out­come of pregnancy.

Some religious zealots to the right even of the Christian Coalition wanted to ban the use of the rhythm method of contracep­tion too. They argued that in the eyes of God, there was no difference between me­chanical con­tracep­tion and contra­ception based on counting days in the woman's menstrual cycle. Both made possible sexual inter­course for mere pleasure rath­er than solely for procreation, a highly undesir­able outcome in their eyes. While from the theo­logical point of view they were clearly in the right, they eventually lost the argument to a political reality: there were, in the absence of an institu­tionalized State of vio­lence (then yet to come), lim­its on what behavior changes could be imposed on a population widely resis­tant to them.

As noted in the previous chapter, violence en­couraged by Federal policy had by 2005 driven out of operation virtually all public centers for elective pregnancy termination (EPT), even though it was legal right up to the time of the adoption of the 31st Amendment. And be­cause it was legal, private (al­though increasingly secretive) elective pregnancy termina­tion services had still been provided in many parts of the coun­try until the adoption of the 31st.

The provision of these services had been greatly facilitated by the appear­ance on the market in the late 90s of several different pharma­ceuti­cal methods of elective pregnancy termination. The most well-known of them was a Franco-German preparation called "RU-486." Of course, with the adoption of the 31st Amendment, the provision of surgically-based elective pregnancy termination dropped off even further than it already had with the increasing availability of drug-based procedures.

Even before the Amendment was ratified on Monday, June 13 by the 38th state to do so, Delaware, the development of an illegal black market in pregnancy termination drugs was well underway. In re­sponse to that development, the Law began to gear up too. For the supporters of the 31st knew that if 30 years of attempted persuasion had not worked on the American people (and it had not: the elective preg­nancy termination rate varied little during that time), force would in­deed be needed.

A statute adopted by the state of Louisiana in 1991 aimed at ending freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy had provided for the death penalty for performers of elective pregnancy termination. That law was declared unconstitutional at the time. On the first day of its session in 2005, the Louisiana state legislature re-enacted it, providing that it would take effect on one minute after midnight of the day after the 38th state ratified the 31st Amendment. The Louisiana statute be­came the model for similar state laws around the country.

A leading Transition Era opponent of freedom of choice in the out­come of pregnancy, Randall Terry, referring to providers of elective preg­nancy termination services, had once said (Abramsky): "When I, or people like me are running the country, you'd better flee, because we will find you, we will try you, and we'll execute you." In terms of the legislation adopted by many (eventually all) states, his words proved prophetic.

But catching the providers of elective pregnancy termination servic­es proved difficult, especially since most such terminations were now drug-induced. Thus, the law-enforcement effort soon turned on women having elective pregnancy terminations, even though the mainstream sup­porters of illegalization over the years had often declared that no such thing would ever happen.

Striking parallels between the old "War on Drugs" and what came to be known as the "War for the Preservation of Life" shortly ap­peared. For example, while underground laboratories to produce the elective pregnancy termination drugs domestically were quickly estab­lished, a good deal of the supply was smuggled in from abroad. Thus, a massive Gov­ernment "interdiction campaign" was quickly geared up to try to "stop the manufacture of the killer agents at their source," and "to close our borders to the lethal substances."

However, the drugs in question occupied little space and thus were easy to conceal, while not cheap were not exorbitantly priced, and were in great demand. Thus, just like the campaign against the importation of cocaine and heroin, drugs with similar physical and economic char­ac­teris­tics, this effort failed miserably to achieve its objective, at a simi­larly great cost.

The historical parallels were striking. In prosecuting the 1989 iter­a­tion of the "Drug War" that had been going on under Republican Pres­i­dents since Richard Nixon (picked up once again of course by Presi­dent Carnathon Pine [see Chapter three]), President George Bush and his "Drug Czar," Dr. William Bennett, had decided that going after drug traffickers alone wasn't doing the trick. They then turned on mere drug users, under a doctrine they called "User Responsibility" (Bennett).

