In 2010, then-Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick observed that once progressives have fought to “change the guard,” they must fight even harder to “guard the change.” That’s the subtext of Michelle Wolf’s outstanding, full-throated defense of reproductive rights last week:
Next year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of one of the most vicious acts of domestic terrorism in modern United States history—the lethal attack on two Planned Parenthood facilities in Massachusetts, an attack planned and executed by an anti-abortion fanatic. The assault on Planned Parenthood was but one of many terrorist assaults on reproductive rights in the United States, terrorist attacks encouraged, in ways blatant and subtle, by the political right.
The right’s effort to eliminate reproductive rights is perhaps the ultimate refutation of the idea that conservatives are for “small government.” By definition, eliminating reproductive rights requires big, totalitarian government, a de facto if not de jure surveillance state, the intrusion of Washington into our personal lives. Limits on reproductive rights must necessarily involve the policing of intimacy.
As the late former Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke observed in his 2006 autobiography Bridging the Divide: My Life:
I found it hard to understand how many of my [Senate] colleagues, who so often railed against government involvement in the lives of Americans, were willing to go into America’s bedrooms and dictate reproductive policy. No law can prevent abortion. Laws can only make abortion more difficult, more expensive, and more dangerous, especially for the poor. Who were we, [as] an affluent all-male legislative body, to decide what women could do and could not do with their bodies?
It’s hard to believe that such words were written by a former Republican Senator.
Now, the Republican Party is uniformly the party of forced pregnancy, the party of punishment for sexual intercourse not approved by the state, the party committed to eliminating female autonomy. The party is also committed to increasing the suffering of already hurting families. Consider the case of Karen and Robbie Silverman, a Massachusetts couple that had to terminate a pregnancy under tragic circumstances:
Our baby’s heart was severely deformed. The official diagnosis was “truncus arteriosus,” “double inlet/single ventricle,” and “situs inversus.” Our sweet baby’s heart did not have the correct number of pumps or valves, and it was flipped on the wrong side of his tiny body. There was no cure, only palliative options.
The doctor and a nurse practitioner carefully walked us through treatment options. Our baby would have faced at least three major heart operations, each with a significant risk of death, in the first two years of his life — beginning in the first week after he was born. He would spend a significant portion of his first year in the hospital, receiving food and medicines through a tube.
Even if Butterfly survived these initial operations, he would need heart, liver, and likely kidney transplants later in life, plus the significant possibility of complications, including intellectual and physical impairments and massive stroke. In the best-case scenario, his tiny existence would be consumed by pain.
After we had asked every question we could think of, the doctor and the nurse left the room. We turned to each other, eyes full of tears, and silently shook our heads. We both knew right away that we would terminate this pregnancy. We hugged, cried, and cried some more. And then we immediately called our OB/GYN and asked her to help us get a late-term abortion.
Not every parent in this situation would have made the same choice. But every parent should be able to choose for themselves.
Not if Republicans have anything to say about it, despite the entreaties of the Silvermans:
Just two Republican senators, Susan Collins from Maine and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, hold the power to determine whether President Trump will be able to fulfill his vow. We could not imagine the government forcing Karen to carry our baby to full term, deliver him into a short life of never-ending suffering, and forcing both of us, in all likelihood, to watch him die. But unless Senators Collins and Murkowski stand up for moms and dads like us, instead of hiding behind a flimsy commitment to judicial precedent, that is what will happen. They will be responsible.
A dozen states already ban late-term abortion. President Trump’s Supreme Court may not ban all forms of abortion outright, at least to start — instead it may chip away in increments, with late-term abortion the first to go…
Every day in America, moms and dads receive equally horrific news. We implore Senators Collins, Murkowski, and their fellow senators to think of real stories like ours when they vote whether to confirm a new Supreme Court justice to a lifetime appointment. Our fervent hope is that no mom or dad ever faces the same choice we did. The only thing worse would be to have no choice at all.
Sadly, Collins and Murkowski will not think about the Silvermans, or any other women who need the protection of their reproductive rights, before bowing down to Donald Trump and voting to confirm Brett Kavanaugh. They don’t care if the coathangers and the back alleys come back. It’s not going to affect them. It’s just going to affect–and attack–us.