When Ruth Bader-Ginsburg died, CC Pecknold, a right wing Catholic who writes for the septic tank of white Christian nationalism that was once First Things tweeted this out:
“At the right-wing Christian site Stream, John Zmirak speculated God killed Ginsburg “… at just this moment for some special reason,” giving the president an opportunity to dramatically alter the court in a way that would please Christians.”
He was joined by various other Christians in nakedly celebrating the death of a prominent Jew. It was… not edifying, but it was instructive because it points to one of the many problems that are going to arise as the nuts in the MAGA Cult attempt the project of wreaking vengeance and punishment on those who do not share their views on abortion.
The problem is sketched in brief by a Jewish reader of mine. He notes:
The Jewish understanding of the morality of abortion is complicated. Reform and most Conservative Jews consider it a matter of choice, as forcing a woman to carry a fetus to term against her will violates her autonomy and dignity as a human being, and these branches of Judaism — and even Orthodox Judaism, to an extent — increasingly believe that defending the autonomy and dignity of each individual is the fundamental point of the religion.
Orthodox Jews mostly oppose abortion, except when necessary to save the mother’s life. A fetus that threatens its mother’s life is deemed a “rodef” — usually translated as “pursuer,” but a more pointed translation would be “assassin” — and can be justifiably killed.
A law that outlaws all abortions without exception violates the religious beliefs and rights of Jewish people.
And that brings us back to the celebration of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by prominent Christians calling her a witch (a term with a rich heritage in Christian attitudes toward Jews dating back centuries) and rejoicing that God killed her. The deployment of such casually dehumanizing language by the “prolife” community, particularly as they smell the chance to finally wreak the vengeance of the law on “blood-drinking babykillers” (a term that has significant overlap between the Christian epithets for Jews and QANON/MAGA “prolife” epithets for pro-choice people) is fraught with danger. The “prolife” community, filled with the false conviction that people like Ginsburg just want to kill as many babies as they can, tend to overlook the reality that the goal of people like Ginsburg (in accord with the Judaism in which she was raised) is not “babykilling” but protection of the rights of persons her religious tradition has always prioritized. So stories like this make perfect sense within that tradition and are only a surprise to radicalized Christians who have convinced themselves of the “fanatical babykiller” bogeywoman of their fantasies:
“It’s disheartening to see the “Pro-life” response to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. It’s very clear that the folks who think RBG was a vehement “baby killer” have never heard of the name Susan Struck.
In the 1960s & 1970s, before Roe vs Wade, abortion was not only legal on US military bases, it was actively ENCOURAGED and basically mandated. Yes, really.
Captain Susan Struck was a combat nurse in Vietnam. When she got pregnant in 1970, the Air Force starkly gave her two choices. Get an abortion or be discharged. Struck wanted to keep her baby. So she was kicked out of the service.
When she got back to the US, Struck sued the US Government for putting women in such a horrible position that they had to choose between either not being able to serve their country or getting an abortion that they didn’t want.
Do you know which ACLU lawyer took her case and got the military to change their policy?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ginsburg approached this case with the same tenacity she would later use to help Congress draft the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. In the dark days after Roe in 1973, it was perfectly legal for employers in many states to put women in the same situation that Struck was put in–“deal with your pregnancy” or suffer the consequences of a lost job, responsibilities or pay.
Ginsburg fought for the rights of women to choose life. She also fought for the rights of women to be able to work without discrimination, purchase homes, have bank accounts and a myriad of other things that make it easier for women in desperate situations to choose life in the first place.
Life is never as black & white or simple as it looks through a myopic lens. It’s never either/or. There’s always “ands” and “buts” to everything.
So before you paint Ginsburg as some satanic villain, at least acknowledge the many abortions that likely DIDN’T happen because of her tireless advocacy for women and families.”
In the prolife dog’s quest to catch the car of overturning Roe for fifty years, the rhetoric of “bloodthirsty baby-killers” has gotten more and more heated and reckless from conservative Christians while there has been almost no engagement by them with the reality of the complexity of Jewish (or other religious traditions, such as Muslim) thought on this question. The braindead assumption that “real Jews” agree 100% with conservative Christians on this and all the rest of Jews are basically just “fake liberal Jews” is one of the greatest havens for anti-semitism in American conservative political discourse. It does not even occur to most conservative prolife Christians, in my experience, to think for one second that Jews who are pro-choice are, by the lights of their Tradition, being faithful to that tradition and not some sort of apostate they can write off and wish into hell without a thought.
And that means there is a huge train wreck ahead when GOP dolts, with the passionate approval of vengeful MAGA Christians, have the bright idea of rounding up, jailing, and (if the wack jobs in the Cult have their way), executing for murder the gynecology, obstetric, and pediatric staffs of every hospital that has ever trained or performed abortions (as the nuts in the MAGA “prolife” cult of death are already urging in their struggle for demagogic dominance over sane Consistent Life Ethic people:
If the spectacle of 13% of the population calling for the imprisonment and possible execution of Jews for living according to their religious beliefs troubles you, consider also the effect on the infant, maternal, and child mortality rates when the bulk of the medical professionals competent to deal with their health needs are all imprisoned or hanged for murder.
Criminalizing abortion is an idea so stupid and dangerous that only the people who have been so wrong about so much so many times for so long–MAGA Christians–could possibly think it was either good or smart.
Tomorrow, I will address the incredible question slowly forming in the crazed brains of so-called “prolife” people who have battled the Consistent Life Ethic for forty years: namely, “Well, gosh, Mark! If we can’t even launch a pogrom against mothers and doctors and nurses to stop abortion, what else is there?”
Update: I posted this several weeks ago to run today. Two days ago, the story broke that a Florida synagogue is filing suit against Florida on the grounds that their religious liberty is being infringed by a new abortion law. Not to say “Toldja so”, but, well, toldja so.
“In Jewish law, abortion is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman, or for many other reasons not permitted under the act [the new law]. As such, the act prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and thus violates their privacy rights and religious freedom.”