I need to have a rant.
I keep seeing on social media people comparing this to the Taliban, or to The Handmaid's Tale. And I understand why but it's making me increasingly angry. This isn't the Taliban. This isn't a dystopian fiction. This is the result of decades of concerted effort by right-wing politicians to mobilise socially conservative voters
. As McKeegen (1993)
Paradoxically, as Americans became increasingly pro-choice, 2 anti-abortion Presidents were elected to serve for 12 years and pro-life forces captured the domestic agenda by overhauling the traditionally libertarian Republican party. This occurred because Republican analysts saw that the Democratic New Deal coalition was cracking, the traditionally conservative south and west began to control more seats in the House of Representatives, and Americans were becoming more affluent and, thus, more interested in taxes and inflation. Efforts were made to bring social conservatives, especially pro-lifers, into the Republican party with scare tactics used in the wording of direct mailings.
It's also important to remember that this isn't as simple as evil men removing rights from innocent women. The one way that The Handmaid's Tale
provides a useful comparison is in the importance of complicit women in creating and sustaining Gilead. White women voted overwhelmingly for Trump over Biden (62% to 38%
) and voted overwhelmingly for Texas governor Greg Abbott over his opponent (65% to 34%
). Why women keep doing this has been the subject of a huge number
and while it's obviously a complex subject with no single indisputable answer, there seems to be a consistent thread whereby white women value the privileges they maintain by being white more than the lack of privileges they endure as women.
The comparisons with the Taliban particularly frustrate me because they aren't being made to show that this is a long-running home-grown effort to remove women's rights, but to make it seem that this is a scary external threat. The Taliban didn't take over the Texas legislature - they didn't need to! The people who live and work in Texas did this all by themselves.
I understand the need to make comparisons as a way of understanding the otherwise incomprehensible, but the ones currently being employed do not help in understanding but are instead distracting from the real explanations. The circumstances that led to the abortion ban are pretty clear, as are the consequences, and those consequences will not affect the vast majority of people who voted for the people who created this legislation. White women are, on average, more affluent that black women. The latest figures I can find
suggest that black and Hispanic households in Texas have a median income at least a third lower than that of white households in the state. White women will be far more likely to be able to afford to go out of state to access an abortion that their black and Hispanic neighbours. They will be able to pay their way out of this while their already-poorer neighbours (and I use neighbour figuratively as I'm aware of how racially segregated the South is) will be forced into further poverty from either having to try and procure an out-of-state abortion, an illegal abortion, or see an unaffordable pregnancy through to term and then raise a child they can't afford or maybe give them up for adoption.
And the worst thing is that for those black and Hispanic women, this new law doesn't really make much functional difference - abortion services were already pretty much impossible to access. In 2017, 96% of Texas counties
had no clinics providing abortion services. That was higher than the national average which is still an astoundingly high 89% of US counties which had no clinics providing abortions. According to the same source, as of January 2021,
- Most patients must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage them from having an abortion, and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided. Counseling must be provided in person for women within 100 miles of the provider and must take place before the waiting period begins, thereby necessitating two trips to the facility.
- Private insurance policies cover abortion only in cases of life endangerment or if the woman's health is severely compromised.
- Health plans offered in the state’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act can only cover abortion in cases of life endangerment or severely compromised physical health.
- A patient must undergo an ultrasound at least 24 hours before obtaining an abortion; the provider must show and describe the image to the patient.
- The state requires abortion clinics to meet unnecessary and burdensome standards related to their physical plant, equipment and staffing.
That last point is why there had been a 25% decline in clinics providing abortions in the state between 2014 and 2017.
In other words, this bill is merely the logical conclusion of a series of increasingly restrictive laws that have been designed to make it harder and harder for women, particularly women of limited means (predominantly black and Hispanic women), to access abortion facilities. People talk about the slippery slope all the time, often in cases where it's hyperbolic or requires a series of highly implausible circumstances to arise. This has been a legitimate slippery slope, one that anyone paying attention couldn't fail to recognise and we've finally reached the end. I'm glad that people are noticing but until they recognise that this isn't some aberration but is the logical conclusion of the Right's decades-long association with the evangelical Christian lobby, and does something to fight back, this logical conclusion will be reached in many other States.