How Can We Protect Human Life?
I had planned to write about Huntington Theatre’s impressive and rich production of Common Ground Revisited this morning. With some twelve performers, this dramatic recreation of J. Anthony Lukas’s Pulitzer Prize winning account explores the impact of mandated school busing on the lives of three Boston families and their larger communities. The show begins with a powerful discussion of what “Boston” means (it’s really just a collection of small towns) and what it means to be from Boston or to be of Boston. It moves on to examine the aspirations of a working-class Irish family in Charlestown, a working-class Black family living in a now-demolished housing project in Roxbury, and a Harvard-educated middle-class white family who move into the then-gentrifying South End.
I had never read Common Ground, though it has been on my “list” for years. I had heard many things about its depictions of Boston’s bussing crisis. I came away from the theatrical presentation with greater sympathy for all parties, but I don’t think it can be denied that those who suffered most were the Black family, those who were part of the demographic mandated busing was meant to promote. Late in the play we learn of the trauma suffered by one of the family’s daughters after her mother gives up her baby (born as the result of a sexual assault when the girl was thirteen) for adoption without consulting her. (Not mentioned in the play or the book, but worth knowing, is that the identity of that baby was revealed in 2021 to be former Boston Council member Tito Jackson, who reunited with his birth mother in that year.)
It’s worth recalling that much of the conflict over bussing in Boston was triggered by a federal court ruling in 1974 (though of course there had been racial tensions and inequalities in Boston for many decades and centuries prior to 1974), and that is what brings me to the topic that occupies me today—the twin Supreme Court rulings that on the one hand remove the power of the states to regulate guns and on the other hand claim that only the states have the power to protect women’s reproductive freedom. This hypocrisy is further mirrored in the idea that taking away women’s power to make their own health choices protects children, while allowing the greater proliferation of guns in a society where we have seen, again and again, children shot in cold blood in their classrooms. I won’t even mention the number of children, unarmed, shot and harrassed by police or self-appointed deputies, those who fall victim to street violence, or those who lack access to adequate nutrition, housing, or health care.
The claim that the Supreme Court justices who made this ruling have any real concern for “unborn children” (a ridiculous term for non-viable fetuses) through the overturning of Roe v. Wade is an insult to those who do the hard work of going through pregnancy, giving birth, and caring for children. If the Supreme Court and the supposed right-to-life activists who cheer this decision were truly concerned about unborn children they would be looking at ways to expand access to child care, health care, nutrition, and housing. Study after study has shown that the main cause of abortion is poverty.
And there is of course the concern that a refusal to recognize the right to make personal health care decisions because it is not explicitly stated in the Constitution (one can argue that it is covered in the Declaration of Independence phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”—but this Court might claim that that applies only to men), nor does the Constitution recognize the right to make choices regarding a choice of marriage partner or whether or not to use contraception.
Anti-abortion activists should think of this as well: a government that claims the power to ban abortion may just as well claim the power to mandate abortions, as was done under China’s “one child” policy or forced sterilizations, as were carried out against African American and Native American women in the United States in the twentieth century.