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Home > Culture and Society

Gestate of the Nation

8 September 2006

A quick hypocrisy check is in order. How many times have we looked surreptitious daggers at any woman pushing a pram with fag in gob, and muttered 'If you can't even give up smoking for a kid then you shouldn't bloody well be having them, you irresponsible beast'? Too many to count. If there's one thing that makes us come over all righteous, it's the sight of a Marlboro-puffing mother. Especially if she's bulgingly pregnant. Especially if she's bulgingly pregnant and complaining loudly about how, say, the gentle noise from next door's civilised little middle-class barbecue gathering is having an adverse affect on her cherished unborn sprog.

Yep, we certainly deplore the fecklessness of women who can't be arsed to look after their children's health if it means giving up their own pointless, unhealthy and costly habit. But we balk severely at the idea that it should be enshrined in law that, if you behave in a manner which at all endangers your unborn child,
you are liable for any harm caused just as if the child had been up and running around and refusing to use the potty.

As the Guardian reported this week, some 20 US states (did you know that was coming?) now consider drug use by an expectant mother equivalent to child abuse. One woman in enlightenment hub (and first state to push through the abortion ban) South Carolina - a crack user whose baby was stillborn - is currently serving 12 years as the first woman to be convicted of foetal homicide. This shows not only the kind of jolly ignorance of the nature of drug addiction itself that you'd expect, but a fat sadistic streak that doesn't allow any of that pussy-ass 'perhaps they've suffered enough' apostasy.

This terrifyingly absurd new crime goes along with new federal guidelines, which are casting the net wide. They suggest that all women of childbearing age should consider themselves 'pre-pregnant' - it could happen at any time, see, because you were born in sin and are all whores. This means that if you're out of nappies and not yet in false teeth (they can do wonders with IVF these days), you're expected to stop smoking, take folic acid, and keep yourself especially healthy. Perfectly sensible stuff, except perhaps for the folic acid, which is very good for you but a bit expensive to take for twenty years if you're not trying for a baby.

The trouble is that these things aren't to benefit the woman, but the phantom foetus she isn't yet incubating. (But could suddenly be doing at any time, even if she's not sexually active - there are rapists out there, and you can't bank on them being thoughtful enough to slap on a condom.) So essentially, the US isn't content with placing women's rights below those of her unborn child - it is striving to place them below those of her *non*-unborn child. In 20 states, your contentment is secondary to that of the substance of the hypothesis of the glint in the milkman's eye. You've got to admire that kind of bio-social chutzpah. Lawyers must be laughing themselves to sleep at night.

It's a logical enough progression, part of the wholesale attribution of individual rights for each sticky spermatozoa-vanquished ovum. The irony is that many women who are liable to 'fall' pregnant aren't going to be the most supplement-poppingly responsible adults to begin with - anyone can have an accident, but it's a lot more likely if you can't be bothered with contraception. Although of course the US has that sewn up too; the government-backed campaign of misinformation and pre-emptive finger-wagging that passes for sex ed seems to aim for a Pavlovian aversion response in teenagers. Show them a combined pill or a condom and they start fiddling with their 'True Love Waits' rings and crying.

In any case, the new guidelines are forcing responsibility onto some of the people least able to shoulder it, and at least casting a sort of nasty shadow of prurient suspicion over all other young women. America, as manifest in this sort of fundamentalist guffola, doesn't like women very much. Hillary Clinton can't possibly be prepared for what she'll get if she becomes President - especially as she's not yet a safely witchy old crone. She should probably, as a thoughtful Sharon Stone recently suggested, wait until half her teeth fall out and her only curve is a banana-back before running for POTUS. Sexuality is the greatest threat to the American way of life since, ooh, that other one with the Hajis and bombs and shit.

This story dovetails quite nicely with Blair's 'get 'em young' plans to slap ASBOs on feisty foetuses. Hey, at least that's consistent - if cell clusters have the right not to suffer indirect abuse via the umbilical, they should also be tried as adults. You could have a crèche for the jury. Anyway - despite the inevitable uproar that greeted his typically poorly-expressed, alarmist-friendly musings, it is hard to disagree *entirely* with the theory. You *can* identify likely candidates for future bother, whether or not you should do anything to try and avert what remains only theoretical badness.

More importantly, Blair's wizard wheeze makes you think that at least, if politicians begin to look past already lost-cause teenagers to evil children, past them to disconcerting teddy-ripping toddlers and up into the sleazy fleshbag from whence they came, they will eventually end up at the conception stage. Which means - dare we dream? - a healthier attitude towards sex education, and a genuine, practical, unflinching effort to help teenagers avoid pregnancy in the first place. That's what we call a real long-term solution to societal shitstorm. At least we know that we're a faltering bootee-step nearer that than our increasingly antediluvian pals across the pond.

How can you escape this encroaching womb-fascism? The only solution is to consider yourself, as you literally are, pre-dead. Then none of this monkeyshine matters a damn.



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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