The Social Order of Abortion Restrictions

When I read “How Rural America Steals Girls’ Futures” by Monica Potts, four passages caught my attention, because they form a particular summary of the article:

I didn’t believe in the religious prohibitions on sex before marriage, but I did see the social consequences that those who failed to follow them in Clinton [Arkansas] suffered.

My momma spent her life guarding me and my sisters against this fate, lecturing us, warning us, and making sure we came home on time each night.

The town seemed to operate in two modes—the buttoned-up propriety of the churchgoers, who held power in the county, versus the rowdy hillbillies….

…everyone knows everything about everyone else, … even your destiny, inherited from the generations that came before you.

It occurred to me that christians know how to create a two-class society: The morally superior families that are self-disciplined, capable of delayed gratification — and therefore worthy of wielding economic and political power — and the families who are not.

Teenagers, who are the subjects of unwanted pregnancies, are often the founders of crippled lineages.  They do not, in general, attain high levels of education.  Job opportunities for themselves and enrichment opportunities for their children are diminished.  The family is left unprepared to compete against families which have no such disadvantages.  Most importantly, disadvantaged families are less active about protecting their rights because they are over-worked and exhausted.  When war comes, the sons of disadvantaged families are disproportionately represented under arms.

It is a social order.

I began to realise that the debate about abortion is about exactly this.  Access to abortion undermines the christian social order.  That is why the criminalization of abortion is a religious issue (although not mandated in the bible) and yet it is at the same time not a religious issue (non-christians must be subject to the same restrictions).

Suddenly, the right-wing agenda appears to make sense.  Hostility to homosexuality and gender ambiguity, once mysterious, may now be seen to be directed against threats to a system dependent on maximising the number of men/boys seeking sex and on maximising the number of girls imperiled by it. Forcing a girl to bear the child of her rapist? Girls from good families are kept in protective environments, and they are not subject to rape. Child marriage? Not a solution to any problem good families have.

I doubt if any anti-abortion activists believe they are protecting a social order, but that lucidity is hardly necessary. They only need to observe that ‘good families’ call for abortion restrictions — that suffices to imply that those who contradict them are bad.

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