It's easy to dismiss Republican rhetoric as merely
rhetoric, but sometimes people mean what they say, and it's necessary to consider what the results would actually look like if they kept their promises.
Republican rhetoric on abortion runs to euphemisms ("personhood", "protecting the unborn"), and so forth, calculated to avoid any direct references to the people (pregnant women) whose self-determination would be abrogated by their plans. When they're confronted by specific questions, though, the mask can slip, as it recently did with Mike Huckabee
(found via Republic of Gilead
). He was asked about an actual current case in Paraguay in which a 10-year-old rape victim was refused an abortion due to the strict laws in that devoutly Catholic (that is, backward) country:
"Let nobody be misled, a 10-year-old girl being raped is horrible, but does it solve a problem by taking the life of an innocent child?" he asked..... Huckabee added later, "When I think about one horror, I also think about the possibilities that exist and I just don’t want to think that somehow we discounted a human life..... Let’s not compound the tragedy by taking yet another life."
If there is no exception for a 10-year-old rape victim, there will be no exception for anybody, ever.
Huckabee has also said that, as President, he would make abortion de facto impossible
by "acting as if zygotes have Constitutional rights", which also would eliminate at a stroke any exceptions for rape, incest, etc., since actual, born persons who were conceived as a result of such acts have the same Constitutional rights as everybody else. (This could only pass muster in the courts if they had been thoroughly stacked by the wingnuts. Courts are supposed to consider the intent
of laws, and it's unlikely that the authors of the Constitution intended its provisions to apply to blastocysts.) He has even talked about using the FBI and federal troops to suppress abortion, effectively turning the culture war into an actual civil war.
Huckabee is an extreme case, but far from alone. As I discussed here
, Rubio and Walker (who are among the top contenders for the Republican Presidential nomination) have also taken radical, no-exceptions stands against abortion. After their victories in 2010 and 2014, Republican state legislators passed many stringent abortion restrictions. The worst of these have been stopped by the courts, but a Republican President would mean two or three more Scalias on the Supreme Court, and the end of Roe v. Wade
and any constraint on anything which that President and Congressional Republicans chose to do to enact religious taboo into civil law.
Abortion is not rare. There are 700,000 to 800,000 abortions per year in the US. Other Republican policies, such as opposition to certain forms of contraception and to effective sex education, would greatly increase the number of unintended pregnancies and therefore the demand for abortion. Outlawing abortion would create a huge underground industry of illegal abortion clinics, sleazy and dangerous (as prohibition has made drugs, prostitution, and in earlier times alcohol sleazy and dangerous) -- perhaps even restrictions on travel as women tried to get the procedure in other countries where it remained legal.
Pregnancy due to rape is not as rare as people like Todd Akin think, either. There are at least 30,000 such cases in the US per year, of which about two-thirds are aborted. It's now clear that if the Republicans got their way, there would be no exceptions for these.
Republican success on abortion policy alone would mean a vast, radical transformation of American society. If half the population lost one of the most fundamental freedoms of all -- the freedom to control their own reproduction -- the US could no longer claim to be a free country in any meaningful sense. It would be a massive-scale intrusion into private life by government diktat, a totalitarianism worthy of Lenin.
Add in their efforts to strip away gays' recently-won equality and freedom, to obliterate separation of church and state, to crush freedom of expression in cases like blasphemy and pornography (while declaring money to be speech in Citizens United
), and to effectively eliminate long-standing safety-net programs like Social Security -- and the US would practically cease to be a modern country and degenerate into a weird crypto-theocracy, with the state enforcing religious values at odds with the inclinations of most of the people. It would be very different from the country we know today.
Could this actually happen if they won the Presidency? In theory the checks and balances built into our system ought to prevent much of it, but given how hysterical and extremist the Republican party has become since 2009, if they were to keep Congress while winning the Presidency and thus ultimately the Supreme Court -- well, no system of government is perfect. Even ours can only work properly if a critical mass of the people running it understand and defend its principles.
We don't know how much damage these radical reactionaries could do if they won more power, and we need to make sure we never get the chance to find out.
[Personal note: Today is the ninth anniversary of this blog.]