Reading Ron Chernow’s highly acclaimed biography of Ulysses S. Grant, one of the things that initially leaps out at you is the incredible rapidity by which the Southern, Confederate states embraced secession from the Union. Seven states made that fatal decision within the space of a month and a half –within the blink of an eye, politically speaking — while four states waited until the rebel attack on Fort Sumter before more or less mutually jumping off the cliff. Looking back from a modern-day perspective it seems unbelievable that this country could have literally split in two with such astounding speed.
But with multiple Republican-dominated states eagerly poised to copy Texas’ new law effectively outlawing any abortions performed six weeks after conception — well before many women are even aware they are pregnant — we may be on the cusp of a rather different, but just as profound “defining moment” for tens of millions of American citizens: namely, the women in this country, at least those women who want to preserve some degree of control over their bodily integrity.
What’s going to happen when multiple, geographically contiguous states pass such draconian attacks on womens’ reproductive rights? Where women are forced by Republican legislators and governors to bear children they do not wish to have? When living, working, or going to college in one of those states means not only surrendering their reproductive decisions, but puts you and others at risk from potential harassment, lawsuits, and right-wing inspired mob violence? What happens when their names and addresses are put into a database simply for trying to terminate an unwanted pregnancy in violation of these insane laws?
I would suspect that after these laws take effect, millions of women –particularly young women — are going to think long and hard about where they’d prefer to live and work for the remainder of their lives. For those who have the ability and resources to make that choice, the answer is likely to be clear.
My daughter will soon be of an age where she could conceivably get pregnant (no pun intended). I would hope that such an occurrence would be planned if it ever occurs, but I’m not stupid. I know that unwanted pregnancies can and do happen all the time. They happen to millions of women every year, despite all the access to birth control and education we enjoy. 1.5 million of those unwanted pregnancies are terminated each year. Do I really want my daughter to ever be put into a position where she has to literally flee the state and travel hundreds if not thousands of miles to a safe place to terminate an unwanted pregnancy? And do I want her to reward such a state by continuing to live there and contribute her disposable income, rent, tax dollars or tuition?
No, I don’t. My family won’t be traveling to or patronizing Texas anytime soon. And to the extent I have any say in where my daughter lives and works after she becomes of age, I will do my level best to persuade her to stay the fuck out of these states if at all possible. I suspect that literally millions of American parents with school age sons and daughters are thinking the same thing right now. And since these laws are designed to turn women into second class citizens while apparently assuming men will turn a blind eye to them, I suggest that their proponents really, really ought to think twice about that. When women are compelled to make hard decisions about where they will live and work, many men who are attached to these women will probably make the exact same decision. Because — news flash! — unwanted pregnancies affect men, too.
So what we may very well see is a slow, steady but deliberate exodus from these states by those women who give a damn about how they’re treated, and by the men who support them. And that is an awful lot of women. It won’t be sudden, it won’t be that “rapture” many of these religious extremists have been pining for, but it will happen. Month by month, year by year, I think you will see less women coming to these states to live, go to school, or to work. Why would they, if they have a choice?
I understand most Republicans will be fine with that: they think the less liberals in their state, the better. But it’s going to be much more than a demographic change. Right now –a mere two days after a now-wholly radicalized Supreme Court right-wing majority allowed the Texas law to stand — the Washington Post is noting how strangely silent Big Business has been on the subject. The Post article points out that corporate America was so quick to give lip service to voting rights and opposing voter suppression measures passed last year by the same Republicans who lobbied for these new restrictions on women’s bodies.
I think Big Business is being silent because they are scared fucking shitless about this stuff. Michael Dell was only too happy to plant his factories in Texas because of the low taxes and lax regulatory environment fostered by his GOP benefactors, but the last thing he needed was for the Christo-fascist face of that party to rear its ugly head. Now he and the rest of corporate America are caught between a rock and a hard place: if they come down hard on these abortion laws they risk alienating the rabid misogynists who make up the Republican base. But if they are seen as supporting these laws in any way whatsoever they know their profits will be impacted, because millions of American women are royally pissed, and it’s only going to get worse. The last thing a corporate CEO wants is for his products or services to be associated with this theocratic insanity. So right now they’re scrambling to find ways to pretend the issue doesn’t exist.
Good luck with that. Remember the Women’s March in 2017? In D.C. it drew about half a million people. But the concomitant marches around the rest of the country are estimated to have drawn as many as five million. At that time the women marching were rightfully pissed off that a misogynist pig like Donald Trump had managed to be elected president. How many women do you think are going to be pissed off once every GOP-dominated state passes these anti-women laws? Yeah, lots.
For the past thirty-odd years the Republican Party has been hellbent, metaphorically or otherwise, on refighting the Civil War. It has tied itself to the same mentality (and often the same issues) that motivated the secessionists in 1861. We see it now routinely, in almost every election: the old Confederacy (with a few exceptions) stays blood red. Voter suppression laws? Red states. The highest unvaccinated populations? Red states. The most COVID denialists? Red states. Radical anti-choice laws that treat women like second-class citizens? Red states.
Most of those states have plenty of Democrats, and several — including Texas — may have enough Democrats to flip the entire state. God only knows whether this new vileness towards women will be enough change those states from within; I like our chances but then again, I don’t live there, and can’t vote there. Like millions of others, I really can only provide them support. Conservative David Frum, writing for The Atlantic, seems to have as good of a take as anyone:
This is a new reality, and one that opens a way for the prolonged U.S. abortion-rights debate to be resolved. If the Texas Republicans prosper politically, then abortion-rights advocates must accept that the country truly is much more conservative on abortion than they appreciated and adjust their goals accordingly. But if not, and I’m guessing that the answer is not, anti-abortion-rights politicians are about to feel the shock of their political lives. For the first time since the 1970s, they will have to reckon with mobilized opposition that also regards abortion as issue No. 1 in state and local politics.
As evil as these laws are (and they are viscerally evil), most women are probably unable economically to vote with their feet. They’ll remain in these states and many of them will certainly find a new political voice as a result. But for many women and men not living in these states the issue simply comes down to quality of life: do we want to reward this constant, hateful misogyny, or would our hopes, lives, and futures be better spent elsewhere, in a place more likely to do some kind of justice to our time?
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.