The Elevation of Alito and the Future We Must Fight
Part 1: Moves to Outlaw Abortion: A Leap in Patriarchy and Theocratic Domination
Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Speaking at the National Security Agency on Wednesday, January 25, George W. Bush said, "We live in a momentous time… we are living in historic times. . . we have a chance to make decisions today that will help shape the direction of events for years to come."
How Bush intends to do that is dramatically concentrated in the elevation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. This two-part series will examine what Alito’s elevation will mean for the position of women in society and for Bush’s program of unrestrained executive power.
Perhaps the most powerful testimony in the hearings leading up to Alito’s confirmation came from Kate Michelman, the former president of NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League). Michelman described her ordeal at a time when "therapeutic abortions" were available in some states under exceptional circumstances, but abortion was not yet recognized as a basic right, protected by the Constitution. It’s worth quoting at length:
"In 1969, I was a young, stay-at-home mother of three little girls, a practicing Catholic who had accepted the Church’s teachings about birth control and abortion. The notion that abortion might be an issue I would face in my own life never occurred to me until the day my husband suddenly abandoned our family. In time, with nothing to live on, we were forced onto welfare. Soon after he left, I discovered I was pregnant. I knew instinctively that another child would turn a crisis into a catastrophe.
"After a long period of searching--of balancing my moral and religious values about the newly developing life with my responsibilities to my three young daughters--I decided to have an abortion....
"Because this all occurred prior to Roe [the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion] I was legally prevented from acting privately on my decision. I was compelled to submit to two interrogations before an all-male panel of doctors. They probed every aspect of my private life--from what kind of sex life my husband and I had to whether I was capable of dressing my children in the morning. Eventually, they gave their permission. I had been admitted to the hospital and was awaiting the procedure when a nurse arrived to tell me that state law imposed yet another humiliating burden. The government required me to obtain my husband’s consent. I was forced to leave the hospital, find where he was living and ask him to give me his permission....
"...I do not tell this story to ask your sympathy. It was a humiliating experience, but one that also awakened me to a lifetime of activism devoted to ensuring no other woman ever would be required to endure such humiliation. I tell you this story because we stand at the threshold of millions of women--women doing their very best to do what is right for themselves and their families--once more facing the dreadful choice between the degradation of the review board and the danger of the back alley. This is neither hyperbole nor hype. It is the simple, demonstrable reality of the situation."
Think for a minute about what Kate Michelman describes. It is nothing less than males, singly and in groups, exercising what was then their legal right to determine whether a woman will have a child, in forms sanctioned and enforced by the power of the state. Imagine yourself in her shoes. Even though in this case she was literally "given permission" to have an abortion, the men involved and the approval procedure itself made sure that Kate Michelman would be humiliated and forced to feel her own powerlessness in the depth of her spirit. And that was in a supposedly "enlightened" area of the country--in most places even that option was denied. Women were either forced to bear unwanted children or sent to search for illegal and dangerous back-alley abortions.
As a lawyer in the Reagan administration, Alito openly vowed his aim to wipe out the right to abortion. He developed the strategy of first severely limiting and then overturning that right altogether. As a lower court judge, Alito actually argued in favor of a law that would have forced women to again inform their husbands if they wanted an abortion, as Kate Michelman had to; his argument was not upheld then, but now he is slated to sit on the Supreme Court. And from this position of power he will be fighting not only to impose the humiliations described above, but the horrific experience of back-alley abortions involving the dangers of mutilation and death.
Women, of course, are still tremendously oppressed, and even after the right to abortion was won--through very sharp struggle--they have continued to be treated as the property of men in the social relations of this system. But to return to the days described by Kate Michelman would mark a tremendous step backward, greatly intensifying that oppression, and would be reason enough to mount a huge political struggle to drive out this regime and change the direction of society.
Open Threats from Puffed-Up Theocrats
But the Bush regime intends to go much further.
Bush makes much of his desire to not only change the law, but institute a so-called "culture of life" founded on Biblical values. To give just one telling example of these values, the creation tale of the Bible blames women for the "original sin" that caused the "fall of man." This is why, we are told, women endure pain during childbirth and this also supposedly justifies the subjugation of women by men and their treatment as objects of slavery and sexual plunder, which goes on with God’s approval and indeed at his behest throughout the Old Testament. This same "original sin" is upheld in the Christian New Testament in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, where Paul reiterates that the subordination of women to men is "God’s will" and says that a woman can redeem herself for Eve’s supposed transgression only "through her child-bearing," and he even says that women should not dare to "teach men" but must "learn in quietness with all subjection." [From the American Standard version of the Bible; for more on this, go to Bobavakian.net and his talks on religion.]
The core social base of the Bush regime insists that these archaic and reactionary views be made the basis of law. And these fanatics not only intend to fully outlaw abortion in every case, but to take revenge on those who may have had or performed an abortion. The president of March for Life, which organized the triumphant January 23 rally celebrating the nomination of Alito to the Court, predicted to the crowd "that the United States would hold the equivalent of Nuremburg trials for ‘feminist abortionists,’" and called "support [!] for a woman’s right to choose ‘crimes against humanity.’" Her words, according this New York Times account, "were met with strong applause."
Please note that the chief defendants at the World War II war crimes trials at Nuremburg were executed. Note as well that the assassination of abortion providers has already been called for by elements of this movement under the rubric of Nuremberg, and that several providers have been outright murdered, others severely wounded and many more living under daily death threats.
This is the future represented by Alito’s elevation. This is the future being pushed by the current regime, with the full power of the state, every day. This is not a future that we can accept; nor is there any "common ground" to be found with those fighting for it. This is a future we must resist. Now.
Next week: The All-powerful President: Torturer-in-Chief
Alito became known during these hearings as a champion of the doctrine called the "unitary executive." This doctrine elevates the executive branch above the other two branches of government and, as interpreted by Alito and those in the Bush Administration, it enables the president to act without any legal restraint.