Prurient Political Interests

Marriage & Sex

The first headline that caught my eye, this morning, was Greg Abbott’s mind-bending defense of banning gay marriage. It seems to go like this, in a nutshell (heavy on the nuts): “Texas’ same-sex marriage ban is ‘rationally related to the State’s interest in reducing unplanned out-of-wedlock births.’ How? ‘By channeling procreative heterosexual intercourse into marriage.'”

Wait, what? 

That has nothing to do with a rationale for banning gay marriage. Nor does it seem to provide some magical added incentive for straight couples to marry, thereby “channeling” their urge to replicate like bunnies into the State-sanctioned sex of married people. Next, they’ll try to reinstate laws requiring married people to do it missionary-style.

First, we’d have to presuppose that gay people, prohibited from marrying, would just give up and go, “Okay, I want a baby so bad I’m going to marry and have straight sex.” No, some gay couples do enjoy parenthood – just as they enjoy marriage – like the rest of us. Or not. It rightfully comes down to everyone making good, mature choices for themselves. What gay parents sometimes do is to adopt those little out-of-wedlock babies heterosexual couples gave up for adoption.

Second, we’d have to look at this historically – since when did the existence of marriage stop heterosexual people from having babies out of wedlock? When did it stop heterosexual married couples from conceiving children they didn’t want to have? When did it stop heterosexual couples from choosing to remain childless?

One thing’s for sure: When the government decides to poke its very large and ugly nose into our bedrooms, things get messy. Perhaps there would be less evil joy in exposing political sex scandals in the media if politicians would mind their own business?

The Unborn

The State has a legitimate interest in protecting all of its citizens: men, women, and children should all be considered equal under the law, for the purposes of that protection.

An unborn child is not yet a citizen. While it is wholly dependent on its mother’s body for its survival, it is a part of her, and is rightfully under her sole jurisdiction.

Is a fetus “human life”? I believe that the question of “when does life begin?” is less important than “when does personhood begin?” I believe all life has value. I do not believe that protecting “all life” is the rightful job of the government, and I question any interest the State purports to have in how it got to be in a woman’s womb, how long it remains (if it does at all), and how it is brought into the world – aside from its legitimate interest in protecting a woman or a born child from harm by others. In other words, the State has a real and legitimate interest in catching and prosecuting rapists, in establishing safe clinics to provide for maternal and fetal health (including ensuring good medical practices are followed during abortions and childbirth), and providing support for mothers and children in need.


If it is the State’s position that it should ban or criminalize abortion because of the sanctity of innocent unborn life, it should make no exceptions in cases of rape or incest, unless it also punishes the children of rapists, pedophiles, and murderers. For that matter, its jails should be full of the children of petty thieves and drug addicts. If its contention is that all fetuses are citizens and entitled to protection under the law, then it must also protect the offspring of rapists and incestuous relationships.

Is the argument Biblical, then? Sins of the fathers, and all that? If the argument is that abortion (except when punishing the offspring of the wrongdoer) contravenes the will of God, then the health of both mother and fetus, when the life of either is at risk, must also be left in the hands of God. We could carry that argument further: any medical intervention at all – cancer treatment, antibiotics for pneumonia, setting a broken leg, procreation with the aid of Viagra – may contravene the will of God.

Carried to its most logical conclusions, I think this line of reasoning would trouble even the most radically conservative politician.

This is why our country’s founders wisely did not establish a theocratic form of government, though they were guided – themselves – by their own faith and religious principles. They were not so far removed from the era in which minor disagreements with the Church could result in imprisonment, torture, or death. They understood why the Pilgrims risked illness and death and braved unimaginable hardships to settle this land, far across the Atlantic Ocean from their persecutors. Separation of Church and State is simple: You are free, in the U.S., to believe that I deserve to be burned at the stake for heresy. You are not free to tie me to a pole and light a fire under my feet.

Can the State, then, protect the unborn from being killed in contravention of the mother’s wishes? Of course. If a pregnant woman is attacked, and miscarries as a result, then it is her body that has been violated and the life within it cut short against her will. If someone commits murder in another country, that country has jurisdiction to try, convict, and carry out the sentence. The State has a legitimate interest in acting on behalf of the mother, so that she does not seek or pursue vigilante justice for the death of her unborn child.

You’d think our politicians didn’t have enough real work to do.


Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at For more information on her children's books, please visit
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