Jill has a good post up about the interview between Sarah Palin and James Dobson, where she played the Sainted Mother of Anti-Choice Martyrdom to the hilt. It definitely made me even more pro-choice than I already was, if that was possible, because god knows that one thing that mandatory childbirth will create is more martyred mothers who put that guilt on their children. If children are a choice, parents have to own that choice and how you parent changes dramatically.* Palin’s choice to continue with her pregnancy even after she found out that her baby would have Down’s syndrome is fascinating, because she and her admirers not only make a big deal out of it, they characterize it both as a mandatory aspect of her womanhood when that is rhetorically useful and as a choice when that’s rhetorically useful. Here’s a sample:
Dobson: You may not recall it, but in April, before all of this happened, before you were selected by Senator McCain to be his running mate, I wrote to thank you for welcoming little Trig into this world, your little baby with Down Syndrome. And I just wanted to express to you what a powerful testimony that was to the sanctity of human life. And you wrote me a very gracious letter back and there are just so many parents out there who also admire you for your love and care for that precious child.
Palin: Well, I so appreciated your words and yeah, when we found out I was about thirteen weeks along when I found out that Trig would be born with Down Syndrome. To be honest with you, it scared me though and I knew that it would be a challenge and I had to really be on my knees the entire rest of the pregnancy asking that God would prepare my heart. And just the second that he was born it was absolute confirmation that that prayer was answered with all of us just falling so in love with him. And then this whole new world has been opened up to me since then. I’ve always had near and dear to my heart the mission of protecting the sanctity of life and being pro-life, a hardcore pro-lifer, but I think this opportunity for me to really be walking the walk and not just talking the talk. There’s purpose in this also for a greater good to be met. I feel so privileged and blessed to have been, I guess, chosen to have Trig enter our lives because I do want it to help us in our cause here in allowing America to be a more welcoming nation for all of our children.
On one hand, with the praying and whatnot, Palin portrays herself as a victim of god’s will. The government didn’t force her to bear a child with Down’s, but god did. But most of the language—Dobson thanking her and the “more welcoming” guilt trip aimed at women that are pregnant less frequently than Palin—doesn’t make sense unless you assume that she had a choice. Even the talk about how she came to fall in love with her baby implies she realized it was the right decision, which again means a decision was made, making Palin a vile, unfeminine decision-maker instead of a proper woman who just passively lays back and allows things to happen to her.
Here’s the thing: If abortion is banned, then all this praise, all this ability to play the holier-than-thou card dries right up. You can’t tell a woman who has a disabled child who chose it from one who was forced to bear that child against her will. Now, to people who don’t enjoy being martyrs, that’s not a big loss (though they might feel the loss of their freedom keenly in other ways), but for people who live for feeling more righteous than their neighbors, this will be huge. In general, the patriarchy needs bad girls as a contrast so that they can exalt the rare good woman and make everyone else look bad. When being a “good girl” is mandatory, they flail around looking for more examples of bad girl behavior to scare the public with. In Reading Lolita in Tehran, there’s a scene with a morality teacher contrasting all Muslim young women with all Christian young women, the latter of whom are apparently wanton sluts. Of course, at the height of Catholicism’s stranglehold on Europe, women were berated for being inferior with images of female saints who died in the name of virginity. The more laws you put on women to be good girls, the more outrageous you have to get in defining who the good girls are that the rest of us can’t be. Sarah Palin should be grateful that all she has to do is have a bunch of kids, one with special needs, and she gets saint status. That’s a whole lot easier than eviscerating yourself because a hoard of marauding rapists is at the door.
Same story with these pharmacies that are refusing to stock birth control pills or condoms. Their entire moral superiority trip is based on the fact that those other pharmacies down the street are more American in their attitudes and their belief in decadent American ideas like freedom, privacy and good health. (Despite their stalwart opposition to basic American values, though, anti-choicers seem to think they’re patriots. Overcompensation perhaps.) Once it’s illegal for pharmacies to stock condoms or birth control pills, they won’t be special anymore.
What I love about that story, though, is that it really shows how theocrats don’t have the faith they profess.
“This pharmacy is a vibrant example of our Holy Father’s charge to all of us to wear our faith in the public square,” said Loverde, who sprinkled holy water on the shelves stocked with painkillers and acne treatments. “It will allow families to shop in an environment where their faith is not compromised.”
If you really believe in your anti-contraception faith, then you will be able to resist the temptation to buy a condom and find out what fucking for pleasure instead of procreation feels like. But no. The faithless faithful have to make it the responsibility of others to keep them in line, because they have no faith and no will. I suppose that’s what is at the heart of this—a lot of godbags know exactly how faithless and mediocre they are, and they don’t like that other people get to be the martyrs and examples of the truly faithful because they resisted actual temptations. Removing opportunities to have abortions or fuck without risking pregnancy means a blanket of mediocrity is laid over their community and the people they envy are not special any longer.
*This has been a point of demographic fascination for awhile, because the children born after the idea that child-bearing was a choice—Generation Y—had the benefit of being treated like an investment in the future more than other generations. The bad news is they tend to be a little more spoiled. But I think that’s more than made up for the fact that they seem, as a generation, more tolerant, gentler, and better at working with others.