What if someone could choose you at random and send you immediately to the front lines of a war for nine months? No warning, no training, no decision on your part – just here today, GI Joe tomorrow, have fun storming the castle?
What would your life suddenly be like?
For one thing, you’d be in way more danger than you were yesterday. You would also be in possession of far less liberty. No more eating whatever you want (food choices are limited in combat), forget about those little vices and indulgences (most aren’t allowed), and on a physical level you’d no longer have the luxury of being out of shape or unhealthy. In battle, there is more life than your own depending on the survival of your fitness. And did I mention you might die?
The same things happen to a woman forced into an unwanted pregnancy.
Pregnancy is active duty. It imposes regimen, compels responsibility for another’s survival, and threatens your life in the process. Childbirth still kills more than 800 women a day worldwide, and even in the U.S. we lose more than 600 a year. Disgusting as it was, there is a reason insurance companies considered pregnancy a high-risk pre-existing condition before the ACA stopped them. Carrying a pregnancy to term can kill you.
But even if you make it through the nine months of service alive and unscathed it’s not like life goes magically back to normal. I don’t know a single veteran or mother who wasn’t changed both physically and psychologically by the experience. Their bodies are forever impacted by the sheer physical weight they carried those many months, not to mention the massive emotional weight of having dispatched life either into or out of this world. The unlucky ones deal with PTSD and postpartum depression, while the others “just” live with the memories. Nobody walks away and forgets the experience; nobody goes back to the person they were before.
So when our new administration and their Handmaid’s Tale fan club say that women should “just” have the babies for someone to adopt, I wonder if they would “just” as eagerly reinstate the draft. Because that’s what we’re talking about when we talk about taking away reproductive rights. We’re talking about drafting women into pregnancy against their will.
(If you still think women don’t ever have sex or experience its consequences involuntarily, I’d love to come live in your fantasy world. Unfortunately, my unicorn threw a shoe and the rainbow bridge is experiencing traffic problems in Fort Lee.)
We learned a lot as a nation during the growing pains of the ‘60s, but among the most significant was that bad things happen when people have no choice about participating in either war or childbirth. This past weekend millions of women marched for the right to choose, in the largest demonstration this country has seen since the protests against the Vietnam war. This is not a coincidence.
Exactly 44 years ago yesterday (Jan. 22, 1973) we put an end to the pregnancy draft with Roe v. Wade. Exactly five days later (Jan. 27, 1973) we ended the military one. Let’s not bring either of them back.