Library Research Notes #33
This Affects Everyone
If you think that the overturning of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey doesn’t affect you because you don’t have a uterus or you aren’t planning on ever having an abortion or you are ‘pro-life’ or you just generally don’t pay attention to ‘politics’, you are VERY mistaken. The overturning of these settled laws at the SCOTUS level is not only detrimental in the short term to women in conservative states across the U.S., but it is a foreshadowing of what is to come. If you think that the straight, white, cis, rich, dudes in government, and their allies, are going to stop here you haven’t been paying attention and it is time for us to discuss what this all means and why it is important for each of us to stand up and say NO.
It is important for us to give to causes fighting the good fight for equal rights. It is important for us to march when it is safe to do so. It is important for us to make phone calls to elected officials expressing our disdain for the direction this country is going in. It is important for us to vote and to continue working toward making it easier for EVERYONE who is registered to vote to be able to cast a ballot.
If you think that this stops at abortion, you are wrong. The minority in power is coming for us all. And don’t be fooled by the ‘save the children’ rhetoric. These dudes will pay to send their daughters, wives, or mistresses for abortions in states that still have legal procedures after the overturning of Roe. They don’t care about the health of humans or saving babies. They just care about power. And that thirst for power is going to be to the detriment of every rural woman in the south and midwest. To every woman who is poor and doesn’t have access to this life-saving medical procedure. To every woman who is unable to take a week off from work to travel to a place where the procedure is still legal. To every person with a uterus who is turned away because their performance of gender does not align with what the status quo dictates. To every human who is in need of healthcare and can no longer access a clinic in their area.
Huge swaths of America are bathed in the conservative ideology that will make it deadly for people with uteruses to survive. This is not hyperbole - it is the future. We need to plan for it and, in the meantime, continue fighting the good fight. Sitting back and wishing that things will be okay hasn’t worked so far and it certainly won’t work now. The conservatives have been setting up pins since the 1980s, which they are going to start knocking down at a quick pace once Roe is overturned.
Next up - birth control. Then voting rights. Then gay marriage. Then interracial marriage. The true translation of “Make America Great Again” is “Let’s get back to Jim Crow”. Again - not hyperbole - fact. Researchers have been screaming from the rooftops about this stuff for decades. It gets thrown into the cauldron of ‘culture war’ but it is actually a ‘holy war’. Conservatives want America to be the place where wealthy white Christian* folks have all the power and the rest of us just serve them. This has been the case for the entire history of the United States and now we are seeing it clearer than ever before. For most of us, it isn’t a surprise, but it is still jarring.
Why We Are Here
As a Gen Xer, the first time I thought about the dangers of the abortion procedure was when I was 12 years old. That was the year that Dirty Dancing premiered. Prior to that movie, I didn’t really understand what a pre-Roe world was like. Before I saw the movie, I had no idea that the procedure could be dangerous in any way. After all, this was 1987. Roe v. Wade was decided the year before I was born and so I lived my whole life in a post-Roe world. Well, my whole life until now.
But that pre-Roe world, the one that many of us were not around to really grasp the complexity of, wasn’t exactly what we might have pictured. Yes, it was dangerous for women to seek out abortions, due to the illegal nature of the procedure, but it was also possible for those with the means to find resources that were safe. What was really different, and possibly surprising to those of you that assume Evangelicals have always been ‘pro-life’ is that they actually weren’t lockstep behind restricting abortion. And many were pro-choice. They weren’t pro-abortion, but they also didn’t see it as an evil act. When did this change? Well - with most things concerning women’s rights in the late 70s and early 80s, Phyllis Schafly fucked it all up.
I’m not going to give her a lot of ink here, because she caused so many setbacks for women and she doesn’t deserve more than a paragraph, but I do want to mention her because if she hadn’t been so active back then we would have passed the ERA by now and Roe would have been codified into law. But, Phyllis really wanted to be in power and she thought that the Republicans were her ticket to ride. Alas, she threw the rest of us under the bus only to be passed over in the end. If you watched Mrs. America you can get a sense of her modus operandi, but reading The Power Worshippers by Katherine Stewart or Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez, can clarify this historical timeframe and show how it has affected us today.
At the root, for white Evangelicals, was taxation and school integration. In other words, they were racists trying to cover up their racism and abortion was the cover.
In an article for the NY Times, Thomas B. Edsall interviews several scholars, such as Stewart, who reiterate the fact that abortion was merely a rallying cry for a racist movement. Conservatives leading the movement, namely Schafly, Paul Weyrich, Jerry Falwell Sr., and Richard Viguerie, chose abortion as the wedge to create a movement to seize power by expanding the conservative base. As Stewart states in the article:
“As Weyrich understood, building a new movement around the burning issue of defending the tax advantages of racist schools wasn’t going to be a viable strategy on the national stage. “Stop the tax on segregation” just wasn’t going to inspire the kind of broad-based conservative counterrevolution that Weyrich envisioned.”
So they seized on the theme of “Abortion is Murder” and the next 48 years are history.
The Way Forward
So knowing that the conservative contingent used abortion as a way to reel in the base is great and all, but how do we turn this ship around? Democrats have been too nice for too long and now we are faced with yet another reduction of human rights in the United States.
The only way forward is to elect more progressive women to Congress. Until we have a minimum of 50% representation, we will never be equal. If we continue to let straight, cis, white, Christian*, nationalist, rich dudes run everything we will always be fighting for scraps. Progressive men are great, and we need their energy too, but we need more representation from those who are oppressed. Black women, indigenous women, APA women, Latinx women, Trans women, women with disabilities, ALL the women. If you are progressive and identify as a woman, we need your energy. We need to band together as a cohort and fight for our rights to equality and bodily autonomy.
If you have been on the fence about running for office, this is the time to do it. If you have been thinking about joining a progressive cause, this is the time to do it. If you have wanted to donate to an organization that helps women not only survive but thrive, this is the time to do it. If you have been debating whether or not to volunteer for a progressive cause or start something of your own, this is the time to do it. THIS IS THE TIME.
Feminists have been screaming about the end of Roe and the demise of women’s autonomy and equality for decades. The powers that be have given us scraps (the vote, Roe, etc) only to work toward immediately removing those small gains. This is why we need to band together and fight. Either start fighting or keep fighting.
And not all women will be part of the fight. But anyone who aligns with the progressive rights that women deserve is welcome to join. We need to beat candidates like Marsha Blackburn, Lauren Boebert, Marjory Taylor Greene, and Elise Stefanik (to name a few - oh how I wish there were only just these four) and get women in those seats who actually give a shit about our rights.
So if you haven’t been involved, now is the time to get in the fight. This week I am dedicating the newsletter to resources for donating and getting (or staying) active.
Good News from the Stacks
Phew! This was a long one. If you made it this far, you certainly deserve some good news. And yes, good news does still exist.
Thank you for reading. Please share and comment. Civil discourse is always welcome.