Substituting The Word “Nature” For “God” Doesn’t Make Your Argument Less Religious, Anti-Choicers
Feministing has a post up about Bob Marshall, who is running for Congress in Virginia. Marshall thinks children’s disabilities is how his god punishes women for their sexual decisions.
In 2010, at an event calling for an end to state funding for Planned Parenthood, Mr. Marshall suggested that women who have abortions are more likely to face “vengeance” from “nature” in children with a greater likelihood of having developmental disabilities.
“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion who have handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the firstborn of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” Mr. Marshall said.
He’s kinda, sorta backtracked a little, saying, that he thinks disabled children “are special blessings to their parents.” But I would maintain that is not a backtrack at all, because “blessing” is sentimental Christian right code for “punishment”. They are always on about how children are a blessing, but if they believed that, they’d support contraception and abortion so that people could welcome these blessings into their life when they are able to provide the blessed live the blessings deserve. Anyway, calling children that you clearly see as a punishment to inflict on women “blessings” is just a bunch of Christian right babble, like saying, “I’ll pray for you,” when they mean “Fuck you”. I wouldn’t take it seriously. Judge them on their behavior, not their euphemisms, and their behavior is that of people who primarily see children, disabled or not, as a way to punish women and control human sexuality. It’s a grim view of children. I famously don’t have much affection for children being noisy in my space, but I can definitely say I don’t think of them as punishments. They should be wanted, not endured, which is why I’m not having them.
More to the point, I think it’s worth remembering that this is the kind of thinking that fuels the anti-choice movement. It’s a religious movement that tends to think in terms of sexual sin, punishment, and redemption. They know that they need to make their arguments sound “secular” to avoid the obvious First Amendment implications of inflicting their specific religious dogma about gender and sexuality on women through law, but the attempts to do this are paper-thin. Such as saying “nature” does this to women, when clearly he means “God”, since how would nature know that having an abortion is naughty and how would nature know to punish it? Nature is amoral, and it certainly isn’t interested in enforcing Christian sexual ethics on people. Nor is nature particularly interested in “life”. Nature doesn’t have a mind and is generally opinion-free.
Incidentally, I have an interview with Beth Presswood and Matt Dillahunty up at RH Reality Check you should check out on this issue. We discuss a group called “Secular Pro-life”, which, from what I can tell, exists mainly as a fig leaf to cover for the religious leanings of the anti-choice movement. I do think there are deconverted Catholics banging around in there, they also have outright religious members, because finding enough non-religious people to run an anti-choice organization is basically impossible. Even if making what you claim are non-religious arguments against abortion is your mission. As Beth and Matt point out astutely, all they do is what Marshall is doing here, which is to take the same old arguments about how the Christian god has a plan for women and a purpose for embryos, and substituting the word “nature” for “God”. As they point out in the interview, this actually weakens the argument, because nature cannot intend things, but God sure can.
Anyway, the language of punishment and sin is never far from the surface when it comes to the anti-choice movement. Marshall was just a particularly ham-fisted version of that. But this theology that holds that sex is a sin and rejecting motherhood is something the Christian god punishes with magic shouldn’t be substituted for public policy based on the health care needs of a diverse citizenry, many of whom don’t even believe in this Christian god that hates women so much that he will make children disabled just to punish them.