Often in the last few years we’ve seen abortion bills wrapped in the guise of preserving women’s health and safety, in ending discrimination, or on medically-disproven claims. So it’s almost refreshing to listen to Alabama State Senator Shadrack McGill admit that the motive for all of his abortion restrictions is that he thinks this is what God wants him to do.
Sen. McGill makes it clear in his remarks that his upcoming “personhood” bill is as much about starting a conversation about scripture as social policy, and he quotes that scripture a lot. Via the Daily Sentinel:
“Just based on the Scripture alone, the Psalm that talks about God knowing us before he placed us in our mother’s womb, is enough for me to know that that is a life inside of a mother,” said McGill, R-Macedonia.
“So my question concerning aborted babies is, where do they go, heaven or hell? I just want to know what [people’s] perspective is.”
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The senator said that, after prayer, he thinks life begins at the moment of fertilization, be it inside the mother or “creatively outside the mother’s womb.”
“That union between the sperm and the egg is where life begins, and maybe where God places his spirit inside that child, so to speak,” McGill said. “Therefore, I would hope that the legislation that we push in the future would state that all the eggs fertilized need to be placed in the mother’s womb.”
Lucky for Sen. McGill, his bible is pretty flexible when he wants it to be. After all, it is the same bible that he claims says that teacher salaries need to be low so only those who are called to the job will do it rather than those who might be attracted by money.
Still we can at least give Sen. McGill kudos for being honest about his motives. It’s far more than we can say about most of the rest of his anti-choice compatriots.
A Rewire investigation published earlier this year told the story of a 17-year-old girl and her mother who were targeted by an array of anti-choice activists who meddled in the teen's medical care, in an effort to thwart her ability to obtain an abortion. Stephen Crampton was at the center of this effort.
A Mississippi attorney who sent a threatening letter to an abortion clinic—falsely claiming that he represented a teen who was at the clinic attempting to obtain an abortion—is now running for election to that state’s supreme court.
Stephen Crampton has worked for multiple extremist Christian groups, including the Liberty Counsel and the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy.
A Rewireinvestigation published earlier this year told the story of a 17-year-old girl and her mother who were victimized by an array of anti-choice activists who meddled in the teen’s medical care, in an effort to thwart her ability to obtain an abortion.
The trouble began when the teen learned she was pregnant in February 2015, and confided in a teacher at her high school. That teacher told other staff members, setting off a chain of events that resulted in the teen being driven across state lines to a crisis pregnancy center—known as a CPC—without her mother’s knowledge or consent, where she was asked to sign a document indicating that if she were to seek an abortion, she was being coerced into it. The CPC then faxed that document to area clinics. When the mother and daughter, who together decided to terminate the pregnancy, then went to an abortion clinic, staff informed them that they could not perform the procedure because of the document. Police arrived and threatened the mother with charges of fetal homicide if the daughter went through with the abortion.
When mother and daughter returned to the clinic a few days later, staff there had received a letter from Crampton, in which he falsely asserted that he represented the young woman and that she was being coerced into having an abortion by her mother. Crampton threatened to take legal action against the staff at the clinic if they provided the care the teen sought. Clinic staff again declined to provide the abortion at that time.
Rewire‘s investigation found that the anti-choice group Life Dynamics produced the initial document, which purported to show that the pregnant person in question signed away their rights to an abortion. The form, which was faxed to multiple third parties, also included the teen’s full name, address, date of birth, and social security number.
After hiring an attorney, the girl’s mother was able to help the girl obtain an abortion. Crampton never returned the mother’s attorney’s calls or emails, the attorney told Rewire. Crampton also did not reply to Rewire’s multiple efforts to obtain his comments for the investigation.
Based in Tupelo, Mississippi, Crampton faces three competitors for the position on the court.
There is a bullet-pocked shelter. There are colorful baubles hanging on a wall. A lamp on a rickety table in the corner. And an Oscar-winning actress under a dirty plastic tub in the middle of the stage.
A devastatingly simple set, subtle touches of everydayness, and a powerful ensemble cast are just a few of the elements that combine to make Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed, now on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre, an absolute sensation. While the play shines with moments of resilience and sisterhood, it is at its core about the brutal choices women are forced to make in wartime: how to make it through another day, how to salvage a scrap of dignity when all sense of decency is gone from the world.
The play opens with the seemingly unremarkable act of one woman braiding another’s hair, but we quickly learn that their ragged clothes and shabby surroundings are not just marks of poverty but of conflict: the tail end of Liberia’s second civil war (1999-2003). The women on stage are the “wives” of the ubiquitous but never-seen “C.O,” the commanding officer of a rebel army who routinely rapes his captives. “Number 1” (Saycon Sengbloh) and “Number 3” (Pascale Armand) are sheltering a young girl (Lupita Nyong’o) who has escaped a marauding band of rebels in the hopes that she will not become “Number 4.”This hope is quickly dashed when the girl is raped one night as she ventures outside of the bunker to “do wet.” With that, she is initiated into life in “the compound,” as they call it, which the characters believe is a safer place for a girl than the lawless world “out there,” where she might be raped by multiple soldiers—instead of just one.
