Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Matter Of Control

North Dakota is attempting an end-run around the vindication of women's rights originally assumed assured by Roe v Wade.

Liss and Misty at Shakesville each have masterful takedowns on the item: go read them here and here. Both of them have much more experience, and far more justification, pointing out the sexist narrow-mindedness of such legislation, than I. There is little that I could add to their righteous condemnation of this recent step.

My question is this:

In this age of plummeting state revenues, these idiots have just created a whole new de facto state social programme. Yet these same people are the ones that complain vociferously about state spending, and particularly state spending on social programmes like what the new legislation simply cries out to implement.

The RWNM cries constantly that public expenditure on social programmes is wrong. It is a waste of resources; it encourages bad behaviour; it rewards the least competent, the indolent, the abusers of the system - the unworthy, in short.

Now we have a mandate from the state of North Dakota to provide exactly what the RWNM claims to oppose: public scrutiny of what until now has been a very private situation. If "personhood" begins at conception, then all manner of potential crimes suddenly face the expectant. How does the State intend to fend off these offenses without implementing monitoring and enforcement regimens?

The simple answer is that the drafters of this legislation haven't thought that far; that this is simply a shaming mechanism to oppress the sexually active (particularly the sexually active woman) and maintain an outmoded and impractical notion of civic order. Prevention is not the goal. Rather, the intent is the exploitation of those caught in the newly legal web of impropriety in order to maintain their concepts of an ordered society.

There is, however, a possible, more complex answer. The parties behind the new law actually want this agenda pursued by the State. It is in keeping with the support of the now-vast Homeland Security apparatus and enhanced intelligence gathering: these efforts create a new observation state to intimidate dissent and encourage political and social orthodoxy.

The continued infiltration and eavesdropping on peaceful groups in the name of anti-terror efforts is harmonious with this new law. Through their invocation of national security, the intelligence agencies, DHS and local police forces enabled the observation of any group deemed "Unamerican:" groups so targeted included the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), antiwar activist groups and social equality advocates. By expanding the definition of "Unamerican" to include unintended pregnancy, the same groups that seek to re-form society to their perceived norms get one more weapon in their arsenal. And if doing so expands the public sphere that is a small price to pay, since now that expansion will fall under law enforcement and not social engineering.

If this sounds like a stretch, consider this: the same advocates of Amendment 2 in Florida and Proposition 8 in California, after assuring voters that these measures were not intended to strip rights from anyone, have commenced campaigns in both states to annul or revoke any benefits - public or private - for unmarried couples of any sexual persuasion under the provisions of the new laws, and are turning a blind eye to the rise in hate crimes that are accompanying their passage. Likewise, similar efforts as the North Dakota law have been used to run family planning out of other states and have encouraged practicing gynecologists to leave for less restrictive communities. And the national brouhaha that was the Terri Schaivo case proved that the Conservatives will eagerly engage whatever public bodies it deems necessary - along with all their attendant machinery - to achieve their goals. None of these are the actions of a group that values a hands-off public policy.

Of course, opposition to these moves is strong, so the likelihood of their success is low. But by pursuing these lines, those behind this push have made their goals clear: creation of a society aligned along their moral standards and criminalisation of any variation from those standards. These are not the values of a democracy.

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