Alabama, Georgia And The War On Women

For the past few days, my Facebook feed has been dominated by posts about Alabama and Georgia and other draconian efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

Here in Indiana, former statehouse reporter and current columnist for The Statehouse File, Mary Beth Schneider, has dubbed these efforts by fundamentalist Republicans “The GOP’s ‘Mourdock moment,”a reference to Indiana’s then-Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s  statement to the effect that pregnancies caused by rape are something God intended, so the rapist’s baby shouldn’t be aborted.

Mourdock–like Todd Akin in Missouri (who claimed that women’s bodies could “shut the whole thing down” in cases of “legitimate” rape)– lost that election. In deep-red Indiana.

I can only hope these desperate attempts to put women back in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, do turn out to be “Mourdock moments.”

I have written before that reversing Roe would be a gift to the Democratic Party–that the single-issue voters the GOP have relied upon for decades would become less politically active, while the rage of the rest of us would benefit Democratic prochoice candidates. Whatever the political fallout, however, it’s important to call these efforts what they are:  frantic efforts by white “Christian” men to preserve their dominance–a dominance that is threatened by women, as well as by black and brown people.

These attacks on reproductive autonomy–including, increasingly, efforts to deny women access to birth control–demonstrably have nothing to do with reverence for life. As many others–including genuinely “pro life” people– have pointed out, once those babies are born, any concern for their welfare disappears. In Alabama, 26.5% of children live below the poverty line. Over 30 percent of kids under five are impoverished; 22.5 percent face food insecurity; and 250,000 children in the state are destitute.

Alabama is ranked:

– 46th in health care
– 50th in education
– 45th in economy
– 45th in opportunity
– 45th in crime and corrections
– 49th overall

The Alabama legislature appears untroubled by these statistics. They are hysterical, however, about the prospect of allowing women to control their own reproduction.

I used to disagree with prochoice advocates who claimed that efforts to curtail abortion were part of a larger war on women. I was–and I still am–willing to believe that there are some people who genuinely believe that those early clumps of fertilized cells represent potential humanity, and deserve protection–although it is still hard for me to understand why they want that protection to trump the health and well-being of the already-alive woman who is carrying them.

But as time has gone on, it has become very clear that the people to whom I was extending the benefit of the doubt are few and far between. Most “pro-life” activists are only pro-birth, and they have made it quite obvious that their motivations have very little to do with protecting life. (If they were really pro-life, they’d feed hungry kids and pass reasonable gun control laws, for starters.)

No, I think these draconian laws are triggered by deep-seated misogyny and resentment of “uppity” women.

Once medical science developed reliable birth control, women became free to enter the workforce. We were able to plan our adult lives. We were no longer prisoners of our biology. Birth control has allowed women to compete with men in business and in the political arena– and to become yet another perceived threat to white male dominance.

As any dispassionate observer will confirm, successful, self-confident men aren’t threatened by strong, confident women, or by women determining their own futures and living in accordance with their own values. Frightened, insecure men (and women)–people who are disoriented and intimidated by modernity and social change–are threatened.


Some social changes, however, aren’t going to be reversed, and women’s equality is one of them. Women aren’t submissively going back to the kitchen.

We also aren’t returning to back-alley abortionists. As many people have pointed out, laws like this don’t prevent abortions; they never have. They just prevent medically safe abortions. They guarantee that many women will needlessly die–thus making another mockery of proponents’ “pro life” protestations.

Rational people understand what this is really about. That’s why I think Mary Beth is right: this is the GOP’s “Mourdock moment.”


  1. “…there are some people who genuinely believe that those early clumps of fertilized cells represent potential humanity,…”

    Those same “early clumps of fertilized cells” representing humanity are the same “early clumps of cells” lost in miscarriages yet no attempt is made to prevent or save them. This is no more ridiculous to consider than to want to send women to prison for abortions. Some of these laws refer in passing to, except when “the mother’s life is endangered”, but who makes that decision for the women? It all goes back to old men making laws to control women’s bodies regarding pregnancy while their health care provides Viagra and erectile dysfunction supplies to keep them impregnating girls and women, thereby proclaiming their masculinity. It all goes to maintaining the male ego at home, in Congress and in the courts…and follow the money to Citizens United paying for it all.

