George Lakoff and Elizabeth Wehling think it’s highly unlikely that Catholic leaders and the religious and political right are going to admit that they’ve been wrong about the “morning-after” pill now that exhaustive research shows the pill delaying ovulation rather than preventing the implantation of a zygote. One of the central claims in the Catholic bishops’ attack on the Obama administration’s HHS guidelines is that the “morning-after” pill is an abortifacient, and the administration is requiring Catholic institutions to participate in abortions via its new HHS guidelines.
Lakoff and Wehling argue that scientific research and scientific truth simply don’t matter to those promoting false arguments about abortifacients and the “morning-after” pill. What matters is using overblown rhetoric about zygotes as persons to try to build up in the culture at large the emotional sense that a just-fertilized ovum is a baby, and should be treated as such if we don’t intend to succumb to barbarism.
I’d just like to add here an idea that’s been incubating in the back of my mind for a while. My mother was a “right to lifer”, as she called it. She had the little rose insignia on her handbag, she gave money to anti-abortion groups. I told her I thought she was being silly. It drove her nuts that she couldn’t make me agree.
Now, here’s the thing: By the time my mom got married, she was 28 and dying to be a mother. She gave birth to five children, delivered one still-born child, and had two second-trimester miscarriages, due to Rh negative incompatibility. If those pregnancies hadn’t gone wrong, she would have a brood of nine.
My mom was smart. She also wanted to be a singer, and she wanted to be a writer. (My dad gave her an electric typewriter one Christmas, but I don’t think she used it.) She told us there was no way you could do those things and be a mother at the same time. But then I proved her wrong, and I think she really resented it.
She had to make motherhood the most important thing, because it was the only thing she did.
So I wonder – not just with my mom, but with a lot of women, of all ages – if treating conception as a sacrament isn’t, on some level, a psychological sidestep to evade growing up, and evolving. And I don’t mean that as an insult to housewives. There are plenty of ways to mature and grow in that position, but some women cling to gender roles in the extreme. For example, my mom didn’t know much about the family finances; a lot of women do. Instead, she clung to some rather infantile ways.
When I got married, I was the same way about money. All of that logistical stuff was overwhelming, and I was happy to let my husband have all the power in exchange for his taking all the responsibility. (The irony of that was, I later realized that I’m the one who was good with money and strategy, not him. My problems grew mostly out of scarce resources, not out of poor judgment — and when I did make poor choices, I didn’t make the same mistake twice.)
The trap of putting all your intelligence and intensity into your children is that you can use it to justify your inability to function as an adult. And I wonder if that isn’t where all the anti-abortion fervor really comes from – that women are using motherhood as their rationale for existence. That it’s the only currency available to measure their sense of worth.
I dunno. What do you think?