Due to being tired and stuff I've put off writing about this for a couple weeks, and now it's rather old news and the LDS Church has already moved on to its next controversy, this time pissing off its right-wing members by distancing itself from Operation Underground Railroad founder Tim Ballard over alleged predatory sexual misconduct that's no worse than Joseph Smith's. But this news blew up in my circles a couple weeks ago, and I thought I should do my part within my maddeningly limited capacity to spread it further. As I said recently after watching The Last Voyage of the Demeter, how can I possibly be scared of this
when real monsters look like this?
These women were both arrested and charged with six counts of felony child abuse after an emaciated child with ropes on his wrists and ankles escaped from their secluded house and asked a neighbor for food and water. On the right is Ruby Franke, a Mormon mother of six who ran the YouTube channel 8 Passengers, which I had never heard of until this news came out, but which was apparently very popular among people who have nothing better to do than watch other people's families do normal family things. Granted, they weren't all normal. Ruby has some twisted ideas about discipline. Like a true Republican, she believes that things like food and beds are privileges, and appeared to take a sadistic level of pleasure in withholding them from her children to teach them lessons. She let her six-year-old daughter go hungry at school and took away her teenage son's bed for months. People raised concerns about her over the years and called Child Protective Services multiple times, but nothing happened to her and her channel's popularity continued.
So of course many are wondering, is she a terrible person because she's a Mormon, or is she a terrible person who just happens to be a Mormon? The LDS Church covers up child abuse, silences the victims, and protects the abusers, but it doesn't condone child abuse as such. No normal member would think that what she did is okay. Yet the church does condition people to believe that their irrational or delusional thoughts come from the Holy Ghost, so that may have been a significant factor in her justifying her unorthodox methods. And frankly, it often frames trials and deprivations as God intentionally giving us "learning experiences." Heavenly Father, the perfect all-loving parent, allows billions of his children's basic human needs to go unmet every day so they can grow and become more like him. Why is it divine wisdom when he does it but child abuse when Ruby Franke does it?
The one on the left, Jodi Hildebrandt, is much worse. If Ruby Franke is Iran, Jodi Hildebrandt is Afghanistan. They entered into a close relationship after Ruby gave up her YouTube channel to join Jodi for a weird pseudo-therapy program called Connexions. A very close connection. There's been a lot of speculation that they're more than business partners and more than friends, and while it is homophobic to assume that raging homophobes like Jodi are closeted, it's hard to avoid that kind of speculation when she sits so close to Ruby and strokes her leg. Anyway, Jodi is a straight-up sociopath, pathological liar, and gaslighter who used her therapy practice to destroy marriages and families. She reminds me of a neighbor I used to have who claimed she could read people's auras and see the future, then drove people apart with lies and manipulation. In this case, her influence undoubtedly made Ruby worse. My understanding is that she was the one who actually carried out the physical abuse of Ruby's children that got her arrested, while Ruby was arrested for living in the same house and knowing about it and not doing anything.
Jodi is also Mormon, and in her case, the church has a lot more direct and obvious culpability. She isn't entirely in sync with it either - it's run almost exclusively by men, while she holds all men in contempt - but she worked with apostles such as Richard G. Scott to design its addiction recovery program, she was on its list of approved therapists, and she was recommended by countless bishops to help with so-called pornography addiction. The way she pathologized masturbation and portrayed anyone who did it once a month as an addict in Satan's grip was at odds with legitimate science and therapeutic practices, but very much at home with Mormon teachings. People assert, and I have no reason to doubt, that Mormon therapists throughout Utah, Idaho, and Arizona are still doing the same thing, though they aren't on the same level of pure intentional evil as Jodi Hildebrandt. I don't know who needs to hear this, but masturbation is a normal, healthy, and almost universal activity that evolved in our primate ancestors as much as forty million years ago. I think, too, that Mormon clients were more susceptible to Jodi's psuedoscience because they're taught to base their worldview on feelings.