    “Rational people understand what this is really about. That’s why I think Mary Beth is right: this is the GOP’s “Mourdock moment.”

    This November we have a national election which offers the opportunity to rid the Senate and the House of those of the Mourdock persuasion from their seats of power. Rational minds reclaiming the Senate from McConnell is step one; we must prevent these anti-abortion cases from moving from state courts to SCOTUS where Kavannaugh is grinning and waiting to do what he was chosen by the GOP to do…overturn Roe vs. Wade.

  2. First, Republicans predicate their “values” on the word of God…which they made up in the first place. They believe in the strong father model which dictates that the male is all-wise, all-knowing and all-empowered. Women, based on this backward and ancient Biblical meme they use to justify male authority, are second-class citizens, more or less property and totally subservient to men. Since the current Arabic culture is derived from the same ancient culture that gave the world Judaism and, thus, Christianity, the roots of this necessity to control women through and through, are clearly visible in Kushnerland and other places that treat women like…well, breeders. Disgusting.

    Second, it is deliciously ironic that mammals, including humans, are classified, embryologically, as “deuterostomes”. This means that, in the early embryonic development, it is the anus which develops first and the mouth, at the other end of the tube, develops second. The only other group of animals that belong to this group are “echinoderms”, aka sea stars, sea urchins and brittle stars. These latter animals do NOT have a notochord or backbone structure EVER in their lives. So, somewhere way back in time sea stars and mammals had a common ancestor. Just sayin’.

  3. I’m not surprised to see Alabama’s rankings in all those social categories. Somebody has to be near the bottom, right? In my book, “Killing the Dream: America’s Flirtation With Third-World Status”, I pointed out that Texas also carries the evolutionary burden of being near the bottom in, not only these same categories, but in teen pregnancy, school dropouts, divorce, teacher pay and a host of other areas. Further research shows that most of these Republican-owned, God-fearing, hyper-Christian states in the old Confederacy continue to race to the bottom in quality of life categories. Coincidence? Perhaps. It is more likely that the Republican/Judeo-Christian “values” that are stuffed down these poor peoples’ throats is the culprit.

    Somebody has to be last, but the scale itself can be elevated instead of being pushed further down by the usual suspects of racism, Republican politics and the degradation of women. I don’t see this elevation happening in those places (Sadly, wherever Republicans rule, this is also the case.) any time soon. This sort of backwardness is anathema to the main theme of human evolution: Without progress, we wouldn’t have been able to survive our predators, nor the diseases that nearly caused our extinction. It is ironic, that today’s “conservatives” are doing everything they can to send our society back to the stone age.

  4. I remember reporting on the actual “Mourdock moment” from the senatorial debate and women saying, “He didn’t really say that!”

    Yes, Maam, he did.

    From the USN Best States:

    50 Louisiana

    49 Alabama

    48 Mississippi

    47 West Virginia

    46 New Mexico

    45 Arkansas

    These are “moments” — this is cultural.

  5. If in the new “Christian America” women’s reproductive rights are to be limited and governed by criminal law, then perhaps the same should be applied to men. For instance, any man convicted of rape or incest should be sentenced to life without parole after being castrated. Men could be charged with a sex crime for impregnating a woman not his wife. Sentence same as above. For that matter any sex outside of marriage would also be treated as a crime.
    What’s good for the goose….

  6. Having been raised a Catholic, I know many anti-abortion people of good faith. To them I would point to Thomas Aquinas, who postulated that a fetus developed a soul after the third month. If that didn’t work I would point to Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston, who said, when asked about Roe, that he didn’t believe in abortion, but didn’t feel it was his place to impose his faith on others. American Catholics have succumbed to the temptations of political power. We should remove any reference to God on our currency and then render to God that which is truly His and keep him out of our politics (which is no place for any self respecting God).

    While I’m on my little soap box, let me lobby for never addressing the anti-abortion people as “pro-life”. Their policies prove they don’t care about living human beings.

