OPINION

Independent thoughts after independence day

Tony Bender

I love my country. Despite many missteps—slavery and Indian genocide being the two main stains on our record—America remains a bastion of freedom. But not necessarily common sense.

This is a space I typically reserve for human-interest columns, the fun, foibles, idiosyncrasies, and beauty of life. If you want my take on current events, that's available in most daily papers in the region. But I have tell you, friends, that my heart's not in it today. When I started this column more than three decades ago, I resolved to write what I felt, to be true to myself and to my readers. Well, here we are.

Today, women feel less free, and their Constitutional guarantee of equality has been greatly diminished by the overturn of Roe v. Wade. I know it's an uncomfortable topic, but looking into the eyes of the women in my life including a whip-smart daughter who's on her way to becoming an attorney—and a damn good one, I'll guarantee—I must speak my mind.

My view reflects that of a majority of Americans. Abortion's regrettable and should be rare. But it's sometimes necessary, and a one-size-fits-all solution doesn't work. That's like demanding the same treatment for every health issue. Ivermectin, anyone? Many folks preach personal responsibility, but when it comes to the most personal, life-changing decisions, they hypocritically want to strip others of their rights so they abide by their personal religious beliefs—and that's at the root of this.

Have you ever had doctors tell you that your baby's condition was “not compatible with life?” I have. Have you ever searched for a clinic that would take your case because it was past 20 weeks? I have. That was 24 years ago. It's harder now. Our other option was to let our son suffer and die on the table.

Have you endured protests at a clinic, a fortress that had been bombed— the signs, the shouting, “You can still save your baby,” even though there was no hope, three doctors affirmed? We chose euthanasia, an intact delivery, and a baptism by the doctor, an ordained minister. Have you made such a wrenching decision? Have you awoken to national news that your doctor had been assassinated by a “pro lifer” while ushering in church? I have.

This has been and should always be a decision by the woman and her physician. Women shouldn't be compelled to change the entire trajectory of their life because the state's assigned personhood to a fetus. Can you declare a deduction on our taxes for a fetus? Try it.

Women of means will always have the option somewhere in the country—while it lasts—or abroad. Poverty-stricken mothers with too many mouths to feed, rape victims of any age, including those of incest, or mothers carrying babies that are “incompatible with life,” will have to give birth, no matter the resulting downward economic and personal spiral. The state can't demand that you surrender a kidney to keep someone alive, but they can demand a woman be an incubator.

Americans agree that fewer abortions should be the goal, but counterintuitively, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has suggested the availability of contraceptives, which obviously reduce abortions, is in doubt. He also said same sex marriages might be overturned. Excuse me, but gay people are not the cause of abortions, and do we really need bedroom police, driven by religious ideology? Do we want Checkpoint Charlie at every border—your papers, please—to keep women from having abortions where it's legal, as South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem's suggested?

On this Independence Day, I feel less free.

The “baby killer” trope's been effective, but Judaism says life begins at the first breath. Some Christians believe it begins at conception. The Baptist Church once publicly supported abortion. What changed? The merger of religion and politics for political gain, something the founders were steadfast against.

Barry Goldwater said “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them.” Yes, we have freedom of religion (of all kinds), but we must also have freedom from religion.

I don't expect to change minds, only to perhaps open some and engender more compassion, less judgement, and personal privacy. Believe what you will. Just don't force it on others.