Baby, baby, oh baby

I have always been mystified by the phrase, “the miracle of childbirth.” Pregnancy and childbirth, under the right circumstances, is a wondrous and joyful thing. It is not, however, a “miracle.” Something that I have spent my entire adult life trying to prevent from happening does not qualify as a miracle. Getting knocked up is far too easy to be considered miraculous.

Previously in this space, I’ve discussed the political impact of “low-information voters.” Let’s turn to the subject of the low-information voter’s ideological cousin – the “single-issue voter.” And my decidedly unscientific opinion is that the single issue is, most often, a woman’s right to choose.

I was having an e-mail discussion recently with a member of my family who is using this single issue to justify voting for John McCain in the fall, given a lack of any other compelling reason to do so.

“Obama kills babies,” reads the YouTube link in the e-mail message forwarded to me. This is because Obama voted against criminalizing D&X (dilate and extract) procedures, which the pro-lifers chose to call “partial-birth abortions” for public relations purposes. Never mind that D&X procedures reportedly account for less than one percent of all abortions. As far as the nuance-impaired are concerned, Barack Obama is personally slaughtering infants with a chainsaw.

The anti-abortion types will tell you that it’s about saving the babies. That’s a good pretext to hide behind. It conveys moral authority, like the President hiding behind the troops to justify his decision making. “Defending the unborn” sounds a lot nobler than “imposing my ideological standards on others.”

I don’t think it’s about babies. I think it’s about punishment. “You think you’re going to have sex for pleasure without fear of consequences? Not if I can help it!”

H.L. Mencken famously defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” This is what really drives the pro-life faction. The threat of pregnancy is a God-given control mechanism, to keep us from having too much fun. For that matter, so is AIDS.

And the morning after pill? That can’t be allowed either. It’s too easy and private. Not traumatic enough. You must endure shame and suffering for your indiscretion. Save the zygotes!

It’s far easier to control behavior through guilt and fear than it is to instill good judgment and then trust it. Granted, neither option works all of the time, but which do you suppose has a better chance of success?

The biggest problem with an unyielding ideology is that it’s far easier to maintain in an abstract sense, when it pertains to people you don’t know personally. Sooner or later, of course, these issues hit home. That’s when the hard line shatters into shades of gray – when someone you love is affected.

My thoughts have turned to this subject as a result of the sudden rise to national prominence of Sarah Palin, a cardboard cutout drawn in the Religious Right’s favorite colors, pure black and white. No depth. No nuance. No need to think here; move along, please.

The McCain campaign assumes that Palin, as a pro-gun, anti-abortion, no exceptions, textbook evangelical conservative, will enhance McCain’s right-wing cred. Plus, she’ll attract the votes of disgruntled Hillary supporters, because she has a vagina.

The wrinkle here is that Palin’s 17-year old daughter, Bristol, has been revealed to be five months pregnant.

I’m not about to criticize Bristol or try to score political hit points on her mother. My reaction, when I heard the news, was to feel sorry for the kid. Look at the position she’s in. She’s seventeen and pregnant, and her mother has just become the poster child for abortion opponents.

Regardless of whether she would or not, Palin can’t even consider moderating her stance for the sake of her own daughter, lest she be exposed as a hypocrite.

“Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned,” the Palins said in a statement. “We’re proud of Bristol’s decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents.”

As if there was any real decision to be made.

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