After the arrests, Jodi's niece Jesse (they/them) came forward to share how she physically and emotionally abused them while their family was making them live with her for an extended time. Jesse's family didn't know the extent of what was going on and didn't want to. Jesse's family got upset with them for creating controversy by publicly criticizing Jodi over a decade ago. The LDS Church is not blameless for that. It teaches Mormons that "contention is of the devil" and that negative emotions come from Satan, so many of them are very immature about conflict and treat calling out unacceptable behavior as a bigger sin than the unacceptable behavior. I hope Jesse's parents and siblings have all seen this interview and done some soul-searching.
Then a formerly anonymous client, Adam Paul Steed, shared his story in greater detail than before. Jodi got her license suspended for a while in 2012 after she told the BYU Honor Code office things about him that, even if she hadn't made them up, would have been confidential. (Of course, the BYU Honor Code office has its own long history of crossing legal and ethical boundaries to persecute students, which a few years ago resulted in BYU's police department becoming the only one in Utah history to be threatened with decertification.) Jodi destroyed Adam's marriage by convincing his wife that he was a sexual predator and a threat to their children. The best part? She apparently did it on behalf of the late Elder Harold G. Hillam, a high-ranking Mormon and Boy Scout leader who held a grudge against Adam after his role in getting the statute of limitations for child abuse victims in Idaho extended and getting Boy Scout leaders who abused children removed.
With the exception of Elder Harold G. Hillam, I wouldn't say that LDS leaders are personally to blame for this abuse. I would say that they actively fostered an environment where it could happen, and they proved themselves yet again to be horrible judges of character and no more "inspired" than anyone else. The LDS Church deserves the negative publicity this story has brought it and will bring it for years to come.
Last week I went to a haunted house attraction for the first time. I went in with a larger than average group and they warned us that it would be better with smaller groups, but none of us wanted to split up. So maybe that's why I didn't find it very scary, but I don't think the concept itself is scary anyway. When you go to a place like this, your whole intention is for people in costumes to jump out at you in the dark and yell. You know they're going to do it, you know they're not even allowed to touch you, and you know the chainsaw isn't real because that would be a million dollar lawsuit waiting to happen. (The sawdust smell was a nice touch, though.) Some mystery remains as to the precise moments when the people in costumes will jump out at you in the dark and yell, and I did get startled a couple of times, but most of the element of surprise is gone. So I don't know why people find it scary enough to yell back. It's like in the remake of "When a Stranger Calls" (I haven't seen the original) when the protagonist finds the maid's body in the fish pond and you're supposed to be shocked even though you guessed it forty-five minutes ago.
Mind you, that's just my thought on the concept and not a criticism of this particular establishment, which had fascinating costumes and decor and atmosphere and was fun regardless. But then I'm not sure why humans go to a place to get scared for fun either. I'm not sure why activating the primal instinct that tells us we're going to die if we don't get the hell out of here is a source of pleasure. I've heard that it's cathartic to exercise this primal instinct in a controlled environment where we know we're not in real danger, and I guess that tracks. But I can imagine every other species on the planet, all the generations of our pre-industrial ancestors, and otherwise objective alien xenopologists looking at this behavior, throwing up their hands and tentacles and other appendages in consternation, and yelling at us in their various languages, "What the ----ing ---- is wrong with you?" And then when the alien xenopologists learned that a lot of humans also find pain sexually arousing, they'd blow up the Earth to save the rest of the universe.
I was in a group with five people I knew from the local YSA LDS ward - I still attend their weekday activities because I like most of them - but then somehow some girl I've never seen before ended up in our group, and she was real nice and I would have thought she was flirting if I hadn't learned from harsh experience that apparent flirting is nothing of the sort and true flirting is only discernible with years of hindsight. While we were still in line - so before the scary part, although some people found the clowns walking around with obviously fake tasers scary - she touched me on the arm. I thought about the sexual misconduct prevention trainings I had to take as both a student and a faculty member at Utah State University. As I recall, they straight-up said not to touch people at all without permission, and I rolled my eyes because we all know that isn't how neurotypical people live their lives. They don't touch me nearly as often as I'd like given that touch is one of my love languages (I have a three-way tie, which makes me thrice as needy as a normal person), but when they do, they just do it. And I never touch them in return because I don't know when it's okay, and even if I did, the action would be scripted and awkward and not a spontaneous show of platonic affection like theirs are.
