Jul 30, 2022
It's January 2026. The Republican president thanks Congress for banning all abortions and makes an enthusiastic plea for a law that would require a national registry of pregnant women, so their pregnancies could be subject to surveillance.
Far-fetched? Not the way things are going. When it comes to extremism, Republican politicians are racing each other to the bottom.
Once we thought that otherwise anti-choice Republicans favored allowing girls and women who were victims of rape or incest to get abortions. But there are no such exceptions in the laws Republican legislatures have recently enacted.
Many Republican officials now even oppose an abortion exception for protecting the life of the mother. And already in some states, women have been prosecuted for stillbirths and miscarriages deemed suspicious and charged with child neglect or abuse for allegedly causing their pregnancies to end.
Many Republican officials now even oppose an abortion exception for protecting the life of the mother. And already in some states, women have been prosecuted for stillbirths and miscarriages.
We also thought that Republicans acknowledged that the decision to use contraception was a constitutionally protected, private decision. But that's also now up for grabs.
When an anti-abortion law says a fertilized egg, not yet implanted in the womb, is an "unborn child," a woman who uses an IUD to prevent pregnancy can be alleged to "murder" the supposed "child" (actually a microscopic clump of cells).
As for other contraceptive methods, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has invited cases to be brought to cancel the constitutional right to use any form of contraception. Is it difficult to imagine that people with certain religious beliefs might demand the GOP outlaw selling contraceptives to unmarried couples or teenagers?
A Republican-sponsored federal anti-abortion bill is certainly in the cards--even though 62 percent of Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court's overruling Roe v. Wade, and a solid majority believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. But the Republican Party prefers to follow instead the view of a religious minority that believes they are entitled to impose their religious views on everyone else.
This desire to impose religious orthodoxy is at the root of the issue.
Certainly it's hard to imagine any justification for asserting--other than religious beliefs held by a minority--that a blastocyst of six to ten cells (which is all there is three days after an egg has been fertilized) is an "unborn child," let alone a person with full constitutional rights.
How might a nation-wide anti-abortion law be enforced? A federal pregnancy registry is one possibility. The government could require all doctors and clinics to report all pregnancies and require follow-up reports on how the pregnancy ended. Claims of miscarriages might warrant investigation.
Another possibility was offered by the Texas law deputizing private individuals to seek a $10,000 fine from anyone who provides or facilitates an abortion. Congress could pass a federal law along the same lines.
Bounty hunters could use modern technology to track women's movements. With cell phone location data that's already available, it is possible to track individuals from place to place.
For a small fee, data brokers can provide bounty hunters--and today's anti-abortion vigilantes--with data for an abortion clinic, showing how often people visit, how long they stay, and where they came from.
In fact such information is for sale today. It doesn't yet include the names of clinic visitors, but it's technologically simple to "de-anonymize" the data and identify each person by name and address. The same technologies can identify pregnant people who travel to another state for an abortion.
It sounds like bad science fiction, but these are elements of a very real near future that Republicans hope to bring to America.
Contraceptives limited or banned. The government surveilling your pregnancy. Prosecutors investigating miscarriages. Bounty-hunters seeking $10,000 fines from you. Private anti-abortion fanatics tracking your movements.
Voters must decide whether they welcome or fear this future.
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