It is a few days now since I watched it go down. My stomach dropping with each name as the news appeared on my phone screen. Indiana. Georgia. Alabama. Missouri. The list of American states looking to heavily criminalize abortion – those who provide them as well as those who need them, as the case may be – grows longer and longer. And if all this goes to the Supreme Court, we may well be entitled to fear that Roe vs. Wade will be challenged or even overturned.
It’s a surprise without the element of surprise. Still, this is something I would prefer not to witness, a right that I wish we did not have to fight for. That we did not have to collectively mobilize for, again. To still fear for, here in Canada. Because the threat hovers over us too. As Simone De Beauvoir once wrote: “Never forget that a political, economical or religious crisis is enough to cast doubt on women’s rights. These rights will never be vested. You have to stay vigilant your whole life.” The quote applies to the rights of every minority, every oppressed group that has endured misery and abuse from the majority, that dominant class which thinks its perception and experience of the world applies to everyone.
A life of vigilance then. This is what the current situation brings us. A life of fighting, struggling, fear and frustration. A life of having to repeat and justify oneself. To assert, in this case, that women’s bodies, and their freedom to do as they see fit with them, is not the right of men. Men who don’t have uteruses, who know almost nothing of pregnancy, of giving birth, nor of all that follows. And having escaped this reality, they don’t even want to take it into account in their decision-making. They also know little about biology. Take John Becker, the representative for Ohio, for one, who believes that during an ectopic pregnancy an embryo can be “replanted in the uterus.” Right.
These men are going to reduce the life of some women to a life of violence. Of forced pregnancy. Of backstreet abortions with all the risks they involve. Of the financial costs associated with pregnancy, giving birth and having children, since far from all Americans have access to health insurance and their parental leave is in no way equivalent to ours. Of being unable to choose. Of, in the end, being denied.
And so, I watch it go down, an unhappy witness to history. I am sorry to be just a spectator to what is taking shape or maybe coming into force and to know the scale of my powerlessness. Because it’s far away, because it’s picking up speed, because this is a question of the law. Because I have no idea what to do nor how to do it. Apart from write.
I would like to avoid having a “Stefan Zweig moment,” of the man who in his memoir “The World of Yesterday” reported minutely on what he witnessed, what he saw arrive and take hold in early 20th century Europe. And that left him feeling a keen hopelessness.
For some time, we have been seeing protest signs asking to make Orwell or Huxley or Atwood fiction again. This is what I want. How good would it be if the American nightmare were to become a near miss because our vigilance had led to action. Once again.