Some time after I had taken those trainings, no less a figure than university president Noelle Cockett touched me without permission. It was at an event where people were supposed to eat bagels and talk to her, and I think some aide signed her up for it and forgot to tell her, because she showed up late and confused. I was the first person in line who actually had to talk to her before getting bagels. So with an awkward look on her face she asked about my major and stuff, and she touched me on the arm while she talked, and that's setting a really bad example for the student body, don't you think? (Note: I'm not serious. Please don't anybody complain about her.) I don't remember where I was going with this. Happy Halloween. Anyone interested is invited to check out this post from a couple years ago on "Some of My Favorite Halloween Carols," which is hard to top, but also here's an underrated eighties song that really has nothing to do with Halloween but has zombies in the title and has been in my head lately.
TW: sexual assault of children
I distanced myself from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a few months ago, but I haven't given much serious consideration to removing my name from its membership records until now. This is actually old news, but Michael Rezendes with the Associated Press, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for exposing the Catholic Church's sex abuse cover-ups, just published an in-depth report that blew it up. Basically, for seven years this guy frequently raped three of his children, including at one point a baby, and posted videos of it to the dark web. He confessed at least some of his misconduct to his bishop, who called the church's abuse hotline, where the church's lawyers told him not to report. And then the next bishop excommunicated the guy and still didn't report. And then the guy was arrested after someone in New Zealand was arrested for watching one of his videos. Fortunately, he killed himself and is currently facing real justice instead of living on taxpayers' money. His three victims are suing the church for not helping them, and the church is trying to get their lawsuit dismissed because it thinks it did nothing wrong. The Associated Press has also obtained 12,000 pages of documents from another lawsuit about how the abuse hotline works.
In 2020, church attorney William Maledon said this in a statement: "As clergy, the bishop was required by Arizona law to maintain the confidentiality of the father’s limited confession." But in 2022 Michael Rezendes wrote this: "William Maledon, an Arizona attorney representing the bishops and the church... told the AP last month that the bishops were not required to report the abuse." Those of you who understand English may notice that these are two different claims, and may further notice, after reading the Arizona law, that the first one is bullshit. This is what the Arizona law says: "A member of the clergy, a Christian Science practitioner or a priest who has received a confidential communication or a confession in that person's role as a member of the clergy, as a Christian Science practitioner or as a priest in the course of the discipline enjoined by the church to which the member of the clergy, the Christian Science practitioner or the priest belongs may withhold reporting of the communication or confession if the member of the clergy, the Christian Science practitioner or the priest determines that it is reasonable and necessary within the concepts of the religion."
There is no conceivable way to interpret that passage as legally forbidding clergy from reporting confessions of abuse, and any lawyer who interprets it that way is so incredibly freaking stupid and/or dishonest that he should be a police officer instead. But maybe he doesn't have enough anger management problems. He also said, "These bishops did nothing wrong. They didn’t violate the law, and therefore they can’t be held liable." Once again, the second part may be true, but the first sure as hell isn't. Now I won't be too hard on the bishops yet because it's unclear how much they were actually aware of. Not that I consider Maledon a reliable source, but in the same 2020 statement where he lied about Arizona law, he claimed, "It was not until law enforcement made an arrest of the father that the bishop [sic] learned of the scope and magnitude of the abuse that far exceeded anything he had heard or suspected." If either of them were aware of or even suspected the scope and magnitude prior to that time, then here we have a disturbing example of members being conditioned to place obedience to the church above their own most basic grasp of morality.
