In Germany, first they came for the women …
In Pastor Niemoller’s famous quote, the Nazis came first for the communists, and he didn’t speak up because he wasn’t a communist. I’m not one to disagree with Pastor Niemoller, and I’m not an expert on the chronology of Nazi persecution, but he left out several groups. Very early in Hitler’s reign, the Nazis targeted women, and specifically women’s reproductive rights. So when our new regime sets out to defund Planned Parenthood[i] before Trump is even inaugurated, warning bells start clanging loudly in my head.In May 1933, just after taking power, the Nazis updated a law banning abortions, including punishments for the woman and her doctor. (In an interview with Chris Matthews last summer, Trump advocated something similar.[ii]) The Nazis also expanded the law to include prison sentences for anyone who advertised abortion services or recommended an abortion. A few months later, the Nazis went on to pass a law authorizing forced sterilizations of those deemed “unfit.” They also passed laws which offered special loans to newlyweds if the women gave up their jobs to dedicate themselves to being wives and mothers, and later celebrated Mother’s Day as a national holiday and created a special award for women who had more than four children.[iii] Other laws marginalized single women as wards of the state, banned all women from the professions and drastically limited opportunities for women in higher education. The Nazis even attempted to influence clothing and hairstyles to encourage femininity.[iv]
Forcing Aryan women to reproduce and banning non-Aryan women from reproducing both fit into Hitler’s view of racial engineering. His other policies regarding women can also be “understood” in the general framework of his master plan. In similar ways we can “understand” China’s one-child policy in the face of over population, and we can “understand” pro-reproductive policies in France after the devastation of World War I.
But what about our own country? In the United States today, what is the interest of the state in controlling reproduction? Seriously … think about it. Don’t get distracted by the false narratives of the culture wars. Why should the government of the United States be interested in controlling reproduction?
I don’t have the answer, and my speculation leads down some admittedly crazy roads. We live in a world which is overpopulated, so it would make sense to discourage reproduction. We live in a country in which there are more people than jobs, in which resources are already stretched, so it would make sense to discourage reproduction ... IF you want everyone to be properly housed, fed, educated, and able to find employment.
So to have a government which is actively trying to limit access to not only abortion, but also birth control and sex ed? That is counterintuitive. Unless you want that overpopulation. Unless you want a working class which is struggling just to survive. Unless your goal is to keep people so desperate, to make their lives so tenuous, that they will do whatever you want just to live, just to keep their families alive.
Of course, if that’s what you want, you would also want to eliminate the minimum wage; reduce the power of labor unions; destroy the social safety net (unemployment, social security, food stamps, etc.); defund public education; and probably build a wall to keep people from escaping.
But first, you’d come for the women ….
[iii] J. Llewellyn et al, “Women in Nazi Germany”, Alpha History, accessed Jan. 9, 2017, http://alphahistory.com/nazigermany/women-in-nazi-germany/.