Jaco: The totalitarianism of Missouri anti-abortion laws

Like all totalitarian movements, the anti-abortion jihad that wants to force women to give birth and has left the Planned Parenthood facility on Forest Park Avenue as the only abortion clinic left in Missouri begins with one big lie: that life begins at conception.

But before we begin to dissect the movement by the American Taliban in the Missouri Legislature to impose Christian sharia and force women to give birth against their will, we need to know a few facts.

First, although calling the anti-abortion crusade “totalitarian” grabs attention, it’s also 100 percent accurate and not, unfortunately, hyperbole. Dig into the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary, and the meaning is clear.

“Totalitarian: of or being a political system in which those in power have complete control and do not allow people freedom to oppose them.”  As far as the ability of women to choose what to do with their own bodies, the definition is spot-on.

Missouri’s current law has reduced access to abortion statewide to the one St. Louis clinic by requiring abortion doctors to have medical privileges at nearby hospitals. It mandates a 72-hour waiting period before an abortion. And it requires Planned Parenthood to give women pamphlets sprinkled with anti-abortion propaganda, including “alternatives” to abortion.

But that’s not enough for the religious fundamentalists in the Missouri Legislature who want to make “The Handmaid’s Tale” a documentary. The same pious frauds who have driven up the gun violence rate across the state by removing almost all restrictions on firearms are now preparing to pass new legislation following in the footsteps of Alabama and Mississippi, and outlaw all abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That’s six to eight weeks into a pregnancy, long before many women even know they’re pregnant.

But the Christian sharia theocrats also want to charge any woman who gets an abortion with conspiracy to commit murder. They don’t want any exceptions in cases of rape and incest. And the loudest voices in this religious anti-choice crusade are mostly rural white male Republicans.

These laws are set up so they’ll be challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is the point. Supporters figure the two Trump justices will be the deciding votes in overturning Roe v Wade, and allowing states to outlaw abortion completely. Luckily, many states, including Illinois, are strengthening abortion rights, so in the worst case, safe and legal abortions will still be available across the Mississippi River.

But the anti-abortion campaign in Jefferson City, like those in the rest of the country, rests on one big lie—that life begins at conception. This is a religious, not a scientific, concept. Traditionally, only the Catholic Church has included the life-starts-at-conception dogma as a matter of faith. Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim theology said no such thing. Yet, what began as strictly Catholic theology has now spread to all religious types who want to end abortion.

That definition misses something important. Until a fetus has been gestating for around six months, it is a parasite, like tapeworm or heartworm. It is technically alive, but is incapable of surviving outside of its host, in this case, the woman. Fetuses removed from the womb at 23 weeks (five months and three weeks) have a survival rate is less than two per-cent, according to a 1993 study from Johns Hopkins Medical Center and a 2015 study from the University of California and Baylor University.

Whether South Side white Catholics or North Side black Protestants, anti-choice advocates who want to outlaw abortion based on a totalitarian religious dogma are saying that woman should have no choice in their pregnancies, and that they are merely hosts, brood mares, whose sole function is to allow a parasite that will eventually become a human to grow inside them whether they want to or not.

This is forced birth, a concept that’s both chilling, and ridiculous. It’s chilling because it conjures images of a religious inquisition that, figuratively if not literally, will legally tie down a woman and force her to give birth, even if it’s against her wishes. And it’s ridiculous because these laws will not stop, or even reduce, abortions. They will merely drive them underground.

ReProAction, an abortion rights group headquartered in St. Louis and D.C., already sees what’s coming, and has been holding seminars on self-managed, do-it-yourself abortions using new generations of pharmaceuticals. A modern underground railroad is already being developed to help women travel to states where abortion will still be legal.

And the theocrats? Since “abortion” is never mentioned in the Bible, they will continue to make up their own theology as they go along, trying to hide right-wing extremism behind a veneer of sanctity.

Charles Jaco

Charles Jaco is a journalist and author. He has worked for NBC News, CNN, KMOX, KTRS, and Fox 2. He is best known for his coverage of the first Gulf War, and for his "legitimate rape" interview with Senate candidate Todd Akin. He is the winner of three George Foster Peabody Awards, and the author of four books.

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