It’s kind of ironic that I just started listening to the audiobook of Ron Chernow’s biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. I’m just at the beginning, but there’s a lot there that’s relevant to the decision handed down by the Supreme Court.
You see, Hamilton was painted as a “bastard” all his life since his parents weren’t married. It’s one of the things that held him back in the esteem of others at the time, and it affected his personality. He was painted as “the son of a whore” when that was far from the truth.
His mother, Rachel Faucette, was an heiress in her own right who married a man by the name of James Lavien in St. Croix. At that time, if a woman married, her property became her husband’s and she had no rights anymore to any of it. She had one child, Peter, with Lavien, before the marriage crumbled. Why this happened is anyone’s guess. Lavien had Rachel jailed for three months, believing that would be enough to have her return to him and be a dutiful wife. Yes, men could do that if their wives weren’t “behaving.” Rachel was not a woman to cower, and she fled the Island of St. Croix, leaving her son behind. Divorce was rare at the time. Many years later, Lavien wanted to remarry, so he went to court in St. Croix and accused him of all kinds of things so a divorce would be granted. Whether they are true or not is not the issue. The issue is the court granted the divorce and allowed Lavien to remarry, but not Rachel. She was forbidden from marrying ever again. Thus, the relationship Rachel had with Scotsman James A. Hamilton could never be legitimized, making the two surviving children from that relationship, Alexander and James Jr. illegitimate.
If that wasn’t enough, because James Jr. and Alexander were considered illegitimate, when Rachel died they were not entitled to any of her small estate. Peter Lavien took everything and left them with nothing.
Because women had no rights. Everything a woman did throughout her life was controlled by men; first her father, and then later her husband. They were no better than chattel.
What does this have to do with the Supreme Court? That is the world they want to send us back to. A world before Roe vs. Wade when women were tied down by their biology and had to be legitimized by men. Have a child out of wedlock? Well, then you have no rights and neither do those children. Unless, of course, you follow Amy Coney Barrett’s theory about creating “a domestic supply of infants.” I always thought adoption was the legalized selling of human beings and at least she has finally confirmed what I have always thought; adoptees like me are just looked at as a commodity.
That aside, bodily autonomy is the issue. The law currently reads that you can’t force a person to donate blood if they do not choose to. You can’t even force people to donate organs when they die if they haven’t chosen to beforehand. But when it comes to women, well then you can force her to bear a child when she doesn’t want to. And they are looking at overruling many previous Supreme Court decisions such as the right to birth control and the right of people to marry who they love.
One (now former) friend tried to say this was good, that it was sending the issue back to the states where it belonged. States don’t always get it right. Segregation and separate-but-equal were mostly an issue in the southern states. Sometimes the States get it wrong and must be corrected, particularly when it comes to human rights issues. Abortion is most definitely a human rights issue. It’s about living beings having the right to control what happens in and to their own bodies. Access to birth control is a human rights issue. Being able to marry who you love is a human rights issue.
If it were about the babies, we would see Republicans and the ultra-Conservative Right trying to do everything to make this a place women would want to raise a child in, even if she was doing it alone. It’s not about the babies. It’s about white men wanting to keep things the way it was back in Alexander Hamilton’s time. They want women to need them instead of wanting them because to them it’s easier to change the world than to change how they are. They want to be deferred to as “masters of their domain” no matter how irresponsible they really are. They want to keep women bound to them, no matter whether they cheat, are abusive, or abuse drugs.
About fifteen years ago when my parents were still alive, I tried to tell my mother she needed a credit card in her own name so if anything happened to my father she would still have credit. They turned her down because she only counted her own social security. I would have cooked the numbers with my father’s income if I had done it for her. They were told by a lawyer that it didn’t matter because as long as someone was paying the bills, the credit card companies wouldn’t care. My mother predeceased my father, thankfully, because when my father passed they shut down his accounts within about a month of his death.
By taking away a women’s right to choose, they have fewer rights than a corpse. By taking away a women’s right to choose, women will die. By taking away a women’s right to choose, babies will be born who will not be loved. By taking away a women’s right to choose and walking back other decisions, we are returning to a world where women are more like Rachel Faucette than Ruth Bader Ginsberg.