  7. Evidently some people still believe in the “feminine mystique” ( I just read Betty Friedan’s book).
    In the 50’s and 60’s, women lived in a society dominated by men which held the delusion that a woman’s job is to be wife, mother, and housewife. As a young girl I did not see women who were doctors, attorneys, let alone running for president. This meant that the American economy was badly damaged by refusing to allow half its work force to work. If Republicans are so found of capitalism and free market systems then you would think they would want us women working and increasing “competition.” But then I have to say when it comes to competition women have the upper hand. After all we have more neural networks connecting both the right and left hemispheres of our brains.

    Obviously Alabama has a lot of insecure men. And the governor has betrayed 14 yo girls who become pregnant because of incest and women who are raped. Obviously neither she nor anyone she cares about have suffered these horrible sexual assaults.

    I’m really happy I escaped the feminine mystique. But the, I am a lesbian woman.

  8. Sheila you nailed it with this sentence: “I think these draconian laws are triggered by deep-seated misogyny and resentment of “uppity” women.”

    I honestly think the Deep South states enacting these laws are STILL trying to live in the Lost Cause mentality and bring about a return to a mythical time before the Civil War when the south was ruled and governed by the Plantation Oligarchs.

    I just cannot wrap my mind around the psychology of southern women, like Alabama’s Governor, who support these assaults on the autonomy of women as full human beings.

    This is the ultimate question for this nation: are women fully autonomous human beings with full civil rights under the law or not?

  9. “Whatever the political fallout, however, it’s important to call these efforts what they are: frantic efforts by white “Christian” men to preserve their dominance–a dominance that is threatened by women, as well as by black and brown people.” Two anecdotes which do not deny your statement, Professor, but complicate how we react to pro-life activists: 1) an African-American, conservative, older woman based her vote for Trump primarily because he was in her perception anti-abortion. 2) an older white woman, along with her husband, are fervent supporters of Israel, anti-abortion, fear the U.S. Is becoming socialist, and support Trump.

    The Democrat chosen of the 23 presently announced presidential candidates has an insanely difficult task to articulate a message vs Trump’s emotional appeal to elderly white mysogynists and their spouses, and black and brown fundamentalists and conservative Catholics. November of 2020 may be a watershed.

  10. Sheila, I think you were too kind in saying this is a Pro-birth movement. It is really a

    Force to Birth Movement!

  11. Turn about should be “fair play”. We have some males who are like reptiles, impregnate the female, slither away and let the female guard the nest of eggs.

    The states that do not permit abortion should require males who impregnate females and who cannot or will not financially support the female and the baby should be forced undergo a vasectomy. After all if a woman is forced to have a child, then the male should be forced undergo a vasectomy.

  12. If women will be charged with murder when exercising their right to terminate their pregnancy, then the fathers of these fetuses must also be charged with murder. Victims of rape and incest who are forced to bear children must have a DNA test to determine the father. Then he must be castrated. After all, fair is fair. (I am so angry about these states’ total disregard for the law and their constituents!)

  13. Politics is about power, and power is about who is entitled to run society. People who really believe that they are required and entitled to protect clumps of cells believe that God entitles them to run society. They of course are different than the Trumps of the world who believe that wealth entitles but it’s easy to see the ease in which they join forces in a democracy to up the odds that it will award them with power. Of course both of them see the logic in armament as an entitlement to power, for what other reason would people invest in the machinery of military killing? The list goes on. Racial supremacy. Born here supremacy. Geographic, or cultural supremacy.

    Democracy accepts all of this as part of society but tames it by rewarding majorities not minorities with the power necessary for and inherent in government. Slavery didn’t end until those suffering from it aligned with enough others to become a majority movement.

    The question for 2020 then is has the current conservative coalition achieved majority status? 2016 showed that it is close but we’ll never know how much Putin and gerrymandering was required to get them over the EC finish line if well short of the electoral finish line. We also won’t know for sure how much Trump corruption and incompetence can be ignored by the coalition. A hint though is how many fell for the lies about Hillary’s and Obama’s capabilities and contributions leading up to 2016.

    If the culture of power entitlement really has achieved long term majority status then all here is lost but we’ll need to get through 2020 to know that. Between now and then the job at hand is to lobby for freedom as effectively as the church and oligarchs and the NRA and the KKK and all of the other institutions demanding power currently aligned as conservative can. Much of that will be done by the Democrat candidates themselves competing for the votes for freedom and their campaigns and campaign organizations. This year we need to support the campaign efforts of our favorite Democrat candidate. Next year we have to shift gears and support the one chosen in the primary regardless of if it’s our favorite. The continuation of the American great experiment in self government rests on our shoulders right now.

