Good, Law, and Morality

You would have thought the Prohibition on alcohol could have taught us an important lesson as a nation regarding prohibitive law and the decisions people make at the physical and moral levels of personal identity. Legislating morality has been historically in this democracy at very high risk to be the on-ramp to chaos and violence.  A child therapist once said as a warning to parents “beware of smooth muscle conflicts with your children”.  At first, the parental response is: “What are you talking about?” but upon reflection it begins to make sense.  The smooth muscles in our body are associated with the involuntary functions. These functions occur largely outside of conscious awareness and support such activities as eating, cardio/vascular, and sex to name an important few.  While a parent can’t avoid smooth muscles issues in raising children, the solution is not in the ‘arm wrestling match’ sponsored by striated muscle. This striated muscle approach to child rearing frequently leads to counseling for parents and children and in some tragic circumstances child protective services. The public reaction to the muscled alcohol Prohibition was a concerted response that inspired an underground alcohol economy supported by criminal networks and reinforced by violence.  Meanwhile people drank slightly reduced quality alcohol in almost gleeful defiance to a law intended to improve the morality of the nation.  Eventually the country’s law enforcement capacity failed to to win this smooth muscle battle no matter how much power was brought to the battle.  

Then came the War on Drugs and “just say no”. At first the striated muscle approach was paraded out in the form of massive drug use prevention enforcement agencies. This approach yielded symbolic victories, but the river of drugs kept flowing into our nation while part of the nation’s wealth was funneled into the jungles of Mexico and Colombia. When the opioid epidemic struck this country across race, gender and class with no end in sight, the muscular approach to Prevention called the ‘War on Drugs’ hit the wall. The data supported the Harm Reduction approach which was more effective. Among many other things Harm Reduction provided medically supported off-ramps to the addicts seeking an exit from their own internal tyrannies.

As various states once again line up “striated muscle” legislation to channel behavior in the arena of women’s health care we can already see a quasi-medical underground forming. The needed services this underground provides would rather be experienced as genuinely medical, but the true medical support is becoming perceived to be, if not actually, illegal. Can we predict what is going to happen next? Yes, we can predict based on the what has begun to happen to date. I am afraid we will see more division, tragic injustice, and strains of criminality taking advantage of human desperation. This trend will deepen until such time as we return care to the accessible, compassionate support of our nation’s medical providers. The history of legislating morality couldn’t be clearer with the evidence. 

We seem to be frightened of our better natures. Our response to that fear of our more gentle side seems to a collective conclusion that our better natures are futile in this hard power, striated world. This is not the case. Our better natures can gain their power if they can consolidate their formal power at the local level and subsequently impact the federal. Playing capture the flag at the federal level will not work for either side of this issue.

Katie Hyten wrote an article in The Fulcrum entitled: The end of Roe can be the beginning of healthier politics of abortion. Whether it actually results in healthier politics or not depends on us at the individual level. I will include a link to her advice that she organizes under three brief headings regarding future conversations on the topic of women’s health: 1) Reflect your own views. 2) Make your purpose clear, and 3) embrace the personal. 

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