“A woman must receive instruction silently and under complete control.”
- 1 Timothy 2:11
-American Women, 2019
We knew this was coming the moment Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last fall. Just as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford recounted the panic and terror of Kavanaugh’s hand over her mouth all those years ago, we knew the metaphorical hand of Kavanaugh, thanks to his judicial enablers, would clap over all women’s mouths at the earliest opportunity. Now we must yell as best as we can.
Conservatives are congratulating themselves on getting the current U.S. president to appoint only the judges on a list that a group called the Federalist Society gave him before he was elected. That list is one reason many conservatives held their conservative noses and voted for a candidate who was hardly conservative. The list of potential judges was their guarantee at a shot at, among other conservative goals, overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that tied a woman’s right to privacy to her reproductive freedom.
Kavanaugh was on Trump’s cheat sheet, as was Neil Gorsuch, the president’s first successful appointment to the Supreme Court. Thanks to the list, the plan to control women is coming together.
The covering of women’s mouths, or the Kavanaugh effect, is evident in the various states that have just passed bans on legal abortion, laws that are clearly and admittedly unconstitutional. The conservative lawmakers in these states are hopeful that, with the placement of Kavanaugh as the fifth conservative justice on the Supreme Court, their illegal legislation will be the vehicle the court uses to drive over the Roe v. Wade precedent and kill it.
Those of us paying attention knew this was coming. Those of us who were not paying attention are awake now. The Kavanaugh effect is the specter of the government making life-changing decisions about parenthood for us. For women, that is. For men, fatherhood remains a matter of personal choice.
I am not an abortion advocate. I wish no woman ever had to make that heart-wrenching decision. Abortion is against my religion. It may not, however, be against yours. Also, as I am an American, I do not live in a theocracy. The pluralistic country I live in allows women to make their own decisions about pregnancy and childbirth, at least for now. The government of the country I live in does not enforce motherhood by coercion, at least for now.
An example of a government that did forbid both birth control and abortion was Romania, circa 1966-89. In this country of state orphanages consequently overfull of unwanted, uncared-for and abandoned children, the maternal mortality rate soared.
We learned then that forced procreation existed not only in fiction. This was the (Nicolae) Ceausescu effect. It sort of resembles the future of the Kavanaugh effect.
Conversely, an example of a government that mandated both birth control and forced sterilization in a one-child-per-family policy was China, circa 1980-2016. The result of this law was borne by many aborted or abandoned baby girls, as families wanted that only child to be a son to carry on the family name. This was the Deng Xiaoping effect, another cruel example of how the state butting into women’s bodies and parenting decisions is always a losing proposition.
It is sad that we rarely learn from history, because we know from history that abortion made illegal leads only to illegal abortions. But the Kavanaugh effect does not concern itself with women’s safety, let alone our humanity or autonomy. It uses religion in a way that is profoundly disrespectful and dismissive of women, who are treated as subhuman vessels of male prerogative.
Kavanaugh’s repugnant performance before the Senate, along with those who cheered him on, proved that. Dr. Ford, who sacrificed her anonymity and was awarded with death threats, was disbelieved and vilified.
If only the self-proclaimed pro-life champions who did all that could turn their influence and attention to smarter, kinder, more effective ways to reduce or eliminate the need for abortion, such as funding programs that actually help people parent, like paid family-leave for fathers and mothers, or safe and affordable child care programs, or stronger health care options, or more practical sex education, or better access to contraception, to name a few.
The commitment to life from womb to birth is only nine months long. It is faux pro-life. The rest of a child’s life and our nation’s families deserve the same professed embrace. Tangible, solid support for parenting in today’s society would be far more life-giving than the Kavanaugh effect for everyone involved.
But that would mean relinquishing control of the wombs and decisions of fertile women, something conservative men are loathe to do. It would mean trusting and backing women to do what is best for them and their families, another thing conservative men are loathe to do. Thanks to the Federalist Society, loathsome men are all the rage right now.
Even with our mouths covered, we women have something to say to them: No.