For many years, conservatives have given considerable time and devotion to the cause of protecting the Second Amendment to the Constitution—the right to keep and bear arms. Equal time and devotion should now be given to the cause of protecting one of our rights under the First Amendment—the right to religious liberty. Most conservatives have chosen to go the other way, however, giving adamant support to the proposed antiabortion amendment, an amendment based solely on religious dogma—dogma not belonging to the Constitution of a free people. It is to those conservatives that I address this lament.
As a conservative, I stand opposed to any amendment infringing upon my present rights; as a woman, I stand opposed to any amendment restricting my right to protect my health; and, above all, as an American, I stand opposed to any amendment providing the means for religious tyranny to enter into the affairs of state.
It is, therefore, with no small amount of consternation that I watch you, my old conservative friends, so vociferously thumbing your noses at the first clause of the First Amendment—the separation of church and state.
What is even more dismaying is that you are destroying the First Amendment by marshaling the same tactics we used successfully to preserve the Second Amendment. Had I not once been on "the other side," perhaps the situation would not appear so perplexing.
"Nazis!" we shouted then. "First gun registration, then the brown shirts in the night."
"Nazis!" you shout now. "First abortion, then the ovens."
As I read the chapter "The Family" from Richard Grunberger's The 12-Year Reich, some of the words echoed an all too familiar tune: "the new regime proved its claim to be better protectors of family life by imposing harsh curbs on equality for women, abortion, homosexuality and (conspicuous) prostitution…immediately after the seizure of power the advertisement and display of contraceptives was banned…and all birth control clinics were closed down. Abortions were termed 'acts of sabotage' against Germany's racial future, involving commensurately heavy punishment.…"
But we must not pause too long to burden our minds with the facts; let us return to our slogans.
One of the slogans of the gun lobby is: "Why outlaw guns? The criminal will always be able to get a gun." Yes,he will, my friends—except under an absolute dictatorship. For example, it is not a difficult task for criminals to clandestinely manufacture guns and peddle them through the black market.
Now I ask you: "Why outlaw abortions? A woman will always be able to get an abortion." Yes, she will—except under an absolute dictatorship. For example, the rich will be able to go to another country for an abortion, and the poor will still resort to their do-it-yourself or back-alley abortions.
We thought it an injustice for people to imply that only the ignorant or the violent keep guns. On the other hand, I think it is an equal injustice for you to imply that only the immoral or the uncaring seek abortion.
I recall, there was much slapping of the right thigh when some of us sat one night and listened to some "damned fool woman" state how it was "dreadful about all those big, grown men running around the country killing those poor little skeet." Recently when I listened to you state that under the proposed antiabortion amendment "the body and life of the mother are only involved indirectly," I was slapping the other thigh.
Further insulting my intelligence, you go on to say that meaningful life begins at conception. Does it, my friends? Why? Because you say so; furthermore, you can prove it by showing me a movie on the development of a fetus.
At this point, I think it is not impertinent to ask the question, "Where do babies come from?"
From meaningless life, you say. Oh?
You didn't say that? But you have just told me meaningful life begins at conception; hence, I must assume that the sperm before it unites with the egg to form a zygote is meaningless life.
Ah, wait a minute. I think I'm catching on. The sperm is part of a man's body; the ovum, part of a woman's body. But what if a man damages his half of the zygote before it unites with the woman's half, thus causing the eventual spontaneous abortion of a "meaningful life?"
Well, goes the reply, a man has a right to do what he wants concerning his own body (including the right to shoot a prowler if he decides such prowler might do him some bodily harm). Anyway, you're not talking about spontaneous abortion, you say.
I know you're not, that's why I am. For carried to its ultimate conclusion, your proposed antiabortion amendment should, I think, be called The Bedroom Amendment.
If it is logical to argue that the next step after the banning of handguns would be the banning of shotguns and rifles, is it not logical to argue that the next step after the banning of induced abortions would be an attempt to ban or forcibly control spontaneous abortions? Because abortion is a religious, sexual taboo, government must eventually intrude into the "affairs of the bedroom" if there is to be effective abortion control.
What are the causes of spontaneous abortion? In his article "polluted Genes" (North American Newspaper Alliance) Jon Frederics points out that "a man's heavy drinking habits may lead to birth defects, spontaneous abortions, and other bodily abnormalities." Perhaps future research will show that many of our personal habits infringe upon "the welfare and rights of the unborn."
The future. What lies ahead for those of us who love liberty?
Man does not have the gift of being able to see into the future; therefore, he must study the history of mankind and draw from the lessons history teaches.
Studying the history of mankind leads me to believe that it is man's nature to revel in the barbarity of religious oppression. I can only conclude that you will have laid the foundation for religious oppression if your proposed antiabortion amendment becomes a part of our Constitution. History teaches me many will come along to build on this foundation. What then of our guns, which we say we keep to defend our guaranteed freedoms? There will be no further use for them, for you yourselves will have destroyed individual liberty, from within.
