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A New Scarlet Letter

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Hester Prynne, sympathetic heroine of The Scarlet Letter; Nathaniel Hawthorne, suffered fictional but historically accurate indignities for her adultery. The novel was set in 1642. It now seems as if the Tea Party, ALEC, and the Koch Brothers are leading us on a sentimental (for them) journey for the country back to that time of intrusive intolerance, misogyny and brutality towards women and everyone else that is not a member of the white male fraternity of the self important.

Fetal ultrasound legislation is being expedited or has already passed in seven states and is being considered in 18 others. Planned Parenthood has been defunded in nine states that have a GOP-controlled government.

In Tennessee, the legislative cultural conservatives now intend to brand a woman, exercising her judgment and informed by her own doctor, with a Scalet Letter "A" for abortion -- almost literally. A bill to publicly brand, figuratively but still dangerously, doctors participating in an abortion or even women electing to have an abortion is making its way to law. They propose that the state government publish names and locations and medical histories of people that offend their 17th-century puritanical morality. This is utterly the last straw. It's a violation of habeas corpus, the 14th amendment right to privacy and in its intent, slander, as the purpose of this government "revenge" is to impugn the reputations of all concerned so much so that they may end up targets of the extremely violent right-to-life zealots. The GOP has declared war on women and I for one will now reciprocate in kind on women's behalf. Violence toward women is utterly and completely unacceptable from an individual and as a political movement it's well beyond vile.

In this legislative rush in GOP-controlled state governments, more is revealed than a seemingly righteous semi-respectable pro-life philosophy though. Frankly, everyone is pro-life, the pro-choice maybe even more so --they probably having thought more about it than the knee-jerk doctrinaires who man the pickets outside our nation's Planned Parenthood facilities. Pro choice is pro life. It's pro life in the affirmative sense of making sure your life doesn't end up a cascade of tragedy heaped on your disabled child, your unintended child, yourself, your family, your immediate community and your government.

I can though, thoroughly, respect anguish at the thought of an aborted fetus. It is a personal choice. More accurately it's a personal agony of self doubt and anguish that's not known to any who've not made the choice. The consequences of choice don't stop with the making of a choice. The consequences go on and on. Any of the three roads that is chosen for an unplanned pregnancy has lifelong consequences. I have first hand knowledge of all three of those roads. The choice to abort leads to a lifetime of guilt and what ifs. The choice to carry to term and surrender to adoption instills self recrimination and wondering but more intensely. In the former case a fetus was terminated and the latter a human being was abandoned. The latter is harder, much, much harder. That latter will break even the strongest spirit. The third path is to keep and commit to a life with an unplanned or disabled child, which is as perilous and laborious an undertaking as most people will ever attempt.

Most, if not all people and certainly every woman, understand that the bringing of a life to term or the abortion of a fetus is a life-changing event. "Informed consent" is the rationale conservatives have cut and sewn out of whole cloth to heap pain on people, pain onto women, who are, already in the crossroads of choice, embracing the certainty of a lifetime of degrees of regret. "Informed consent" is not intended to inform. It is a euphemism for inflicting humiliation on those that dare to defy the mores of a moribund religious establishment that cannot give up the reigns of running everyone's life down to the molecules of a woman's fertility. "Informed consent" is the sadistic grin on the faces of old self righteous men who in their lifetimes will never understand that life and death choices are and always were the near exclusive business of women.

Abortion is not new. It's been practiced ever since mankind figured out how to do it. It was done in biblical times and the Bible does not mention the practice at all. Mostly, fetuses are considered property up until they are five years old. The penalty for killing a child up to five years old seems to be a civil matter in the Bible. The Catholic Church, for one, wants to assert that life begins at conception even though the only evidence of that as message included in the Bible is that biblical figures themselves were fashioned by God in the womb of some woman or another. Regular folks are not accorded that status. Simply, there's no explicit support in the Bible for the notion that life begins at conception. Religious authorities have just made this up. Their motives in abhorring abortion seem partnered with opposition to contraception. Both appear to be adopted policy in order to grow the flock in order to grow power and wealth and influence. At certain points in history that might have seemed justified, but no longer. All it is now is anachronistic, cruelly anachronistic.

The legislative agenda of the right-to-life legislatures is to brand women as social outcasts just as Hester Prynne was branded and humiliated by her Puritan theocracy. These throwback Puritans are the social conservatives. Social conservatives, effectively, are all Republicans.

Moderate Republicans drove conservatives from the control room of the party 50 years ago. The radical social conservatives never went away though, they just stayed quiet and dutifully voted Republican for 50 years. Now they are back and with 50 years of insane frustration to vent and the time to vent it is now. Their frustrated cause is manifest in the virtual coup d' etat they are attempting on the 80 years of progressive thought and legislation that business, most of the clergy, nearly all of main stream political organizations have accepted for what it is, right and rational. The long dormant conservatives, powered by the billions of the Koch brothers whose father was a founder of the John Birch Society, seem determined to be the the new Puritans. Godless communism is the titular enemy of the conservatives, but in some zealotry stew, women, blacks, Latinos, science and education, along with the democracy they purport to defend, appear to be threats to them. They are lashing out at all these threats at once and now. The breadth and depth and speed of these attacks has not abated since they were bought office in 2010. Thank you SCOTUS.

But then conservatism was never about democracy. It was about a impunity of self-serving white men and feudalism for everyone else. Conservatism is bigotry, the definition of it. Conservatism is sexism, the definition of it. Conservatism is plutocratic rule dressed up in theocratic dogma. I know; I was recruited by the John Birch Society when I was 16 years old.

Left up to the conservatives, there will be 21st-century Hester Prynnes as there were 17th-century Hester Prynnes, pilloried and shunned and humiliated at the pleasure of old white men with nothing better to do than pry and judge and punish in seeking a new world order of religious utopia, a cold white-knuckled lonely heartless frustrated utopia for themselves and no one else.

The brutality of the Puritans is legendary. Expect no less from the 21st-century conservative. Prepare to be branded or prepare to be political.