Today is 41 years after Roe v. Wade and, The New York Times tells us, abortion is just as much in political play as ever. And usually because new restrictions have been proposed by the Republican majority in one state or another. Meaning, as usual, those of us on the pro-choice side have to play defense, which gets to be tiring after a while (and don't think the antis don't know this).
More recently, there have been exceptions, where we've seen governments expand access to abortion (or try to). And these are, no doubt about it, good things. But these have been in places like California, or my home state of New York, where there are strong pro-choice majorities anyway (and even in New York, that bill couldn't pass the State Senate, although I expect that will change by at least the next redistricting when it will no longer be mathematically possible to slice up the state 64 different ways and still produce a Republican majority, and no one in line to lead a Democratic majority by then will have a corrupt past/present waiting to blow up on them (So I hope).
This accurately reflects that Americans as a whole are still sort of conflicted about the subject. Barry Goldwater, whose wife Peggy was very active in Planned parenthood of Arizona (he himself had a libertarian "personally opposed but don't think it's the government's business" position, which in his later years in politics a Republican could still get away with), wrote as much in his memoirs, that "the American people really want to have it both ways about abortion." It came out only ten years after his death that, in fact, he had helped his daughter get an illegal abortion back in 1955.
And I think part of it is because we on the pro-choice side have always had to play defense. Since Roe gave us what we thought we'd have to struggle years for (compare with the civil rights movement before and marriage equality now), we've never really needed to come up with any new ideas, just defend what we already have. And we can all see where that's led us ... the worst of both worlds.
I think the American people really would like to see an end to the abortion debate, but not an end to abortion. In the absence of anything that would accomplish the former, too many swing voters go along with those who advocate the latter (for whom, it always seems to everyone else but themselves, the repeal of Roe is like c—it's impossible to actually get to it, but at prohibitive cost you can get real close.)
And they wonder why we don't do anything. Because deep down inside, they want us to make the move that ends the abortion debate. Another Greatest Generation personage who is no longer with us, Andy Rooney, said, both in print and on TV that while he was against abortion personally, he liked the people for it (well, as we all know, we're not so much "for" abortion as for allowing it) much more than the people against it. I think he was speaking for a lot of people, a lot more than even he realized.
And I think it's time that we realize that we can ... end this destructive conflict.
My gamechanging proposal below the fold ...
It's simple: Remove all post-Roe restrictions on abortion (save any legitimately enacted to protect the woman's health) and require just one condition on every abortion: that enough genetic material from the fetus be preserved and stored so as to make for a viable clone at such time in the future as this may become safe, technologically possible and indisputably legal.
Most people are very receptive to this idea. I floated it in a letter to the editor of our local newspaper last spring. Two women I know went out of their way when they ran into me to tell me what a great idea it was. I never received nor read any negative response about it.
Oh sure, the antis have always pissed their panties over any possible connection between abortion and cloning. And they've even tried to legislate this sort of thing from their approach.
But then they've always seen cloning in the abortion context as some sort of stepping stone to a Dystopian Sci-Fi Future™ Brave New World* where people are cloned solely to be stripped down for spare parts as the need arises (the possibility that science might be at some point capable of cloning just the needed organs—I mean, do you think General Motors builds cars just to be stripped down for the parts? Do you think any car maker would? No; they just build the parts separately—never having occurred to them (but then, what else would you expect from a group of people who consider it sound science to teach children that the planet was created in six days 6,000 years ago?))
There's no hope for the hardcore anti-abortion intellectuals who think stuff like that which I linked to above. But I think more people than we think, or than the antis think, would see cloning in a different light if it were pitched to them as a way to give every conceived zygote the opportunity to be born. Maybe not the certainty, but the opportunity (and isn't that what America's all about?)
If you could modify pregnancy in one way, I think ... well, I think a lot of women would take that whole morning-sickness thing and flush it down the toilet forever (not in the least because we still don't understand what purpose it serves, so for all we know it may be an evolutionary relic). If you could change a second thing, wouldn't it be nice to be able to put a pregnancy on hold? A lot of women who get abortions, like my mother, for whom I was the first birth but not the first pregnancy (and both were before even 1970, when New York legalized abortion) do, contrary to what the antis think, intend to have children eventually ... just not at this particular moment in time. I'm sure the ability to do so, by reimplanting the cloned embryo after law school or whatever, would be welcome. You can pause so many other things today, after all. (Maybe this T-shirt could become a symbol in support of this idea).
And as for those embryos whose parents weren't interested? Well, the antis are always talking about how pro-adoption they are, aren't they? They could have a world of potential adoptees with a very low overhead cost, taking up nothing more than freezer (or, once we get advanced enough, hard-drive or whatever storage device comes along to displace it) space.
Promoting cloning and the research underlying it would have further benefits. It could hasten the day when a nightmare the "family values" right hasn't even started having yet, the child biologically descended from two parents of the same sex, becomes as unremarkable as (in some states) two such people marrying each other has today, a day I think may well happen before the end of this century.
(I wonder how the right will react when they do start having this nightmare (probably at the point when they will no longer be able to stop it). To bring this back to the abortion issue, look for them to start modifying those human-life amendments they're always trying to add to state constitutions with language specifying further that the fertilized egg they're recognizing as human be the product of one female and one male parent (which would create some problems with people already born, for starters). Watching them square this with still being "pro-life" in the manner of privileged racists since time immemorial will doubtless be both amusing and horrifying).
So, I think this proposal should be put out there in some fashion, either as a law by some brave legislator or an initiative. Someone. Try it. Please. It would be better than having another debate for 41 years in the hope that people will finally have enough.
*If the antis are allowed to repeatedly invoke this idea, are we allowed to point to Robert Silverberg's The World Inside as a "slippery-slope" Dystopian Sci-Fi Future
paranoid fant example of where their ideology might lead?