This blog started out as a collection of scripts for an online radio show of the same name. It riffed off of my 2004 book, Musings from the Christian Left, now republished as The Conscience of a Catholic Radical.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Abortion and Marriage Equality: It's about the sex

Yesterday, the Supreme Court suspended Trap Laws in Texas while thecase against them is being considered in federal court. As their effective date was tomorrow, theonly impact was anticipatory – and this action signals the likely outcome ofthe federal action – that the laws will be ruled unconstitutional under theundue burden test imposed by the Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

As you can guess from my columns, I often debate Right to Lifers insocial media after they see what I write. Of late, I have been in a debate over whether their movement is a frauddesigned to win elections rather than save the unborn.

While trap laws theoretically would reduce the availability ofabortion, their value is mainly to direct yet another opportunity to overturnRoe v. Wade to the Supreme Court Docket. This is amply demonstrated by the conduct surrounding the Partial BirthAbortion Act, which has not really stopped any abortion from occurring (not thedearth of prosecutions), but as you could see from the Amici briefs, wasentirely about urging the Court to overturn Roe. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alitofollowed Justice Kennedy in ruling PBAA constitutional under the CommerceClause (which they were loathe to use on Affordable Care Act mandates). Justice Scalia was all set to get rid of Roeand two new Bush Justices were going to help him. No dice.

The Texas case is yet another opportunity, but with no new Justices onthe Court, one can only conclude that the possibility of this case will be usedas a campaign issue to select another pro-lifer to the Court – even thoughthese are in short supply. This does notmatter. What matters is that it coversthe National Right to Life Committees line that abortion is a relevant issueabove all others. This keeps volunteersworking and little old ladies writing checks.

Discussions with Right to Life true believers inevitably come around tothe fetus as innocent life. This isshort hand for them for pre-gastrulation blastocysts, post-gastrulation embryosand second and third trimester fetuses. It’slike arguing about killing puppies – all emotion and the resolution that thereought to be a law. Of course, the reasonabortion is legal is not due to innocence or the lack thereof, but to danger,both danger to the mother from a pregnancy that may hurt or kill her (and some chromosomalabnormalities will do that), that a pregnancy with no hope of a live birth isbest ended early or that banning abortion results in such danger to the motherfrom septic abortions by unqualified practitioners or self-performance thatrestriction is a danger itself.

There is, of course, a way out. Give a much larger Child Tax Credit, say $1000 per month per child – or more– so that having the baby is always a better option than abortion and adoptionis not necessary. Of course, if youpropose this the people who say that we are buying off women to not kill theirchildren – they can’t see it as removing a hazard. Other provisions for young families arenecessary too, like paying for the education of both parents, with maritalbenefits and a stipend, plus supportive day or night care. Then these same pro-lifers really hit theroof on incentives. These are the samefolks who want welfare benefits cut so welfare mothers don’t keep popping outbabies. Keep going and you will findthem talking about personal responsibility – and avoiding sex if you don’t wantto get pregnant – both teens and adult married and unmarried women.

The contradiction on personal responsibility regarding abortion andregarding money and sex is lost on them. It’s really about restoring a puritanical sexuality to women’s lives. Sorry, but that ship has sailed – either payadequate benefits or rest assured that God will hold you are responsible forabortion as anyone, not because you failed to enact restrictions but becauseyou failed to do what it takes without doing so, even though that was the best solution.

You can see the same view in their reaction to gay marriage. In reality, their objection to gay marriageis that it makes society complicit in sodomy. All the scripture they cite against gay marriage is on the sex. Indeed, the gospel provisions in Matthew,once you get past the restating of the Genesis passage on sexual diversity, iscompletely supportive of family autonomy – that is once a couple is married,they are one flesh and no longer members of their family of origin. This speaks exactly to what started the moveto marriage equality – the deplorable behavior of hospitals, particularlyCatholic ones (since reversed by policy) in kicking same sex spouses out anddeferring to surviving family members. There was not just a single incident, the problem was endemic and agreat many lawyers and justices, and now the Supreme Court, has solved it.

In reaction, there are is the predictable response about God reigning vengeanceon the nation for what it has done, but I don’t think God cares about oursystem of family law per se. Theybelieve it’s the sex. Of course, thatcase was settled ten years ago in Lawrence v. Texas and few think it’s a goodidea to put government back in the business of policing gay bedrooms, even ifthis rarely happened and was often due to some other circumstance. Of course, that such enforcement happened atall is what was really shameful – which is why the Reactionaries are attackingmarriage. Still, we all know it’s aboutthe sex.

If you read the reaction of Catholic bishops onthis and their focus on procreation – even though no marriage where the brideis older than her mid-forties – and such unions exist – will have nothing to dowith fecundity. The only Canon Lawimpediment is a lack of functionality (which again, for gays, they find icky –unless their gay – and they pretend by protesting loudly). It turns out the Sacrament of Marriage isbetween the couple, the celebrant is merely a witness. Gay marriage should be no different and ithas not been for a long time. Onemployees, the Church has never raised an eyebrow about employing heterosexualsin civil marriage, although it condemns such unions for Catholics. There should be no difference for civillymarried gay employees. Indeed, itsbigotry to treat them differently if neither form is morally acceptable. So in conclusion, it’s about the sex.