“What we are dealing with today is the greatest power grab by the federal government since the war of northern aggression,” [Representative Bryan] Stevenson said, R-Webb City, referring what Southern states called the North’s attempt to end slavery in the 1860s.
The remark caused a sudden gasp heard throughout the House’s chamber.
What Stevenson was referring to was the Freedom of Choice Act, legislation that President Obama supports that would essentially repeal the Bush-era Federal Abortion Ban. Since the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that decriminalized abortion, the Religious Right has done everything they can to recriminalize the procedure. This has included some surprisingly sleazy tactics, including the murder of doctors who perform abortions, as well as outright subversion of the democratic process.
Although most would have considered Stevenson’s remarks merely exaggerated hyperbole, they actually constitute rather a profound Freudian slip. In case you are not familiar with the term, a Freudian slip is when subconscious forces cause the truth to slip out, despite one’s conscious attempt to suppress it. To Stevenson and those who think like him, the “war of northern aggression” remains a central part of their psychological dynamic and social agenda.
The modern Christian Right was born following the south’s loss at the end of the Civil War. It was a direct response to the abolition of slavery, which the south had defended on religious grounds for over 200 years. To southern Christians, slavery was mandated by God, and racial hatred had become central to their “theology”. In essence, this construed a heresy, and it was around this heresy that the fundamentalist movement – the backbone of the Christian Right – formed in the closing decades of the 19th century.
(Racism also played – and continues to play – a significant role in the fundamentalists’ rejection of evolution by natural selection; any theory that implied that the hated blacks were equivalent to whites was blasphemous.)
Conservatives suffered a second profound loss during the Civil Rights Movement, when the system of racial apartheid that had been constructed in the south collapsed. Suddenly, it became politically suicidal to express openly racist viewpoints. Of course, the fundamentalist social movement adapted in an Orwellian fashion, adopting the use of code words and “dog whistles” to signal the real meaning of its words to its supporters. The movement has even attempted to rewrite their role in the maintenance and defense of slavery and racism, stating that Christianity was “always” opposed to slavery and it was the hateful “Darwinists” who actually supported the practice – even hundreds of years before the theory was even published.
Today, the Christian Right and the Republican Party at large, which the fundamentalists have thoroughly infiltrated, target new groups for oppression: homosexuals, immigrants, and women. It is that latter group which is the real target of anti-abortion laws, since the Feminist Movement was as much an embarrassment to the Christian Right as was the Civil Rights Movement.
Fundamentalists and their Republican puppets do not care about children, “unborn” or otherwise. Abortion is merely a backdoor they can use to reassert reproductive control over women; once women’s bodies once again belong to them, then they can work on the rest of the woman’s life. To them, this is merely one step toward reinstating the antebellum southern ideal that has become their mythical Golden Age. The Civil War may have ended the 1865, but the conservative movement continues to fight it. Like all fundamentalists, they are hopelessly trapped in the past.