There's also this gem in an affidavit from Paul Rytting, the church's director of risk management: "If members had any concerns that their disciplinary files could be read by a secular judge or attorneys or be presented to a jury as evidence in a public trial, their willingness to confess and repent and for their souls to be saved would be seriously compromised." What exactly is he implying? Granted, there's a bit of a catch-22 if declining to grant confidentiality discourages people from confessing their crimes in the first place, and I see no reason for bishops to tattle about illegal acts that aren't actively harming anyone, but the salvation of a child rapist's soul is one hundred percent the child rapist's problem, and anyone who thinks for a moment that it's a legitimate consideration to balance against the victims' needs can fuck off into the sun.
I was consumed with rage from the moment I read the story. And then the church went and made it worse the next day by releasing a vague, tonedeaf, and absolutely pathetic damage control statement with little more substance than "Nuh-uh, we care about abuse victims so much, this article is wrong." It addresses zero, I mean zero specific details of the cases described in the article. It doesn't refute any of the facts that Rezendes reported or provide any additional context to make them less damning. It doesn't even repeat any of Maledon's arguments. It just expects members to believe that "The story presented in the AP article is oversimplified and incomplete and is a serious misrepresentation of the Church and its efforts" because the church's anonymous PR employees say it is. And of course a lot of members do. A lot of them, starting from the a priori assumption that the church is perfect and always right, are knee-jerk defending it because its reputation and their fragile fundamentalist faith matter more to them than child rape victims do. I shudder to think that I might have done the same a few years ago.
Of course, while depressingly widespread, that's not the universal response. A lot of members with a basic grasp of morality are unequivocally condemning how the church handled the situation. And I don't doubt that most local and global leaders are good people who abhor sex abuse of any kind. But if the church as an institution was serious about it, if it really meant the pretty words in its damage control statement, this is the minimum that it would do:
1. Apologize for failing these victims. Of course, this would set an awkward precedent because the church has never apologized for anything. But it's about damn time it did.
2. Commit to evaluating the systems it has in place so it can fix their shortcomings and make sure this never happens again. It doesn't help anything to just insist on how great the systems are when they clearly didn't work in this instance.
3. Compensate the victims out of basic decency whether it's legally obligated to do so or not. The church could give each of them fifty million dollars without scratching the surface of its financial resources. (One of the church's knee-jerk defenders told me, "You don’t know that the Church isn’t trying to compensate them. You have ZERO insight into the discussions that are going on behind the scenes." To which I said, "If the church was treating the victims fairly, I doubt they would have felt a need to complain to the media about how much the church sucks. In fact, doing so would severely jeopardize any potential settlement the church was considering. So I do have some insight in the form of basic logic." Yeah, I'm rude.)
Oh, and minor detail, it would do all these things before it was slammed with negative publicity.
I don't know how much of an abuse cover-up problem the church has and I don't have the expertise to try to estimate it fairly. I don't know how much abuse occurs, how much of that is reported, and how many of the reports are handled correctly. I do know that this is far from the first time a bishop or other leader has gotten a report and done little or nothing about it. The church has been sued for abuse multiple times before, and multiple people on the internet have shared their experiences with being abused in the church and not getting the help they were entitled to. Sometimes local leaders are unduly concerned about the victim forgiving the abuser, about not harming the abuser's reputation, about not preventing the abuser from serving a mission. Sometimes, of course, the bishop is the abuser, though I know situations like that are very rare. But I knew someone whose abuser was her father and the bishop and nobody believed her because bishops are good men. So anyway, whether or not this problem is on par with the Catholic Church's problem or the Southern Baptist Convention's problem, it ought not to be tolerated. However effective the systems in place may be for most situations, they can always be improved, and the church ought to improve them instead of acting like it's being persecuted.
The first real crack in my lifetime of "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn't sexist" conditioning came not from any critical source, but from the section on "Mothers' Employment Outside the Home" in the Eternal Marriage Student Manual. I was raised to believe that anything in the church that seems sexist to modern sensibilities is really just misunderstood. But after being in college for too long, some of these quotes that I'd probably already heard growing up really rubbed me the wrong way, and then this line in particular from Spencer W. Kimball jumped out as unequivocally, unapologetically, and undeniably sexist: "No career approaches in importance that of wife, homemaker, mother - cooking meals, washing dishes, making beds for one’s precious husband and children." Translation: Women have the most important divine role, which is to perform household chores for men and children. To be perfectly frank: barf. And from then on I couldn't stop seeing all the sexism that I'd been taught not to see.
