Chris Hayes was raised Catholic (as I was) and has always been ambivalent about the motives behind the “pro-life” movement. Were people in it sincere in their opposition to abortion? His relations seemed to be. Their positions seemed consistent. They opposed abortion, but they also opposed war and the death penalty, etc. But there was also the broader movement and its leaders whose intentions seemed more cynical.
Last night on his MSNBC show, Hayes publicly admitted that recent events have confirmed for him that the movement’s professed motivations are just “kind of brilliant” branding. Who can be against life?
Now, over the past year we’ve essentially run an experiment that tests these two theories. Is the anti-abortion movement born out of a cynical desire to control women and enforce patriarchy, traditional gender roles? Or is it sincerely held belief in the sanctity, the holiness, of this precious thing we called human life? And after nearly 800,000 Covid deaths, I got to say I think we have a pretty good answer. Since the very beginning of the pandemic last March, we have watched the spectacle of the conservative, anti-abortion movement praising life of the unborn and in the same breath essentially shrugging their shoulders about death from the virus.
Hayes cited several cases of conservative leaders dismissing the deaths of their citizens, Republican state governments withholding information that might have saved people’s lives, and quashing affirmative actions taken elsewhere that might have prevented their deaths. But, oh, the life of the unborn is precious.
What about the sanctity of the lives of the thousands dying daily, preventable deaths by Covid? Hayes cites Republican Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi, home to the 15-week abortion ban case heard on Wednesday before the Supreme Court. Commenting on why Mississippians dying of Covid seem less frightened by it, Reeves said, “When you believe in eternal lie – when you believe that living on this earth is but a blip on the screen, then you don’t have to be so scared of things.”
So you don’t think life is that important, Hayes translates. So after arguing in court this week “self-righteously, sanctimoniously” about the sanctity of life, Hayes said, getting worked up, “The many preventable deaths in that state are just a sped-up reunion with the Heavenly Father.”
A pair of RNC tweets posted hours apart, spell out the rank hypocrisy with digital permanence:
The political movement that trumpets its support for the sanctity of life, Hayes finished, has reacted to “the most devastating mass-casualty event of our lifetimes” with “a collective WHATEVER.” When it is not actively enabling the virus in killing people, primarily, its own people. “They chose death instead.”
Rebecca Traister, writer-at-large for New York magazine, thinks Hayes is a bit late to the show. She saw long ago that the party of “fetishistic moralizing” about fetal life is also the one steadfastly against welfare and snap programs, against affordable housing and paid parental leave, against subsidized child care, etc., etc. Against programs that support stable, thriving families for the most vulnerable Americans. Her experiment testing their sincerity ended for her long ago.
Nonetheless, it was bracing to watch Hayes publicly confront the fact that, yes, abortion foes are not interested in life, either in the abstract, in the real world, or in the womb. Their real motivation is in controlling women. But that patriarchal impulse is so deeply embedded that not even conservative women in the movement perceive the cultural programming with which they were raised.
The conservative movement is about maintaining power. It is about backlash. The anti-abortion movement is interwoven with a quilt of attitudes, cultural mores, and policy positions on the right intended to keep the disadvantaged disadvantaged, to prevent any erosion of traditional power structures that keep white men in charge, women subservient, and everyone outside their club too busy feeding themselves and disempowered to challenge the status quo.
Heather Cox Richardson wrote this week:
In 1858, Abraham Lincoln deplored the state laws discriminating against Black Americans, as well as immigrants in the North and West. He challenged Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas, who said that discriminatory state laws—including laws that protected human enslavement—were just fine so long as those few men allowed to vote liked them.
“I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal, upon principle, and making exceptions to it, where will it stop?” Lincoln said. “If that Declaration is not the truth, let us get the statute-book in which we find it and tear it out….”
Confronted with the gap between what Americans professed to believe and the reality of what they practiced, Lincoln’s crowd of Republican voters objected. Today they would not.
I’ve taken to calling them the Bad Faith Party (BFP). ♫ If it wasn’t for bad faith, etc.