  14. I will say this again and again: a government that can force a woman to keep a pregnancy can also force her to end one. Or not to have a pregnancy at all. And that day will come when the government decides that certain groups of women are not worthy of having children. If Stephen Miller convinced the short-fingered vulgarian to enact a “one child” policy for immigrants he’d sign the EO in, well, a heartbeat. And the same extremist crowd that is passing and supporting these forced-birth laws would jump right on that bandwagon. And I’d say the same would hold in states that tried to do the same for women receiving public assistance, or that were to go a step further and try forced sterilization for those women. Don’t think it couldn’t happen. We’ve already seen too many things happen that we thought couldn’t or wouldn’t.

    And I don’t think any of the current forced-birth laws have any provision to charge the father as an accomplice should the woman he impregnated obtain an abortion.

  15. @Patrick Sullivan – Indiana was the first state to enact forced sterilization as eugenics began to move the country and the world itself for the point where the governments decided who should or should not propagate, to the point of extermination of those deemed “inferior” for any reason. That law remained on the Indiana state books until 1974.
    As Prof. Kennedy as often warned, a state that can force a woman to carry a child to term can just as easily force a woman to surrender that option. It has happened before and could very easily happen again when the white male power structure decides that there are some women more worthy and less dangerous than others to bear their children. Wealth, intelligence, beauty or just malleability (barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen) have always been the criteria used to control women and the culture in favor of the white male.

  16. I would not dispute the idea that conservative religions all over the globe enforce a male authoritarian cultural, social, economic, and political ruling class.

    It may seem to be an easy course for woman to leave these Male dominated religions like Catholic or Southern Baptists and seek spiritual comfort elsewhere. However, in my limited experience the repercussions are high for people who attempt to leave, families and friends will shun you. Suddenly you are alone, no longer welcomed at the family gatherings.

  17. Here’s the thing: women are a majority but women voters who support the freedom to decide for themselves their mating choices and consequences must not be.

    What are the women who support others running their reproductive life thinking? What do they get out of that position?

  18. I actually think that the Alabama law finally strips away the hypocrisy of the anti-abortion stance. If they believe that life begins at conception, then the innocents born of rape and incest have as much a right to develop into human beings as any other. The exceptions are only there to make the restrictions palatable to more people. It also exposes the problem of the anti-abortion stance generally. Making exceptions for rape and incest is CHOICE.
    We need to recognize that they are also targeting birth control methods that they believe work after conception. You won’t see that in their laws – yet.
    The Rosie the Riveters of WWII proved that women could be viable members of the workforce, but when the men came back from war, they were expected to leave their jobs and go back to the kitchen. Much of the media, advertisements, popular culture, etc. was geared toward telling women that they were less than and to be happy staying home. Then the pill gave women the control over their reproductive life they needed to plan their work and family life. To get women back where they “belong,” they need to get rid of birth control.
    Unfortunately, wages have been suppressed so long that only the wealthy and upper middle class families can survive on one income. Poverty will be the norm for what used to be the middle class.

  19. I would go 1 step further. If a woman seeks & obtains an abortion and then is prosecuted, the man who impregnated her should be prosecuted as well. After all he did not fulfill his responsibility in making sure an unwanted pregnancy didn’t occur. Also, I think if we are going down this road, after a man has fathered 1 unwanted pregnancy, vasectomy is mandatory (he can no longer be trusted not to create an unwanted pregnancy.) Any man who fathers more than 1 unwanted pregnancy, castration. Perpetrators of rape & incest — automatic castration. If a married woman wants no more children, she should be able to force her husband to get a vasectomy — no more unwanted pregnancies within the heterosexual marital relationship.
    Also, it is not “Pro-life” — it is “Forced Birth”. Pro-life people care about babies & children already here. And their mothers and fathers.
    I hope these states remember, if they succeed in having Roe overturned, forced abortions will also be on the table. Once the government can make medical decisions for the individual, everything is on the table.

  20. What ever happened with the “morning after” pill?
    If I were a nubile woman I would always have an emergency supply.
    By what means have “they” succeeded in keeping this obvious solution under lock and key?
    Is this one of “their” reasons for strangling Planned Parenthood?