In February of last year I linked to this manual section in a blog post about how the church's teachings (aka doctrine) on women have evolved. Within a month, the entire section had quietly disappeared from the church's website. Coincidence? Probably, but you can't prove it. And that wasn't worth making a whole other post about, but yesterday a reddit post brought to my attention some more recent and more subtle deletions from the manual, and I just have to talk about them.
Elder Spencer W. Kimball
“Boys seldom criticize a girl for using too little makeup. Sometimes they say, ‘She’s a nice girl, but I wish she’d dress up, and she uses too much makeup.’ To be overdressed, to be gaudily dressed, to be dressed to look sexy, to be overdecorated is bad taste, to say the least. The young woman is smart who can don just enough powder and lipstick to convince the fellows it isn’t makeup at all, but the ‘real you.’...
“Young men should keep their faces shaved, their hair combed, their haircuts reasonably conservative, their nails cleaned. Overtight, suggestive pants brand young men as vulgar. Young people can be smart and personable, dignified and attractive by finding an area somewhere less than the extremes and still in good style” (“Save the Youth of Zion,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1965, 761).
This quote is arguably a bit sexist - it reminds me of M. Russell Ballard's "Put on a little lipstick now and then and look a little charming" comment that may or may not have been blown out of proportion a few years ago - but it has the rare distinction of being more nitpicky about men's dress and grooming than women's, so I appreciate that. I assume it was just removed because dress and grooming standards have changed since 1965 (except at BYU) and it comes across as obnoxiously Pharasaical (like BYU). A lot of women like men with beards. Also, I know it's perfectly normal for women to wear just a little bit of makeup and for men to erroneously believe that they aren't wearing any, but Elder Kimball's phrasing here seems to encourage deception, so that's kind of funny.
Women's Divine Roles and Responsibilities
President Ezra Taft Benson
“It is divinely ordained what a woman should do.... The divine work of women involves companionship, homemaking, and motherhood” (“In His Steps,” 64).
“Brethren of the priesthood, I continue to emphasize the importance of mothers staying home to nurture, care for, and train their children in the principles of righteousness” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 60; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 49; see also To the Fathers in Israel, 3–4).
See To the Mothers in Zion, on pages 352–57.
“A mother’s role is also God-ordained. Mothers are to conceive, bear, nourish, love, and train. They are to be helpmates, and are to counsel with their husbands” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1984, 6; or Ensign, May 1984, 6).
“It is divinely ordained what a woman should do, but a man must seek out his work. The divine work of women involves companionship, homemaking, and motherhood. It is well if skills in these three areas can first be learned in the parents’ home and then be supplemented at school if the need or desire presents itself” (“In His Steps,” 64).
“There are voices in our midst which would attempt to convince you that these home-centered truths are not applicable to our present-day conditions. If you listen and heed, you will be lured away from your principal obligations.
“Beguiling voices in the world cry out for ‘alternative life-styles’ for women. They maintain that some women are better suited for careers than for marriage and motherhood.
“These individuals spread their discontent by the propaganda that there are more exciting and selffulfilling roles for women than homemaking. Some even have been bold to suggest that the Church move away from the ‘Mormon woman stereotype’ of homemaking and rearing children. They also say it is wise to limit your family so you can have more time for personal goals and self-fulfillment” (“The Honored Place of Woman,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 105).
It's self-explanatory that this was removed for the same reason as the entire section on "Mothers' Employment Outside the Home." I'll just examine a few lines that stand out to me.
"It is divinely ordained what a woman should do, but a man must seek out his work." Translation: women have a one-size-fits-all role, while men are free to seek out roles that fit their individual talents, interests, and personalities. They may, of course, still end up stuck in crappy jobs that they hate in order to support their families, but not for lack of trying. And this really gets at the heart of why "complementary" or "separate but equal" gender roles are not equal at all and never have been.
