Several recent items about two topics recently struck me as similar in the way some conservatives deny their reality or think they can simply wish them away.
In Chechnya, there have been reports in recent weeks that authorities are rounding up gays (by tricking them via social networking sites) and subjecting them to torture, even murder.
Chechnya denies the reports, because there are no gays in Chechnya.
The spokesman, Alvi Karimov, had been asserting that the authorities could not be arresting gay men because gay men did not exist in Chechnya. “I said before, and I repeat now, in Chechnya we just don’t have this problem,” Mr. Karimov told me.
That spokesman may be sincere: he may honestly believe that gay men, as he understands them from the western news media, don’t exist in his conservative Muslim country. At the same time, anyone not blinkered by conservative religion or local monoculture likely understands that gays have existed (if often ‘in the closet’) throughout history, in all cultures; they are the result of a variability in human sexuality that is fundamental to human nature, even if its expression across cultures has varied widely.
Or are there gays but they’re about to be eliminated? President of Chechnya Intends to Eliminate All Gay Men There by Ramadan. They should get their story straight.
Similarly, conservatives think they can make abortions go away if they just repeal Roe v. Wade and/or pass enough restrictive laws to make it as difficult as possible for women to get an abortion. But of course such efforts won’t work: like it or not, women throughout history have occasionally been put in situations in which there seems no better option than to terminate a pregnancy. Laws won’t make such circumstances go away; they will merely drive the procedure underground, making it far more dangerous for the women’s survival.
That is the story of Jane, an underground group in Chicago that carried out thousands of abortions between 1969 and 1973, when abortion was illegal. It’s a story of code names and safe houses, a story of women taking control of their lives and teaching other women to do the same.
Abortion providers and the women they serve now fear that such an underground service may again become necessary. Abortion remains legal, but one conservative justice has just joined the Supreme Court and many are concerned that another will follow. This month the president signed a bill to cut funding to Planned Parenthood and other providers. Many states have enacted laws that make obtaining an abortion exceedingly difficult: About 90 percent of counties have no abortion clinics. In many areas, the procedure is nearly as inaccessible as it was in the days of Jane.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Kristof visits Haiti to see the effects of the US denying funds to a UN agency that provides contraception and abortions, and asks, Trump Thinks This Is Pro-Life?
When President Trump and his (male) aides sit at a conference table deciding to cut off money to women’s health programs abroad, they call it a “pro-life” move.
Yet here in Haiti, I’ll tell you the result: Impoverished women suffer ghastly injuries and excruciating deaths. Washington’s new women’s health policies should be called “pro-death.”
The birth control provided by the U.N. Population Fund averted more than 3.7 million abortions last year alone, health advocates say. So if you’re against abortion, you should support the U.N. Population Fund, not try to destroy it.
To reduce abortions, improve sex education and increase the availability of contraceptives. But religious conservatives are against those too. Expand the tribe at any expense, even the occasional dead mother?
A similar discussion could be made about the current efforts of transsexuals to be recognized, and treated fairly. (I admit the issue of transsexuals was not on my radar more than it was on anyone else’s, until recently.)
To me all these topics reflect the back and forth, but mostly progressive, arc of moral history: the expansion of the recognition of different kinds of people; the transition from thinking driven by religious suppression and magical thinking, to that informed by scientific understanding of human nature and the objective world. In one direction, gays and transsexuals and woman are treated as citizens worthy of self-expression and self-determination; in the other, we get Chechnya, or The Handmaid’s Tale.