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Pro-choice demonstrators rally outside the State House during a Pro-Choice Mother's Day Rally in Boston, Massachusetts on May 8, 2022. (Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

Eve's Choice: Patriarchy No Longer Rules

The passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973 was a direct undoing of the infrastructure of patriarchy: male rule, female submissiveness.

Robert C. Koehler

"Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'"—Genesis 2:18. RSV

One chapter later, after Eve was held responsible for the First Sin (Adam, the submissive male, just did what she told him to), we have this:

"To the woman he said, 'I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be contrary for your husband, and he shall rule over you.'"—Genesis 3:16

"Women will go ahead and disobey the law. What are they going to do when half the population is in revolt?"

Some people are able to liberate the creation story from its theological misogyny, but for most believers (especially the male ones), it's pretty clear: Women are commanded, indeed, they were created, to do what they're told. This is our cultural infrastructure—a.k.a., the patriarchy—ten thousand or so years in the making.

The prejudice leaps into the New Testament ("Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness."—I Timothy 2:11), and on and on. Thirteen hundred years later, here's Thomas Aquinas, high-fiving Aristotle, agreeing that a woman is a "misbegotten male." Jump forward another seven centuries and we get SCOTUS Judge Samuel Alito:

"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and (Planned Parenthood v. Casey) have enflamed debate and deepened division."

As everyone knows at this point, a woman's right to an abortion—a woman's right to be in full control of her own body—is now in jeopardy. This is a terrifying possibility. If the Supreme Court overthrows Roe v. Wade, the legality of abortion will be decided state by state, and at this point more than half of them are ready to pass legislation turning it back into a crime. Oklahoma, for instance, just passed a law making abortion illegal after about six weeks (when cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo)—with no exceptions for rape or incest.

"Yes, I'm angry," writes Elizabeth Warren. "I'm angry at the justices who deliberately deceived the American people. I'm angry at the Republicans in Congress who stole two Supreme Court seats to get us to this day. And I'm angry at the cruelty of the anti-abortion politicians who will impose enormous pain, suffering, and possible death on people who have the fewest resources to fight back."

The passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973 was a direct undoing of the infrastructure of patriarchy: male rule, female submissiveness. It dug to the core of who we are and began creating change at, perhaps, the deepest level of being human.

Playwright Eve Ensler (also known as V) puts it this way: Overturning Roe "will catalyze and amplify the rightwing misogynist project that is taking away the rights of women everywhere. . . . If we allow the erasure of this central right for women, it will escalate the erasure of them all.

". . . this is not about babies, it is about destroying women's agency and autonomy. And we know that this will most harshly affect the lives of Black and Brown women and marginalized people"—that is to say, those without the resources to travel long distances for an abortion.

In short, this is a complex combo of racism, sexism and God. It's not an issue to be solved with simplistic, "pro-life" self-righteousness. I honor and value all who are truly pro-life—who stand against trillion-dollar military budgets, a nuclear-armed planet, poverty and starvation—but:

". . . these self-styled pro-lifers don't seem to care much about 'life, once a baby is born," Jill Filipovic wrote three years ago at The Guardian, in reference to Donald Trump's supporters. "They want to cut aid to needy children and healthcare to poor mothers and pregnant women. They oppose contraception and sex education—the most effective ways to reduce the abortion rate. Many of them continue to support a president who separates small children from their parents and keeps them in squalid cages."

They saw in Trump, she wrote, "a kindred spirit who would work for their interests—their primary interest being a symbolic reassertion of their cultural dominance."

But cultural—patriarchal—dominance is at the end of its reign, with or without Roe v. Wade. Of course, if the leaked SCOTUS draft holds and Roe is overturned, if legal abortion turns into a patchwork right across the national landscape, chaos will ensue.

"There will be marching, demonstrations, sit-ins, petitions," writes Robin Morgan. "Women will go ahead and disobey the law. What are they going to do when half the population is in revolt? Not 20 percent, not the ultra right wing, not the evangelicals. Women are going to control what happens to our own bodies. No matter how many thousands of us have to go to jail. We are not turning back the clock. No way."


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Robert C. Koehler

Robert C. Koehler

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. Koehler has been the recipient of multiple awards for writing and journalism from organizations including the National Newspaper Association, Suburban Newspapers of America, and the Chicago Headline Club.  He’s a regular contributor to such high-profile websites as Common Dreams and the Huffington Post. Eschewing political labels, Koehler considers himself a “peace journalist. He has been an editor at Tribune Media Services and a reporter, columnist and copy desk chief at Lerner Newspapers, a chain of neighborhood and suburban newspapers in the Chicago area. Koehler launched his column in 1999. Born in Detroit and raised in suburban Dearborn, Koehler has lived in Chicago since 1976. He earned a master’s degree in creative writing from Columbia College and has taught writing at both the college and high school levels. Koehler is a widower and single parent. He explores both conditions at great depth in his writing. His book, "Courage Grows Strong at the Wound" (2016). Contact him or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

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