It is this vicious logic, and the illusion of choice, that carries the audience through an exploration of survival tactics women are forced to adopt in wartime, such as speaking in a coded language that dulls the sting of reality. The “wives” never use the word “rape”—instead they talk of “laying with the C.O.” They don’t use real names—either an attempt to avoid memories of life before confinement, or a mark of internalized dehumanization—referring to one another throughout as Number 1, Number 3, and Number 4. They develop a degree of intimacy that is perhaps crucial to sharing a small space and daily horrors: They use the same sodden rag to wipe themselves down after each ordeal. And they bicker, as sisters might, over chores, clothes, and the pecking order in their little world.
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Each time it ventures too close to an impossibly dark abyss, the play rescues itself with moments of lightness and biting comedy—a testament both to Gurira’s skillful script-writing and Liesl Tommy’s direction. The trio’s discovery of a romance novel (which turns out to be a biography of Bill Clinton) brings frequent reprieve from the fog of war, especially their penchant for referring to Monica Lewinsky as Clinton’s “Number 2” wife. And even Number 3’s unwanted pregnancy—the result of one of her many forced encounters with the C.O.—offers moments of humor as her belligerence grows along with her belly and her increasingly frantic attempts to style her hair. But we are never allowed to forget. Just as the banter begins to lull the audience into the illusion of comfort, the lights dim and the women scramble to stand to attention, hands behind their backs, facing the wings where, presumably, the C.O. is deliberating whom to spend the night with. Silently, one or the other points a finger at her chest to verify that she is the chosen one, and walks off stage toward the commander’s quarters.
The mood changes with the arrival of the elusive wife Number 2 (Zainab Jah), a gun-toting, jeans-wearing firecracker of a character—based on the Liberian freedom fighter Black Diamond—who has escaped the compound by joining a rebel faction. She comes bearing gifts (cassava, clothing), which Number 1, as the ruler of the roost, rejects on account that they are the spoils of war acquired by stealing from, or perhaps killing, their former owners. The recalcitrant Number 2, who has chosen the nom de guerre Disgruntled, is unfazed by Number 1’s hostility and succeeds in luring Number 4, who in the script is simply named “The Girl,” away from the compound and onto the front lines of war with promises of freedom and power.
While The Girl and Disgruntled take the audience through the terrible motions of raiding villages believed to be loyal to “the monkey Charles Taylor” (the then-president of Liberia whose ouster became the stated goal of two rebel groups), we are introduced to Rita (Akosua Busia), a peace activist dressed in blinding white garments ushering in news that the conflict’s end is near. Her character appears to be a composite of the Liberian women who campaigned for an end to the fighting and played a key role in stemming the 14-year conflict that claimed some 200,000 lives in the West African nation. Nicknamed Mama Peace, Rita heralds change—the entire set rotates with her arrival—and attempts to prepare the women for the coming ceasefire. It is through her efforts to do so that we learn how attached the women have grown to the war: Number 1 to her place at the top of a miserable pyramid; Number 3 to the C.O.—“he’s the father of my baby”; and Disgruntled to her gun and the glamour of armed militancy.
At one point, when she is ordered to leave the compound, Number 1 remarks while bundling up her scarce belongings: “I don’ know what GO means.” It is one of the most powerful lines in the play, symbolizing both the entrenchment of captivity and the enduring impact of trauma, from which there is seldom any escape, in the play as in real life.
The war grinds to an end in a crescendo of fighting in Act II. Wesee it through The Girl’s eyes as she stands alone on the stage reciting the Lord’s Prayer, omitting the word “heaven” from her supplication, as though she has forgotten the word exists (or isperhaps unable to invoke it in such hellish circumstances). She then delivers a shattering monologue about witnessing a fatal gang-rape and personally tossing the dead girl’s body in a river. It is the climax of one of the play’s major themes, the severing and re-forging of bonds between mothers and their children: We see it in The Girl adopting the name “Mother’s Blessing” as her combat title, even though her actions as a rebel make her wonder if she is cursed, rather than blessed. We see it in Mama Peace’s search for her own daughter under the guise of campaigning for a negotiated settlement to the conflict. And perhaps, most poignantly, we see it in Number 3’s early motherhood: “I never felt a love like [this] before,” she tells The Girl toward the end of the play, while rocking her newborn close to her chest. “I kill and curse for her.”
Just as the play opens with the notion of choice—with Number 1 and Number 2 deciding to offer The Girl protection—so too does its conclusion mirror this theme. For Disgruntled, even as she is rounding up young girls as sex slaves for soldiers, the choice is simple: Feed the hunters, rather than be eaten. For the “wives” in the compound, starvation and routine sexual abuse represent a better option than being “out in the bush” at the mercy of Liberia’s notorious rebels. By the final scene we have learned the names of all but one of the “wives” (Number 1 is Helena, Number 2 is Maima, and Number 3 is Bessie) and—for the time being, at least—the paths they have chosen. Helena throws in her lot with the peace activists, hoping to start fresh in a new camp; Maima remains convinced that only weapons and ruthlessness can save her; and Bessie will stay with the C.O., her tormentor and now the father of her child. Only Number 4—The Girl, Mother’s Blessing—is torn. Nameless and choiceless, she is the last face we see as the lights dim and she stands suspended at a crossroads, a gun in one hand and a book in the other.
Now that it is here—on a limited Broadway run through June 19—Eclipsed is making room for itself by transcending all historical, political, and gendered boxes and presenting a deeply empathetic and even universal tale of resilience. Asked by the Times back in 2009 whether her play was a political one or a feminist one, Gurira reportedly declined to choose. “In very many ways, my focus as an artist is about getting African women’s voices out there,” she said. “If that ends up having a label attached, I don’t mind, but that’s not how I approach my work.”