Although California has historically protected abortion rights, federal challenges to Roe v. Wade could severely impact the accessibility of legal abortions. In 2017, the Guttmacher Institute estimated that providers performed 132,680 abortions in California — a rate of around 16.4 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age.
Studies repeatedly show that low-income and Black, Indigenous and communities of color typically abort at significantly higher rates than affluent white populations. In South Central, a diverse and populous region, any possible restriction on abortion harms vulnerable populations. If an anti-abortion law, such as the Texas Heartbeat Act, reaches the Supreme Court, which may declare any pro-choice legislation as unconstitutional and thereby overturn Roe v. Wade, the subsequent violation of human rights would be a product of Christian Fundamentalism, the underlying philosophy driving the pro-life movement.
In fact, the Texas restriction, which doesn’t even allow for rape victims to abort as early as six weeks, is morally repugnant. However, absurd policies like this are not the product of anything but U.S. ideological regression. It’s not the product of — or even comparable to — Islam, per se.
However, the liberal establishment has spun it this way. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, actress and white feminist Alyssa Milano criticized the “Texas Taliban” for infringing upon women’s rights. A week later, The Day published an article titled, “Texas turns to Taliban model with its vigilante abortion ban.”
So, what purpose do these comparisons serve? Independent of the Taliban, conservative opposition to reproductive rights in the U.S. has existed and thrived for decades. Also, it’s not as if Afghanistan and the United States are the only two countries with rampant, systemic misogyny. Understandably, the Taliban has dominated the news cycle over the last few weeks, just like Texas, but does that warrant a comparison between the two? No, it does not.
Comparing Texas and the Taliban presupposes that their injustices are significantly similar. While both the U.S. and Afghanistan perpetuate misogyny, that’s not exclusive to either culture, especially since patriarchy is worldwide. Contemporary feminist criticism of Afghanistan typically focuses on human rights violations, such as depriving women of education.
However, it’s a stretch to compare the plight of Afghan women to U.S. injustices. In this case, U.S. reproductive rights do not solely target women, whereas the Taliban religiously subjugate women. All too often, transgender, nonbinary and intersex communities are excluded from abortion discourse in the U.S., even as they are affected by these unjust policies. While the Taliban also oppose LGBTQ+ rights, that tenet of their philosophy is distinct from their misogyny, whereas in the U.S. reproductive rights discourse, systemic misogyny and queerphobia collapse together as inseparable.
While Western religion collectively skews the morals of the populace, that’s a different story; but to single out the Taliban in this analogy instead of oppressive U.S. social structures is sickening. There’s even a bit of a novelty and shock factor in comparing Texas to the Taliban because it portrays Texas as unequivocally evil. Would it have riled up Milano’s liberal supporters in the same way if she characterized Texas with the Christian theology that popularized fetuses as having a right to life at conception? It’s doubtful.
Pro-choice activists are correct in identifying that abortion litigation is essential to protect human rights. However, it’s necessary to keep an eye on the ball when it comes to freedom because comparing struggles rarely leads to anything productive. In this case, the equivalence of Texas and the Taliban cheapens the suffering of Afghan women by commodifying it into a liberal talking point.
Rather than deflecting attention to the Taliban, it’d be more appropriate to focus on the deep-rooted conservative undercurrent that runs through the U.S. By virtue-signaling about the Taliban, even by saying we’re adopting their methods, we’re distracting ourselves from the centuries of groundwork behind developing the U.S. patriarchy. The Texas Heartbeat Act does not liken us more to the Taliban than to a more reactionary version of U.S. social conservatism, which has repeatedly shown its face with or without an Islamic fundamentalist group assuming power in a different continent.
When it comes to the intersection of sexual liberation and gender politics, the U.S. consistently falls conservative. Aside from abortion itself, many states, including Texas, lack holistic sexual education — usually defaulting to abstinence-only curricula — and do not provide free contraceptives. Christian morals have made the U.S. so sterile that conversations about sex are considered problematic and unvirtuous. The puritan ideological nature of the U.S. stigmatizes such topics, systemically endangering women and other vulnerable communities in the process.
The above issues, engrained and enforced by U.S. power structures, are entirely independent of the Taliban. Nonetheless, reproductive justice is worth pursuing. While the fight to restore reproductive rights will be grueling, it’s nonsensical to resort to comparing vastly different struggles and injustices just to enrage one’s base. Moving forward, if the U.S. would like to solve its pressing social issues, it needs to self-examine and transform rather than deflect to the most convenient political distraction.