EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul sent me this with an apology, calling it “a somewhat dated column.” And it was when he send it, on June 11. So I now offer my own apology, since I’ve hardly touched the blog since then, and now it is a REALLY dated column. I’ve been really, really busy lately, a condition that I think is now lessening, slightly. Anyway, here you go. He actually sent me another right after this, which I will do my best to post today or tomorrow…
By Paul V. DeMarco
Most Americans are rightly conflicted about abortion. Those who favor more restrictions prioritize the welfare of the fetus. Those who favor less restriction, including most physicians, prioritize the welfare of the mother. As King Solomon knew, when he was confronted by two women who both claimed to be mothers of a newborn, there is no splitting the baby.
There is also no avoiding a decision. The irony for South Carolinians is that we had it about right. Our previous law, a 20-week ban that passed in 2016 during Nikki Haley’s tenure, successfully balanced the competing values of mother and fetus. Our current Legislature, which is more than 85% male, felt the law was too generous to women. It passed a 6-week ban which Governor McMaster signed on May 25th.
The 27 to 19 vote to pass the bill in the senate was accomplished without a single female senator’s vote. This wasn’t especially challenging, given there are only five female voices in the chamber. It’s not hard to believe that some of the supporters of the bill are striving to put women back in, what they consider, their rightful place. I don’t know what was in these men’s hearts, but I have some questions. By opting for an elective abortion, a woman is often saying, “I don’t believe I can successfully raise a child right now.” If the ban was to protect these children, why wasn’t it accompanied by a strengthening of our social safety net to ensure they are not raised in poverty?
How many of our male senators know women who have chosen to have an abortion? Let’s imagine, gentleman, that the woman in question is your daughter, whom we will call Elizabeth. Let’s drop your income to the poverty line so you have little ability to help Elizabeth. Surely if with one hand you have the power to force Elizabeth to have your grandchild, with the other you could strengthen her safety net by expanding Medicaid, providing affordable child care and preschool programs, and funding public schools equitably.
I’m not arguing that it is wrong for the senators to oppose abortion. Belief that life begins at conception and that God has known us since before we were born is beautiful idea that is scripturally based. However, that religious belief cannot be imposed on women who don’t share it. A Christian woman who supports abortion could ask, for example, “If God knows us from before we enter the womb, why are there almost as many miscarriages as there are abortions in the US?” She also could reasonably object to the belief (held by 35% of Republican voters in a 2022 Winthrop poll) that abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape, presumably because God created that child.
Her conception of God and childbirth might be shaped by a different view of God, one that recognizes the difference between a fetus and a child and one that would never force a woman to endure a rape and then a pregnancy. As a Christian abortion opponent, you have every right to advocate for what you believe to be a life that God ordained before the beginning of the world. You have a right, and according to your faith, perhaps a duty, to preach about it, to publish your message on social media, to build crisis pregnancy centers-to do whatever you legally can to convince women not to have abortions. But, in America, you don’t have the right to impose your religious belief on women who don’t see the world as you do.
In your opposition to abortion, I would suggest you let women do most of the talking. I’m sure there are men who come to this issue with a pure heart. However, I have been with men in locker rooms and many of them talk, well, like Donald Trump says they talk. I also know Christian couples who believe the man is the head of the family and his wife has a scripturally enforced subservience, an arrangement to which they both happily adhere. Both of these approaches to women, as prey to be hunted or as servants to be dominated, are undoubtedly present in our state senate.
In an interview with The New York Times, Republican Katrina Shealy, one of the bipartisan group of five female senators who voted against the 6-week ban, recalled that during her tenure one of her male senate colleagues, Tom Corbin, had made derogatory comments to her like “women should be home barefoot and pregnant” and that women are a “a lesser cut of meat.”
Men like Senator Corbin, who remains in the Senate and who on his website describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative, (and) a family man” are threatened by the rise of women in every sector of society. They remember a time when almost every important political or business decision made in the state was made by a man. They may still worship in churches where women are barred from the pulpit. It’s not a big stretch for them to gather together in a male-only effort to control and diminish the lives of women.
Here’s what I would ask the good senators. If you, like your daughter Elizabeth, could get pregnant, would you have voted this way? If your birth control failed or your self-restraint failed or you were temporarily impervious to the reality of pregnancy because you were young, or intoxicated, or heedless, would you force yourself to live with the consequences of that decision for the rest of your life?
A version of this column appeared in the May 31 edition of The Florence Morning News.