My father, a strict 1930's Catholic, was an officer in the John Birch Society, as I've mentioned elsewhere. Shortly before President Kennedy's assassination, when I was 14, he told me privately in all seriousness that the country was doomed if somebody didn't kill Kennedy. His position on abortion was exactly the same as Mourdock's, minus Mourdock's self-described "struggle" over rape and Mourdock's exception for the life of the mother.

My father also hated his mother, not that he would have admitted this in so many words, and not that she didn't deserve it in certain ways. Of his five daughters, the one he abused most severely, both physically and emotionally (to the point that she ran off at 18 and married the unemployed, confabulating sociopath who still controls her), was the one who inherited his mother's looks and temperament. He emotionally abused my passive, complicit mother on a daily basis. But it wasn't cut-and-dried misogyny or sexism, because when my high school tried to elevate a boy to valedictorian over two girls with higher GPA's, on grounds that it was natural for boys to be above girls, my father went roaring up there and demanded fairness for his daughter (me, trembling at the prospect of being forced to give a speech).

More below the burnt orange squiggly.

In the West, since before my father was born, it is not okay to for a man to openly hate women as a group, or to openly control women through force, or to openly enjoy violent sexual fantasies involving males hurting females. A person who wants such things and isn't a sociopath has a load of guilt and/or shame to deal with. What better way to suppress this than to foist your guilty wishes off as "protecting human life?" You can feel good about yourself, saving helpless babies, while mercilessly controlling women on the side.

Bear in mind that the right's bizarre passion for protecting microscopic pre-embryonic conceptions is unique to modern times. Applying the retro logic that Scalia applies to matters before the US Supreme Court, anything that happens before quickening (fetal movement, felt by the mother) should be outside the purview of men and law. Their focus on "personhood" from the moment sperm meets egg extends their defense into territory that Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not to mention Adam, Abraham, and David, never imagined. It correspondingly extends their ability to control, harm, or humiliate women under the guilt-free guise of "protecting innocent life."

I'm no psychiatrist (I'm a retired OB-GYN-abortionist), but I've studied and contemplated this for many years, including with professional help. It's a strategy that seems particularly suited to the paranoid conservative personality that animated my father, to an extreme. Perhaps a personal example, having nothing to do with abortion, can illustrate this mentality:

My father, for unstated reasons, abruptly refused to have anything to do with my wedding (which he wasn't being asked to pay for). He had gladly consented to my engagement, and he claimed to like my fiance. I assumed he pulled out because he wanted us to be married by an ultra-conservative Catholic priest of his choosing, in his town, in what had become my parents' church four years earlier, and we wanted to be married ecumenically by the Catholic chaplain in the Catholic church closest to the university where both of us were students. So we eloped, overseas. He furiously succeeded in barring the whole family from attending the reception my mother-in-law hosted for us. Life went on. Without anyone apologizing, the crime of our elopement was swept under the family rug, never to be mentioned until my elder daughter was planning her wedding and intending to wear my wedding dress (which I hadn't gotten married in). Due to a sequence of insane events that nobody here would believe, I initiated a fruitless attempt to "get things out in the open" and "work it out" before her wedding, on the assumption that after so much time, and after my parents had participated in several non-Catholic weddings in the immediate family, peace could be achieved. Partly this involved recapping the circumstances that led to my elopement, which, as I said, I had never discussed with my father or mother.

Now here's where the right-wing psychological defenses come in. My mother was delusional with guilt over forgetting that I owned a wedding dress (a memory lapse for which I hardly blamed her, after 30-plus years, when she hadn't seen me married in it), falsely accusing me of lying about owning one, never showing it to her, taking measures to conceal it from her. Classic paranoia. I expected my father to deny ever saying anything a remotely intelligent person could construe as withdrawing from my wedding. But this time he slammed me with the "personhood" defense: yes, he said, he had told me he didn't want to have anything to do with it, in order to protect my then-fiance, because he "knew" my fiance didn't want the sort of wedding I was planning. Nothing could have been further from the truth, and even if it were true, I can't imagine a crazier way to go about addressing this. Fortunately by this time, I could see the stunning lack of empathy for me, his eldest daughter, and his chilling attitude that the wishes he projected onto my husband should nullify my concerns and feelings. It took me a while to see that he felt as guilty as my mother for the way my wedding turned out, not that he would ever admit this in a million years.

So when I hear Mourdock say he thinks a fertilized egg inside a woman, where nobody can see or feel it, is a gift from God, and "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen," I hear him soothing his hidden guilt for what he wants to do to women (or to a particular woman who represents us in his mind).

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