A nation about to explode with flowery, pink sentimentality for mothers is doing what it has always done so well — silencing and disempowering us.
“Happy Mother’s Day,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. may say to his wife, Martha, on Sunday, after writing the opinion that would take away her bodily autonomy. “Hope you like the flowers.”
We don’t want the flowers, the chocolate, the pedicure or the redirection that Republican leaders and their friends in conservative media have engaged in since Politico first reported a leaked copy of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion.
“You need, it seems to me — excuse the lecture — to concentrate on what the news is today,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) scolded reporters Tuesday. “Not a leaked draft, but the fact that the draft was leaked.”
Mitch should give himself more credit. It’s not a lecture; it’s an orchestrated effort to deflect from the real issue, for fear that voters who want the right to choose preserved will undermine what he had hoped would be a rosy election cycle.
The senator should be afraid. The majority of Americans support abortion rights. And the majority of people who get abortions — about 60 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — are already parents.
Now, instead of basking in the short-lived glow of homemade gifts and burned toast in bed, moms are once again left parading their trauma into the light to convince people like Alito and McConnell that they matter.
Social media is filled with #MyAbortionStory, where women sacrificed their privacy and mental health to explain why they’ve had an abortion. They owe no one an explanation (and hello, where are all those men who were responsible for those pregnancies?), but it seems right to fight such draconian measures.
“It feels very personal to me. It feels like my life doesn’t matter,” said Michigan state Rep. Christine Morse (D), a mother of two who had an abortion in her third pregnancy when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It feels like all that we value is the potential for life,” Morse said. “And not the person carrying that potential for life.”
About 1 in 4 women will have an abortion by age 45, according to a Guttmacher Institute 2019 report.
While the abortion debate is commonly framed as the story about a young, unmarried woman who is financially and emotionally unprepared to care for a child, that’s not what most abortions look like. But that’s because Americans — even pro-choice Americans — can digest: Oh, to save Fantine!
The less palatable and more common story is about a woman who already has children and is deep in the trenches of child-rearing in a nation that talks a good game, but is increasingly toxic to families and children.
They know that child care is hard to find and costs nearly as much a college; they know that health insurance never covers enough, the rent is high, food prices are climbing and the average American family with debt already owes $155,622.
Kids who do come into this world are going to schools that ban books and teach students how to stay silent and hide in school closets because gunfire is now the leading killer of children.
Inflation is rising, the pandemic is still making everything weird, we’re rereading world war history in news coverage of Ukraine every day, we’re still unpacking a violent coup attempt in our own Capitol and the top of the conversation is a law settled 50 years ago?
It seemed just as bizarre 11 years ago, when Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) shocked Washington when she publicly told her abortion story in the middle of a federal spending hearing on the House floor.
“To think that we are here tonight, debating this issue,” she said, after her male colleagues pushed an effort to defund Planned Parenthood. “American people are scratching their heads and wondering what does this have to do with me getting a job? What does this have to do with reducing the deficit?”
“The gentleman from New Jersey has just put my stomach in knots because I’m one of those women he spoke about just now,” she said, catching her breath before she publicly spoke of an abortion she had when she was already a mother and her second pregnancy was problematic. “I had a procedure at 17 weeks … that procedure that you just talked about was a procedure I endured.
“I lost a baby. But for you to stand on this floor and to suggest — as you have — that somehow, this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous.”
Heartbreaking. With so much at stake, McConnell and his ilk instead want us to channel our energy into looking for the shadowy leaker who violated the sanctity of a high court that has inflicted its own share of moral injuries on this country.
Much speculation has gone to whether the leaker is conservative, or liberal, or something else. Whoever they are, they have a mother, and they understood the excruciating significance of their timing.
America, respect mothers the right way, with legal rights to our own bodies. No need for flowers.