"These individuals spread their discontent by the propaganda that there are more exciting and self-fulfilling roles for women than homemaking." Translation: if a woman doesn't feel sufficiently contented or fulfilled by menial household chores that her husband could just as easily do, she's been deceived by propaganda. She couldn't have possibly reached that conclusion on her own, and even if she did, she's not smart enough to know what's good for her.
"Some even have been bold to suggest that the Church move away from the 'Mormon woman stereotype' of homemaking and rearing children." Please read this in Owen Lars' voice: Like the Church moved away from the 'Mormon woman stereotype' of homemaking and rearing children by showcasing career women in its "I'm a Mormon" ad campaign?
Benson's anti-feminist masterwork speech referenced here, "To the Mothers in Zion," remains in the manual despite all these other deletions. That's a bit of an oversight, which I brought to someone's attention with the online feedback form in March.
President Spencer W. Kimball
“Tomorrow when I repeat the phrases that will bind you for eternity, I shall say the same impressive words that the Lord said to that handsome youth and his lovely bride in the Garden of Eden: ‘Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.’ ...
“... You came to get for yourself a mortal body that could become perfected, immortalized, and you understood that you were to act in partnership with God in providing bodies for other spirits. . . . And so you will not postpone parenthood. There will be rationalists who will name to you numerous reasons for postponement. Of course, it will be harder to get your college degrees or your financial start with a family, but strength like yours will be undaunted in the face of difficult obstacles. Have your family as the Lord intended. Of course it is expensive, but you will find a way, and besides, it is often those children who grow up with responsibility and hardships who carry on the world’s work” (“John and Mary, Beginning Life Together,” New Era, June 1975, 8).
“Supreme happiness in marriage is governed considerably by a primary factor—that of the bearing and rearing of children. Too many young people set their minds, determining they will not marry or have children until they are more secure, until the military service period is over; until the college degree is secured; until the occupation is more well-defined; until the debts are paid; or until it is more convenient. They have forgotten that the first commandment is to ‘be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.’ (Genesis 1:28.) And so brides continue their employment and husbands encourage it, and contraceptives are used to prevent conception. Relatives and friends and even mothers sometimes encourage birth control for their young newlyweds. But the excuses are many, mostly weak. The wife is not robust; the family budget will not feed extra mouths; or the expense of the doctor, hospital, and other incidentals is too great; it will disturb social life; it would prevent two salaries; and so abnormal living prevents the birth of children. The Church cannot approve nor condone the measures which so greatly limit the family” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 328–29).
This section already omitted many quotes that straight-up denounce birth control as evil, because they don't jive with the church's current position that it's a personal decision. So Kimball's quote made the cut the first time around but now it crosses the line. Why? Probably because it pressures couples to have children that they can't afford or otherwise aren't ready to take care of, which is just plain terrible for everyone involved. I'm particularly disgusted that he, a man, considered "The wife is not robust" to be a "weak excuse" for not popping out as many babies as possible. This flat-out contradicts a far more reasonable David O. McKay quote on the preceding page: “In all this, however, the mother’s health should be guarded. In the realm of wifehood, the woman should reign supreme." (Then why does she need so many men to tell her how to do it?)
Looking at this and the earlier deleted Kimball quote, though, I am impressed that the manual made a distinction between "Elder" Kimball and "President" Kimball. Usually when an apostle becomes president of the church, subsequent publications attribute all of his quotes to President So-and-So regardless of when he made them, which is lazy and misleading.
Wayward Children Born Under the Covenant
The Prophet Joseph Smith
“When a seal is put upon the father and mother, it secures their posterity, so that they cannot be lost, but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father and mother” (in History of the Church, 5:530).
