By Doris Deits
Earlier this summer as I was watching the evening news, I found it strange that the coverage of the Alabama State Legislature’s banning of women’s rights to abortion just happened to coincide with our country’s celebration of its independence from England.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that something in this picture was really wrong. I felt deeply conflicted about these two things.
On one hand, our country is celebrating its hard-won freedom from tyranny and oppression. On the other, people in government are working tirelessly to take away a woman’s personal rights in regard to her uterus. It didn’t seem right that these two things exist in the same space.
I was struck by a sudden clarity that in America, we only have the idealism of freedom and equality, not the reality of it. After 200 years, we should be further along on the freedom train than this.
Our freedoms should be based on human rights. Surely the Constitution didn’t say “except for a woman’s uterus …” But I wasn’t absolutely sure, so I Googled it.
After a little research, I found I was indeed correct. In fact, there is nothing in the Constitution about women at all, let alone their uteruses.
Further research showed that during the revolutionary years prior to our independence, abortions were commonly done by midwives, apothecaries and homeopaths. This suggests that abortions weren’t a significant social or moral issue at the time. I needed to find out just when and why it became such a big deal within our legal and political system.
What I read was that in the late 1800s, states began passing anti-abortion laws, but it was not due to social pressure. Anti-abortion leaders appeared to be mostly interested in not getting outnumbered by the large influx of immigrants that were arriving while the birth rates among white women were falling.
The future of the white race was at stake. I do believe I smell a Handmaid’s Tale in there somewhere.
The big push to criminalize abortions came from a newly formed American Medical Association (AMA). Wouldn’t you know it, they wanted to get rid of the competition from all those pesky midwives and homeopaths.
Now things started to make sense to me. Control. Domination. Greed. Smells like America.
As I read through the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, I could not look away from its antiquity. It was beautiful in its essence, in its desire to create a foundation for democracy, individual freedom and equality. Within the Constitution and Bill of Rights, one can feel the writers’ sincere attempt to safeguard individual liberty.
But the reality is this country never got to the places these founders were visioning.
As a society, we worship these revered documents, but we have smothered its song of liberty with capitalism.
Capitalism has its place, but we idolize capitalism, and it comes before human rights and human dignity. Capitalism has become the ruling king that now dictates its needs over the people’s needs.
My wish is that before the next Fourth of July comes around, everyone takes a few moments to sit down and read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Each of us must decide for ourselves if we truly believe these documents are adequate, or even relevant, to help govern and guide our county with the issues and conditions we have before us today.
These 200 year old documents have good bones and a beautiful song, but those ideals have never been reached. Sure, we’ve improved upon a few things, like ending legalized slavery and letting women vote, but we have so many important issues to deal with that cannot be addressed or solved with the perspectives of people who lived over 200 years ago.
I don’t believe the people who created these documents ever intended them to be used forever. I would venture to bet they would be appalled at the lack of updates and changes that would naturally be needed as the country and its people change.
We need to release the ideals of freedom, equality and liberty for all that are encased and frozen in the antiquity of these documents and let those ideas breathe and flow within the realm of our modern-day reality.
The results from the stagnation of these founding documents can be seen in our upheaval over gun violence, environmental issues, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and healthcare.
The Constitution of the United States of America needs an upgrade. It’s our responsibility, and we owe this to the future of our country. It’s time to define what freedom, liberty and equality for all means to us today and whether it’s important or not to put human rights before capitalism.
This idea may seem too big or too impossible, but so did the break from English rule.
Each of us has a voice, an opinion, an idea that could help make things better. We can talk to someone, share new ideas, write an article, join a local grassroots effort, send an email to your representative. It all helps and it all matters. We matter.
It’s the power of our thoughts, our attitudes and our persistence that makes change in the world.