Less than 20% of Americans oppose a woman’s right to control her own body. So why is the minority winning? In a democracy, where the votes of the majority elect lawmakers, how can the lawmakers pass laws that oppose the majority? This seems to happen often. Even in a democracy, the majority doesn’t control their lives, liberties, or ability to pursue happiness. Would this be different in a sociocratic democracy? (It would, of course, or I wouldn’t be writing this.)
Sociocracy is first of all about a person as a vital part of the whole. Individuals are expected to participate in their own interests, not just as part of the whole. This is not only an ethical principle, but it is also a recognition that harmony is the result of each person feeling respected. Each person is a source of a society’s energy and steadfastness. One desultory link weakens the others.
Sociocratic principles and practices are designed to ensure respect of the individual. This respect isn’t about values that are saluted but not practiced. Objections must be reasoned on facts and evidence but they must be recognized and addressed. Each decision has a clear purpose. Each proposal establishes methods for measurement and evaluation of results. The aim is not perfection but a forward movement with continuous improvement. Getting closer. Understanding more and acting on it.
Most importantly, sociocracy requires transparency, sometimes called radical transparency. Transparency ensures that everyone is acting on the same information. And it is necessary to ensure accountability. Following these requirements would strengthen democracy in practice.
Divisiveness is too often perpetuated in democracy
Pregnancy is one of the issues that reveal the weaknesses of democracy. A vocal and single-issue minority, setting itself apart from the whole, has claimed dominion over all others. Democracy doesn’t have a means of restoring balance. It has the next election to change faces and the judicial system, both take years. The lack of transparency in the apportioning of representation makes manipulation probable. And then voting is only as good as the proposals that can be gotten to a vote.
In a democracy entrenched in looking at itself in terms of the majority vs the minority, and the minority’s resulting need to disrupt creates factions. Legislators against each other. Legislators against the public. The public against the legislators. And all being very self-righteous about their own right to win.
Sociocracy begins with a different assumption. It doesn’t assume factions. And it doesn’t count the number of people in each faction so it can sway enough votes to win. It doesn’t set out rules like a tennis game. Sociocratic success comes from engaging the willing energy and support of each person working purposefully. Governing isn’t about satisfying factions or setting them up to compete with each other. It’s about recognizing that each person is a link in the chain, not just the strong ones or even the weak ones. Everyone.
No one is in favor of abortion
Arguments in favor of abortion are hard to defend—no one likes abortion. No one is marketing clinics claiming one is better than the other. To be an abortionist is not a noble goal. Abortion is as undesirable as the need for it is often desperate. Efforts to defend it waffle from one argument to the other. The issue enmeshed in moral tension until it becomes a quagmire.
Extreme anti-abortionist protesters throw blood at nurses entering Planned Parenthood clinics. They stalk doctors accusing them of murder, and even murdering them. Clinics need police barricades to prevent shouting protesters from attacking pregnant women, or women they assume are pregnant. Protesters pretend to be patients and plant bombs in clinics. Self-righteously, they call it murder.
Could any government, sociocratic or democratic, sort it out? The contradictions between arguments and actions defy reasoning. But this is where sociocracy is strong. It values and supports valid arguments and the ability to determine their validity.
Anti-abortionists use unquestionable faith, fake science, and hypothetical harm as arguments. These are assertions. Arguments arise out of reasoning. A set of reasons built on and in relation to each other. Reasons based on facts, evidence, experience, etc. Pretending that arguments based on lack of evidence are valid arguments perpetuates the illusion that anti-abortionists have good intentions. In effect, however, these are only emotional hooks that lure the support of the uneducated and waste the time and energy of the rest. These arguments are not valid. “Protecting life” is the anti-abortionist’s smoke screen.
Is anti-abortion even about abortion?
From 1996 to 2019, the number of abortions declined by 35%. It is reasonable to assume this pattern will continue. In Bogotá, Colombia, 20% of births are to teenagers, but one school of 4,000 students eliminated teen pregnancy. When it introduced a program for older students to talk to younger students about sex, pregnancies fell from 70 to zero—in one year. Zero. This is much more effective than threatening violence but the anti-abortion movement also opposes sex education.
In the last three months, five states have adopted the strictest anti-abortion laws since Roe vs Wade in was upheld in 1973. One of these laws prohibits abortion at six weeks before most women know they are pregnant. A second, if the fetus has a heartbeat. A third requires even victims of rape or incest to give birth regardless of age. And a fourth requires anyone performing an abortion to be sentenced to prison at least 10 years.
Four of the five states are in the south: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Kentucky. That is no coincidence. The area is rampant with misogyny and has the worst civil rights records in the United States. They also have the poorest educational systems. Of 50 states, all four are in the bottom 20. One is 46th, and another is 50th.
