If a picture is worth a thousand words, an insightful editorial cartoon can be worth 10,000. One of my all-time favorites was created by Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist Berkeley Breathed for his comic strip “Bloom County.” It depicts police rousting an unsuspecting man out of bed in the middle of the night while his knowing young son, Boy Binkley, looks on. Boy Binkley, we learn, has reported his father for using drugs. As he handcuffs Binkley Senior, a detective remarks, “Mister, your son must love you very much to have you put in jail for ten years.” In the final panel, Boy Binkley is called upon to identify the drugs involved: “Tobacco, caffeine, Schlitz, you name it,” he reports.
Readers of a certain age may recall the inspiration for the cartoon. It appeared in 1986 shortly after a 13-year-old girl won President Reagan’s praise for informing on her drug-using parents. The girl, who soon found herself in foster care, must have had second thoughts about enlisting in Nancy Reagan’s War on Drugs.
I was reminded of that cartoon and of that overzealous young girl by the new Texas anti-abortion law that deputizes ordinary citizens to act as pro-life bounty hunters. The “evil genius” of this law, as one pundit put it, is to relieve the government from the responsibility of enforcing the Texas ban on abortion past the six-week point, effectively insulating the law from legal challenge. Any Texan intent on reaping a $10,000 bounty can haul into court anyone suspected of performing, obtaining, or helping a woman obtain an abortion past the Texas legal limit. As I understand it, merely driving a woman to an abortion clinic can put one in legal jeopardy in Texas. Other red states are sure to follow suit.
Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, or indifferent to the issue, you should be appalled by how Texas intends to enforce its new abortion law. In Hitler’s Germany and in communist-bloc countries, people were encouraged to inform on family members, friends, and neighbors for making disloyal statements, engaging in forbidden activities, or displaying incorrect attitudes. Is this the sort of police-state vigilance we should condone in America?
I believe the great majority of women don’t view abortion as a fallback method of birth control and that most who opt to terminate a pregnancy are profoundly affected by the experience. In cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormality, and danger to the mother, abortion impresses me as the lesser of the evils and often the kindest option. For my part, I could wish that every woman confronted with an unwanted pregnancy would opt for adoption.
But where I really part company with the pro-life extremists in Texas is whether abortion is equivalent to the serious crimes often solved by offering rewards. Texas has put a new spin on the wages of sin. And if those who would collect such wages profess to be Christians, they must have forgotten the Christian admonition about hating the sin but loving the sinner.
A former enlisted Marine and a Vietnam veteran, Palm retired from the Marine Corps as a major and went on to an academic career. He lives in Forest and can be contacted at email@example.com.
Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, or indifferent to the issue, you should be appalled by how Texas intends to enforce its new abortion law.