RH Reality Check, By Amanda Marcotte, November 6
The personhood amendment being voted on in Mississippi this week is important for two major reasons. The first has received lots of coverage here at RH Reality Check and some liberal news sources: because it’s about criminalizing all women of reproductive age, and could do things like ban birth control and open criminal investigations on miscarriages.
The other reason that we should all be paying attention to Mississippi is the results of the election will be an excellent measure of how far right the Christian right has gone when it comes to sex.
The right has always approached the question of reproductive rights as an elaborate game of ”œWho’s the Slut?” Sure, they like to blather on about ”œlife” and ”œpersonal responsibility,” but that’s because coming straight out and saying that they’d like to craft a law where good girls have rights but bad girls don’t isn’t politically popular. Too obvious: you have to wrap that agenda in sentimental talk about the sanctity of life, and hope no one notices that you have no regard for the sanctity of life if people are dying in wars or from lack of health insurance. But if you look past their rhetoric to the actual rules they try to make regarding who gets to have rights under what circumstances, it’s clear they’re trying to sort women into ”œsluts” and ”œnon-slut” categories. The traditional exception for rape victims under abortion restrictions is the most commonly cited example, of course. I’d add that most conservatives—outside of those who make anti-choice activism their main priority—tend to support the use of contraception. In their minds, contraception is something that could be used by good girls. Married women with children use contraception, after all. But when it comes to abortion, most people imagine a young woman having sex outside of marriage with a man who isn’t going to marry her, which puts her in the ”œslut” category and means she should lose her reproductive rights.
A survey by the Public Religion Research Institute demonstrates how much this is about perceived promiscuity and not ”œlife.” Most poll respondents believed women should be allowed to have abortions if raped, or if their health was in danger, or the fetus had a major birth defect. Even if the reason was simply that the pregnant woman was still in high school, the poll respondents were about even in whether or not the abortion should be allowed. But if the reason for the abortion was that the pregnant woman simply didn’t want to marry her impregnator? Nearly 60 percent of people wanted to legally force her to have the child, with the implication being that she deserved what she got for having sex for any other reason but to get married. The issue is decided on the ambiguous grounds of trying to figure out who’s the slut, not on ”œlife.”