  21. Greetings Robin L. This has nothing to do with today’s topic, just a a little history. WWII created many wartime jobs and the young men were being drafted in large numbers and guess who stepped in to fill that void. Women left the kitchen to work in industry and your importance has grown slowly ever since. Keep up the good work. Irvin (male) a 89 year old Korean War Veteran.

  22. JD- Exactly. I had Indiana’s role in the eugenics movement in mind. And there’s been noise for years from the right about forced birth control for welfare recipients. And as you know, we’ve seen “one child” policies from authoritarian governments. If the current extremism persists, we’ll see it here.

  23. This is all about control. Current power centers need the profit of continual war and thus, continual breeding of potential soldiers and others who will serve as the bottom caste. Educated, self-reliant citizens are their worst nightmare. They are the aristocrats of the past, in a modern guise, playing their peasants as the pawns they are. Female pawns and male pawns. Obedient pawns. The only answers for a better future are limitation of population and education for all.

  24. In the mid 70’s, when I was an undergraduate, I always used to say, “Democrats want to live and let live, Republicans want to legislate against me and my friends, and would jail us if necessary.” The GOP has worked tirelessly and single-mindedly to get THEIR judges on every level of the judiciary. They have succeeded. They now “have the votes” to make any damned law they want, and to ignore any damned law they do not want to follow (including subpoenas). The Dems need to fight fire with fire, and see clearly what the GOP is up to. It may be too late already. Women are screwed. The GOP has stolen two presidential elections, and probably three. They are masters at voter suppression and obstruction (Mitch McConnell). You think they are going to stop now? Dream on. It is time for impeachment and investigations, new maps where there is racist gerrymandering, and the restoration of the Voting Rights Act. It is time to finally pass the ERA. And that’s just the beginning!

  25. And the Missouri abortion debate included a real ‘dilly’! State Rep. Barry Hovis (a cop in a former life!) actually said out loud and at the mike, “I’ve found that only 2% are committed by a stranger, the rest are either date rape or ‘consensual’ rape”! I had to read 3 times to take it in! As I read somewhere recently “The cruelty Is the point”! Also, some one said “I don’t think that means what you think it means”!

  26. And the Missouri abortion debate included a real ‘dilly’! State Rep. Barry Hovis (a cop in a former life!) actually said out loud and at the mike, “I’ve found that only 2% are committed by a stranger, the rest are either date rape or ‘consensual’ rape”! I had to read 3 times to take it in! As I read somewhere recently “The cruelty Is the point”! Also, some one else said “I don’t think that means what you think it means”!

  27. Alabama is 50th in education, with 61 Colleges and Universities, without them it would be 50th in the world, the only thing that explains their educational standing is the roll religion has played to constrict, control and undermine any progressive effort to improve people’s lives thru education. Please tell me how you can correct such dismal standings in a state that has never recovered from the Civil War.

  28. minds controled by religion. a generations handed down horror show,and forced contrition. being controled to affect others? mmmm gottahand it to the religious right,thier game plan came together quite well, hold out til mcconnel and his mob can fulfill its goal, lying to get a right wing liar as president,go against your own unbringing,and support anyone who will do as you DEMAND for any costs. kind like a whore in church eh? keep your honor,nope, demand everyone walks thier line,and damn you if you dont. if there is a judgement day at the end, many seem cast to take the elevator down.. alabama,ya gotta visit it,and really see where they left the poor and less fortunate,kicked to the curb. you cant support a state, derived on keeping wages low and education for a few,so whitey and his church,can control lives of others while having the privelege of kicking some to the curb. seriously,go there and mingle with the chuch..being white has its advantages,i get to join that convesation,and see,its still alive and well in 2019.
    best wishes…

  29. If a fetus becomes a person in these states, let’s be sure that pregnant women are allowed to vote twice.

  30. BOTTOM LINE > There is NO war on women, or their rights.
    A woman has a right to do with HER body as she wishes.
    She does NOT have a right to do anything to the body of the person growing inside fer except nurture it to health. Women do not have a right to end the lives of ANYONE by virtue of her gender – particularly a human fetus .

Comments are closed.