BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.
I spent some time thinking about what was going through this Wingnut State Senator's mind when he said this. Yes, I think he was certainly acting out a certain fantasy of his own--after all, you don't have that much graphic detail on a subject without having given it some serious contemplation first--but I thought it had to be more than that.
And now, I think I've hit upon it--it's a desperate attempt to bridge the irreconcilable contradictions in the anti-abortion movement that the South Dakota ban has exposed.
Let's start by summarizing the basic philosophies of the two camps that have united to oppose abortion in this country.
The first--I'll call it PRO-ZYGOTE--is based purely on theological speculation: life begins at conception, and therefore, abortion is equivalent to murder. No exceptions can therefore be provided for rape or incest, as the circumstances surrounding the creation of life do not impinge on the value of the life itself. This position, while fundamentalist, is intellectually consistent.
The problems, however, are numerous: first and foremost, it isn't very popular in and of itself to oppose abortion in all cases. Second, this theological speculation leads to a host of other complications--for instance, a need to oppose stem cell research, therapeutic cloning, and conception assistance through fertility clinics, as all these medicinal practices may potentially involve the creation and destruction of human blastocysts.
The second--I'll call it PRO-PUNISHMENT--is different: this movement believes that pregnancy is a fair consequence for immoral, lascivious women--especially young women--who couldn't keep their panties on. This group allows for exemptions for rape or incest because presumably, if you're raped, it wasn't your fault, so you don't deserve to be punished by the pregnancy. This is the "abortion is a convenience" crowd, exemplfied by the quote from Wingnut Bill Napoli above.
Unfortunately for them, it's not too popular either to say, "I believe women who sleep around should be forced to stay pregnant and potentially ruin their life as punishment for their immorality"--so this crowd has latched onto the more popular "think of the baby" position to get their point across.
Important point: Both groups generally support an exemption for the life of the mother. After all, what's the point of ending one life to preserve another one?
But even though both sides spew the same "killing an unborn child" rhetoric, there is a strong dichotomy between them. The theological dogma fundamentalists are at odds with the Moral Majority fundamentalists over the exemptions for rape and incest, and the new South Dakota law is bringing this to a head.
The South Dakota bill--spurred on by anti-abortion activists of the first variety, and thus not containing any exemption for rape or incest--has obviously raised some concern among the "abortion as a convenience" anti-choice crowd, which is singularly aware that this bill will have very negative repercussions with regard to public opinion because it will expose the anti-abortion movement for the fundamentalism it really is.
This second group I referred to is also concerned because they still want their daughters to be able to get abortions if they're raped and it's not their fault--even though they'll disown them if it resulted for a consensual encounter.
So they have a paradox, because this second group needs to come up with something that meets the following criteria:
1) Allows their daughters to get abortions if they're raped;
2) doesn't openly conflict with the pro-zygote agenda whose coattails they've been riding;
3) can distinguish between "good girls" who don't deserve to be punished, as opposed to "bad girls" who do.
From a logical standpoint, there's only one way to do this: SINGLE OUT THE GOOD CHRISTIAN VIRGIN GIRLS AS THE ONLY GROUP OF WOMEN WHO WOULD BE SO TRAUMATIZED BY A RAPE-INDUCED PREGNANCY THAT THEY MIGHT JUST KILL THEMSELVES. That way, you don't need to have an exemption for rape or incest any more--you can just claim a "health of the mother" exemption on psychological grounds, but only for the good, Christian girls who deserved it.
Bill Napoli's cultish rant describing the scenarios that might qualify for permission for an abortion isn't the lunacy of some repressed wacko--it's actually the only thing the South Dakota abortion bill supporters can say to keep their constituency together. After all, group 2 won't support a bill with no rape exemption--unless you give a rape exemption only to good, virgin Christian girls and call it something else.
[Cross-posted on Daily Kos]