It's surprising to see anything from Joseph Smith deleted. He's had a better track record than most of his successors. And I don't know why this quote was problematic. I could see the church maybe wanting to move away from the implication that temple sealings remove children's agency, but the subsequent Brigham Young quote implies that far more strongly. Maybe the Joseph Smith quote encourages complacency by focusing on the ordinance (dead works) and not on the parents' actual efforts and worthiness? Maybe recent scholarship has cast doubt on its accuracy? That's all I've got.
I'm grateful for these deletions, except for the last one, which I don't care about one way or another. I just wish the church actually announced or drew attention to them in some way. Yes, I realize it's awkward to explain why quotes from prophets, seers, and revelators are no longer acceptable for publication, but when the church just quietly discontinues old teachings without correcting or superseding them, people who were previously taught those things continue to teach them anyway. Case in point: last year, in a fifth Sunday lesson in a YSA ward in a college town, my sixty-something bishop was very adamant that God wants all women to be full-time homemakers, and told those present to only use their college educations to be better mothers, not to have careers, and that anyone who disagreed (like me) was deceived by the world's lies. Mostly I was pissed off and incredulous that he had failed to notice the shift in the church's position over the last thirty years, but I also felt a little sorry for him when I complained to the stake president (who agreed with me) about him teaching the same thing that the prophets taught when he was our age. With regard to this manual specifically, many institute teachers probably use a paper copy and will never notice the online revisions unless somebody tells them.
But speaking of sexism, thanks to the recent states' rights free-for-all opened up by the repeal of Roe v. Wade, a ten-year-old rape victim from Ohio had to travel to Indiana to get an abortion. I hope God is warming up a spot in hell for every politician who thinks it's even an option to force a ten-year-old rape victim to endure pregancy and childbirth. (I argued with a family member who claims that pro-choicers don't care about her at all, that they're just using her as a pawn for their agenda to murder babies, as if liberals don't denounce rape literally all the time.) But I guess I can take some comfort in knowing that Utah, despite ranking as the second most sexist state in the nation and being a near-constant political embarrassment, will never be that bad... right?
Well, nobody is interested in a treatise on my current opinions on abortion, so suffice it to say that they've gotten more nuanced and more sympathetic to the viewpoint that men who know and care very little about women's health should not be in charge of decisions about women's health. If Roe v. Wade had been overturned a few years ago I would have celebrated. Now, not so much. I think it is the "right" decision from a strictly constitutional perspective. I think it was always ridiculous to claim that the US constitution protected a right to abortion. If you want it to, then that's what amendments are for. But I think the decision is unfortunate because many US states will seize on this opportunity to pass absolutely barbaric laws that will hurt a lot of women. The most vocal element of the pro-life movement doesn't believe in making exceptions for any reason. It believes that abortion is never medically necessary and that a child conceived in rape is entitled to the same protections as any other.
Even if this is the "right" decision from a strictly constitutional perspective, it's very disturbing that Samuel Alito approvingly cited Matthew Hale, a 17th-century British misogynist who established the legal precedent of allowing married men to rape their wives until 1991. He famously wrote, "The husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband which she cannot retract." (This, of course, alludes to the broader common law notion of coverture under which wives were absorbed into the legal entities of their husbands, giving up most of their rights as well as their last names.) It's also very disturbing that Clarence Thomas wants the court to pursue this same logic further and revisit its decisions on same-sex marriage and birth control. Targeting both abortion and birth control, which some social conservatives will do as soon as they get a chance, is a special kind of malicious insanity.
I have come to believe that abortions should be reduced through education and birth control, not through legal coercion. I think the consequences of this decision will far outweigh the benefits, and I'm as frightened for the future as I can be in my position of privilege where it won't affect me. I really don't know what more to say than that. Everything I could think of saying has been said more eloquently and more passionately and with more credibility by someone else. I'm sorry to every woman who will be negatively affected. The effects will be so long-lasting and far-reaching that this just may surpass the January 6 insurrection as Donald Trump's greatest legacy. Of course, the fact that Supreme Court decisions are predicated on the political affiliations of the presidents who appoint the justices kind of proves that the whole thing is a farce.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.