There are no people demonstrating in the streets to protect the sanctity of life of pregnant women. Defense of the sanctity of life doesn’t extend to death row prisoners or to refugees at the border, either. If eliminating abortion was the purpose, anti-abortionists would develop better options for truly protecting life.
The fear of pregnancy has been used for centuries as a weapon in the social control of women. If a woman became pregnant in violation of the rules, she would be socially ostracized if not stoned to death. There was no question that pregnancy was a punishment for her sin. Pregnancy has long been weaponized by society.
The control of women is apparent in the most seemingly insignificant laws and customs. Until the late 20th century, addressing a woman required knowing whether she was married or not—Miss or Mrs. In most states, women had to take their husband’s names after marriage and keep them after divorce. Married, a woman was Mrs. Richard Smith, and divorced, Mrs. Katherine Smith. When the amendment to the constitution granting women equal rights failed to be ratified, women began to change these laws one by one, state by state.
Pregnancy is the last women’s right that is still under state control.
In Alabama, performing or aiding an abortion is now a Class A Felony. It requires a prison sentence of not less than 10 or more than 99 years. “The Alabama Human Life Protection Act” defines a fetus as “a legal person” “for homicide purposes.” The definition of abortion is:
The use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance or device with the intent to terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be pregnant with knowledge that the termination by those means will with reasonable likelihood cause the death of the unborn child.
The law does not specify “doctor or other health care provider.” Almost 9 in 10 unwanted pregnancies occur in relationships. The Alabama Act could apply to a husband or parent who purchases abortion-inducing pills for a pregnant girl or woman. Could it apply to a partner who accompanies a girl or woman to a medical appointment, or pays the bill? According to Michelle Oberman and W. David Ball, both of whom teach criminal law, it is possible.
We are so comfortable with regulating women’s sexual behavior, but we’re shocked by the idea of doing it to men. Though it might seem strange to talk about men and abortion, it’s stranger not to, since women don’t have unwanted pregnancies without them.
Since the application of the Alabama law is not restricted to medical professionals, the responsibility for abortion is no longer hers or her doctors. restricting a woman’s right to decide how her body will be used may soon backfire. It will control more than a woman’s life and body.
How would a sociocratic democracy be different?
Democratic values are also sociocratic values, but in practice, democracy can’t guarantee rights based on these values. Reëlection is the only test of accountability. Statistics are too often sleight of hand instead of serious analysis. In sociocracy, proposals and arguments must be based on factual information. Feelings can also be the basis of perfectly valid objections—until they are used to limit the freedom and respect of another person. This is where the road divides.
In sociocracy, the person objecting must be objecting on the basis that the decision would inhibit their own ability to participate as an individual. Encroaches on their own freedom and ability.
Unintended and forced pregnancy results in social censure and emotional trauma for most women. And often unmanageable financial obligations. It is reasonable for anyone to choose not to perform abortions. Limiting that freedom would be as unsociocratic and undemocratic as limiting the freedom of a pregnant woman.
To be resolvable, an objection must be rational—reasoned and explained. Objections based on religious beliefs are in effect are vetos. They are unquestionable. To object in favor of protecting unborn lives requires a definition of alive—when does life begin? In scientific fields, life begins at conception without question. The courts define alive as viable. Viability has so many variables that it is hypothetical.
These objections are only relevant to the woman who is making a decision about her own body. Not as justification for others to control her body. No decision can be made about restricting abortion without first deciding a woman has no right to control her body.
The problem with “The Right to Choose”
First, anti-abortionists define abortion and secondly, argue it on the basis of their definition. Abortion is the murder of unborn innocents, without exception. To prove it, they offer false data, fake science, and disingenuous concern for women. They argue the dangers of abortion which are easily disproven. Pregnancy has a 14 times greater risk than abortion. Pregnancy can be dangerous.
Unfortunately, the movement may be getting stronger using the same invalid arguments they have used for decades.
The counter-argument, “The Right to Choose,” defines the issue as the right to choose an abortion or not to choose an abortion. Abortion is the subject. The woman is not. “The right to choose” dances around the argument the same way as “respect for the sanctity of life.” It sounds like support for life and freedom, but it isn’t.
The argument is about women having the right to control their own bodies. Full stop. No conditions. A woman has the right to object to anything that injures or invades her body, including pregnancy. Anti-abortionists know this is a dangerous argument. That’s why they avoid it. They can’t argue that women do not have the right to control their own bodies. That isn’t even democratic, much less sociocratic. To force a woman to become or remain pregnant is not respecting her individual rights. Once that right is established, the other arguments about alive, viable, husbands or parents rights, etc. become moot. They become individual, not government concerns.
Women must have, as men do, the right to make all decisions about their own bodies. Ignore all the filibustering.
Define the objection and make reasoned arguments.