Debate Forum Left, 11/15/11

The so-called Heartbeat Bill has no heart

By Marianne Stanley

Marianne Stanley

Good grief! If our country hadn’t been surreptitiously led so far away from its constitutional bedrock principles, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.  The day that our politicians began closing their speeches with, “God bless America,” the nation’s wisely and solidly erected wall between church and state began to crumble. We now have the unholiest of marriages between the most extreme segments of the two — the Religious Right and the radical arm of the GOP.

If you think the dark days of the witch-hunt are over, think again. Women are once again about to be hunted down and persecuted for a fabricated offense … this time, for exercising their right to choose as the adult moral agents they are, fully capable of making their own decisions in the most personal and private of realms: sexuality and reproduction.

No male, no government entity, no rule, law, or regulation has any right to intrude here. Having a child is a lifelong responsibility. The most responsible thing of all might just be for a woman to not have a child if she knows she has neither the ability nor the emotional and financial resources needed to parent. These proposed new laws do nothing to “save lives” as they would have you believe. Parents abuse or kill their children in this country at an alarming rate. More than four million reports of child abuse are made to Child Protective Services each year. Many more cases of serious abuse go unreported. With parents killing their children at the rate of three to five each day and filicide (death by parent) coming in as the third highest cause of death in children ages 5 to 14, we would be wise to refrain from romanticizing the concept of “mother” or “baby” or “life.”

How about instead worrying about the 17 million already born who feel pain and can suffer and who live in extreme poverty without enough to eat right here in the U.S.? Until we show the heart and the will to take care of these youngest Americans by ensuring available and adequately paying jobs for their caregivers, affordable and safe daycare, homes that are warm enough in winter and cool enough in summer to prevent misery, and enough food for everyone who is hungry, this whole “Heartbeat Bill,” that grandstands as a monument to goodness and the “protection of life” is a sham. If these legislators really care about life, they should pass a bill that ends the ongoing ruse of “wars” that leave our once-intact young military men and women damaged, wounded, maimed or dead.

Nope. This is simply a clever effort on the part of the male-dominated G.O.P., with the support of the male-dominated fundamentalist churches, to strip women of any control over their lives.  Once women are forced to have children they don’t want, their lives are no longer their own. Men never have to make this kind of decision, but if they did, you can bet they would never stand for such a law.

When we hear the religious argument that life is sacred, the direct response is that yes indeed, it is. And that means everyone’s life, not just a zygote’s or a fetus’ before it is able to feel pain. The life of the mother is sacred, too. Compassion and respect are bedrock values both in democracies and in true religions. Theologians, scientists and philosophers do not know when the soul enters the body. Best then to leave that to God. Surely, God won’t put a soul in a body that he/she knows will never be born. If faith and trust and love are to have any meaning, this is a good place to practice them.

There is not one single word in the Bible about abortion. What we do see emphasized is “love one another” and “judge not.” We all know accidents happen; life happens, mistakes are made. Punishing accidents or human error is definitely not Christian, not loving nor nonjudgmental. Creating criminal penalties and calling abortion “murder” is absurd. Making the decision to end an unwanted pregnancy is the responsible choice. This bill is so cruel, so heinous that it would even force preteens and teens who had been violently raped or who have been the victims of incest to endure the horror of carrying that ever-present reminder with them for nine months.   What kind of twisted mind would write a bill like this? No one benefits from an unwanted pregnancy, not the mother, not the child, not society. Even the more conservative people in the state of Mississippi just voted this bill down. Perhaps they were wise enough to see that this legislation is not really about what it purports to be about after all. Since it also criminalizes some forms of birth control and even in vitro fertilization by women who desperately want a child, they smell something fishy — and rightfully so.

The GOP, beholden as it is to the uber-wealthy and special interests, do not have enough support to push their destructive agenda without finding a significant minority to join them. They were slick enough to see that our nation is replete with good, church-going voters who were ripe for the picking. All the GOP had to do is begin playing the “God card.” They sprinkled it around in their speeches, talked of God and patriotism while doing the work of the devil and betraying the interests of the religious right and the American majority. These “heartbeat bills” are just one way they can continue their drive to dominate women.

Simply put, men should not call the shots on female issues. They have no stake in this issue, just a misogynistic agenda. The wall between church and state needs to go back up, and it can’t happen soon enough.

Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school. She can be reached at

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