That sort of thing became part of the "Life Preservation War" as well. "Interdiction" didn't work any better for the small-volume preg­nancy termination drugs than it did for the small-volume recre­ational drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Since in most cases, the elec­tive preg­nancy termi­nations were by now drug-induced, the health care pro­viders of the drugs were hard to find, and the EPT [elective pregnancy termination] drug-import­ers/wholesalers proved as elusive as the "illicit drug-traffickers" had. And so, the anti-choice drive turned on the wom­en themselves in a massive way, with results for the nation's criminal justice system that could have been antici­pated. They were not, of course, because the promoters of the Life Pres­ervation War naively expected it to work for them without much enforce­ment. It did not.

There were still an estimated 1.5 million elective pregnancy termi­na­tions being performed each year. The regular law enforcement agen­cies already had their hands full with conventional crime. And so, just as there were special Federal illegal drug police in an agency of the De­part­ment of Justice (DOJ) called the Drug Enforcement Administra­tion (DEA), there came to be a special Federal "Life Preservation Po­lice," also part of the DOJ. And because the criminal justice system was already over-burdened, there came to be "Life Preservation" courts, prosecutors, judges, and "Life Preservation" prisons too, as well as defense attorneys specialized in repre­senting persons accused under the "Life Preservation" statutes.

The operation soon became immense, even though it has been esti­mat­ed that at its height only one in 15 of the women electing to termi­nate their pregnancies each year were caught and convicted (Van Ronk [dear reader, please note that in the book this is a future-fictional reference/SJ]). All the fictional references in the book were made up using the names of real folk/jazz musicians.]) Although the death penalty for elective pregnancy termination associated crime was on the books, it was little used, except for provid­ers. On the average, patients convicted under the law were sentenced to terms of only five years in prison.

Nevertheless, in an overcrowded and ever-expanding national pris­on system, by the end of the first five years of the program, an extra 500,000 prison beds had had to have been built. That increased the total national prison bed complement by one-third to a total of two mil­lion. (It had been over just one million in 1994 [Holmes].) The cost of building those beds was $50 billion in 1995 dollars, with an annual maintenance cost of $20 billion, to say nothing of the myriad other costs of law enforcement in support of the statutes.

Perhaps the saddest thing that came out of all this is that as far as is known, even over time the 31st Amendment's very expensive criminal law enforcement program did not drop the EPT rate much at all. Al­though there are no hard numbers available, of course, it probably went up, as the anti-sex education and anti-contraception provisions of the 31st Amend­ment took hold. That is, the rate went up until the gov­ern­mental system of organized violent repression that became the hall­mark of the New American Republics [the future apartheid state --- White, Black, Brown, and Red] came into being following the NAR's establishment in 2011. But that is another story.

And this is the end of the excerpt from “The 15% Solution.”

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As I said in a recent, unpublished, letter to The New York Times, in reference to their story on what is happening in Georgia and Alabama:

"What the Republican Religious Right is doing is right out of the 16th century: put the power of the State and the criminal law behind one particular set of religious doctrines about when life begins. To say nothing of forcing a fundamental violation of the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment that they totally ignore: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or pro­hibiting the free exercise thereof." The position of the Republican Religious Right is nothing more or less than the drive to establish religious authoritarianism to govern the country.

"Are religious fundamentalists going to be allowed to set social policy on one of the oh-so-many matters of personal being and belief, based solely on the religious dogmas that they personally adhere to? They so desperately want their religious beliefs to set social policy that they advocate the employment of the criminal law to do so. Not only that, but the anti-abortion-rights doctrine, religion-based as it is, ignores the fact that many women who seek abortions, and their male partners, are themselves religious. They simply have a different set of religious beliefs than do the Fundamentalists of the Christian Right."

For more detail on this analysis of what is really happening in the matter of the elimination of abortion rights, and how a parallel counter-attack on that Republican Religious Right offensive -   --- in addition to totally defending the woman's right to choose --- needs to be developed, see my most recent column on the subject: "Abortion Rights and Religious Authoritarianism" (https://www.opednews.com/articles/Abortion-Rights-and-Religi-by-Steven-Jonas-ATHEIST_Abortion_Abortion-Laws_Abortion-Legislation-190215-159.html).

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