But, you ask, what has all this to do with the killing of "innocent little babies?"
Nothing, as far as I can see. The issue in question is freedom. The proposed antiabortion amendment ignores the cornerstone of freedom: the individual—neither the church nor the state—must make the decisions concerning his own body. As the master makes the decisions concerning the slave's body, thus the dictatorial state makes the decisions concerning man's body.
If you insist, however, let us speak of the killing of innocent babies: the millions of babies that have been killed throughout history by man's wars and man's cruelty.
Ah, but this is all right, you say. Man may kill babies in the name of war, and besides, wars are fought in the name of religion.
Yes, some of them have been. But am I to believe that in the name of religion, a woman—perhaps sick, haggard, and worn or perhaps with greater purposes than motherhood—must, should be forced to go through with, pregnancy?
Of course. Unless man, in the name of religion, goes to war; then it is justifiable with the instruments of war—bombing and burning, disease and desolation, heartbreak and hell—to do this woman enough harm to cause her to abort.
When I listened closely to the argument of the pro-gun-control crowd, I decided what they meant was gun confiscation. Now I have listened closely to your antiabortion argument, and I have decided what you mean is this: sex is sin; pregnancy is a woman's punishment for her part in this sin.
Listen to yourselves: "Selfish women." "Virgin Mary didn't do that." "For a man having a gun. Against a woman having an abortion." "God will judge."
Oh, you can parade your grave concern for these innocent little "unborn children." But, my conservative friends, I think I know you better than that. I wonder what you would say to a bill that stated: "No firearm may be kept in any dwelling where one of the occupants therein is a minor."
It might save one child from a tragic accident. But you seem to be more concerned with the rights of the "unborn" child—from the moment of conception.
Seemingly obsessed with the phrase "moment of conception" and determined that I should abide by your religious dogma—dogma asserting that I was a person from the moment of conception—you antiabortionists try to pass legislation which in effect states that my soul entered my body at the moment of conception. Or am I to believe I was once a person without a soul?
Furthermore, not content with trying to write your own religious beliefs into the Constitution, you also try to distort the religious beliefs of my forefathers (and foremothers), apparently expecting me to believe that their views were the same as yours are.
In spite of your sanctimonious asseverations, however, I find evidence that many of our country's founders were inclined to be neither straitlaced nor superstitious: Thomas Jefferson doubted the virgin birth; Sarah Harrison refused to repeat the word "obey" at her marriage ceremony; John Randolph (of Roanoke) believed occasionally in God, frequently in Christ, and always in John Randolph; and although Elizabeth Blair had 19 children, I can only conjecture whether this was due to the presence of piety or the absence of the pill.
Nevertheless, you keep marching.Yet, it seems to me, you are trying to march in one direction while facing in the opposite direction.
Two hundred years ago, a few men defied a religious belief: the belief that a king had the divine right to rule over the common man. And as a result of their defiance, the common man in this country at last became equal to a king.
Equal to a king! Now the common man was to control his own destiny, his own body, his own thoughts.
One symbol, and more than a symbol, of this new equality was the gun. The right of the common man to own a gun (the right of the people to keep and bear arms) was acknowledged—he alone was to make the decisions concerning the protection of his own body.
The ideas held by these few men were new—revolutionary. Yes, these were gallant men, searching for better answers instead of echoing the old ways. What dreams they had of new health, new freedom, new courage to end some of the suffering that had long plagued this miserable human race.
But what is it I hear today—this brazen hypocrisy, this disdain for women—where will it lead?
"In trying to legislate gun control, Congress is trying to legislate morals." "Congress can't legislate morals, the criminal won't obey the laws." "If a woman's not ready to pay, she shouldn't play."
I see a woman, she stands in the doorway of a little shack. Around her are gathered several small children, dirty and sad; their little faces reflect none of the pleasures of childhood.
At her sagging breast, a baby sucks, fighting for the nourishment which is not there.
She looks away from her children, far away; her eyes mirror all the misery of the world.
She will not be with us long, this one; Fate will soon carry her away.
The kings! They will do something for her, someday—take up a church offering, or develop a new fertilizer, maybe.
Poor wretched soul, had it but once drunk from the golden cup of liberty and tasted the sweet joy of being equal to a king.
Oh, we could have some splendid times together on this one; I will miss you as I go on alone. But as you turn and go the other way, farewell, old friends.
A native of Hazard, Kentucky, Beverly Combs is a descendant of several old and famous Virginia families and is a tenth-generation grand-daughter of the American Indian princess Pocahontas. Ms. Combs travels widely and has resided in eleven states and two foreign countries. She has two children.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "If You Liked Gun Control, You'll Love the Antiabortion Amendment".