If you’re anti-abortion and have a burning desire to convince people to adopt your point of view, the Texas Abortion Bounty law — which allows any random person to sue a woman they suspect of having an abortion, along with anyone who helps her, for a bounty of $10,000 (plus legal fees) — should be a perfect opportunity to show you’re not a moral monster.
All you have to do is say something like, “I oppose abortion on principle, but Texas got this all wrong. By punishing women for a personal decision, along with those whose only ‘crime’ was to help someone in need, Texas lawmakers aren’t stopping abortion at all. They’re forcing women to go underground for unsafe abortions, pushing them to leave the state to have the procedure later in their pregnancies, galvanizing the opposition to enshrine abortion rights nationwide, and making all of us look exactly like the nasty stereotypes we’ve spent decades trying to shed.”
I might roll my eyes at that. But you could say all that without letting go of your principles.
Instead of doing anything of that, however, Karen Swallow Prior (below), a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and former professor at Liberty University, wrote a guest essay for the New York Times saying the Texas law is a step in the right direction.
It’s bad enough that Prior sees abortion as a “failure” instead of a basic medical procedure. But it’s batshit crazy to describe the Texas law as “far from perfect”… as if forcing rape and incest victims to have their assailants’ babies, on top of paying a $10,000 fine, is basically a wise public policy move that needs to become even better over time.
The only way it’s “far from perfect” is if she means to say it’s a total disaster… which she absolutely does not. And that’s the opening of her essay! That’s Prior’s first attempt to win over critics!
She goes on to say that the expensive bounty that could put health clinics out of business is “an innovative workaround,” which is a phrase better suited for creating a YouTube hack to avoid the ads, not a system that could ultimately force 12-year-old assault victims to become mothers.
She says “we live in a transactional society that gives rise to bounty hunters on the left and on the right” without ever mentioning who these supposed “bounty hunters on the left” are.
She says it’s a “biological and ontological reality that each human life begins at conception,” which is just false. It’s her opinion. It’s theological, not biological. And idiotic lines like that only fuel more extreme abortion bans.
Prior’s inability to comprehend what’s really going on in Texas — where a right-wing supermajority is using its power to suppress Democratic voters, let handguns roam free, and spread COVID, among other things — continues when she talks about how deputizing anyone to go after women is only potentially-kinda-sorta-maybe a problem… before skipping right past that serious issue to insist the courts will solve everything that’s bad.
Deputizing private citizens to enforce the ban is certainly fraught with risk. Some fear the law will turn otherwise uninterested citizens into bounty hunters who chase abortion providers, although one judge’s temporary restraining order that blocks one group from suing Planned Parenthood shows that checks and balances are in place.
That order was neither a check nor a balance. It was a temporary and very specific bandage that did nothing to prevent the excesses of the Texas law. As long as there’s a conservative super-majority on the Supreme Court, and a Republican super-majority in the Texas legislature, women’s bodies are fair game and at risk.
Prior doesn’t care. She goes on to pay lip service to the need to care for babies after they’re born, but it’s only in theory. She implies that it’s a good idea to fight for child care and food insecurity and affordable housing, but she’s not wasting any time urging Christians to take those matters seriously. She’s not telling them to fight for affordable health care with the same urgency they have when trying to shut down health clinics
It’s merely a good idea, she suggests, before going right back to celebrating the Texas law as a way to inspire love. (Seriously.)
We need to be people who act (not transact) for mercy, justice, and love.
And love isn’t love that doesn’t act.
As history has shown again and again, we sometimes need the law to teach us to love. Sometimes it takes a law to remind us that fellow human beings are not ours to own, harm, or kill.
Love is a higher law. But it is still a law. And this is where we must begin.
What the hell does that even mean?! There’s no love in this law for the people who now have targets on their backs as a result of getting pregnant against their wishes.
Prior and her fellow conservative Christians may need the law to teach them that other people deserve rights. (The Christian bigots who supported segregation decades ago certainly needed a push.) The rest of us don’t, though. We already know better. We sure as hell don’t need an insane backwards law that punishes rape victims as a starting point.
But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised to hear that argument from the sort of people who believe we need God to be good. If you need the Bible to remind you to be a decent person, then you’re the problem. And if you need the Texas law to teach you how to love, work on your damn self before you attempt to control the lives of other people.
Nowhere in Prior’s piece, by the way, does she talk about the need for free and accessible contraception or the need to teach comprehensive sex education — two things that would undoubtedly lower abortion rates. She never talks about how this law disproportionately impacts poor people and people of color. Those are things Texas Republicans — and conservative Christians in general — refuse to address. Because, again, they just don’t care.
It’s an awful piece of writing from a thoughtless person who just doesn’t give a shit about how this law will impact — damage — lives throughout Texas.
It’s also irresponsible for the New York Times to publish something with no regard for how it’ll be used to justify similar cruel laws in other states. Just because a newspaper is open to publishing a variety of views doesn’t mean every view deserves space in the paper of record. There’s no journalistic obligation to publish trash.
On a side note, Twitter is abuzz with jokes about Prior’s name… which is a cheap shot and totally unhelpful. There’s plenty to criticize in her essay. Focus on that in the comments, please.
(Screenshot via YouTube)