Abortion as Ritual Sacrifice: A Girardian Take on the Scapegoat Mechanism in Sexual Politics

The following are excerpts from the essay Bernadette Waterman Ward called ABORTION AS A SACRAMENT: MIMETIC DESIRE AND SACRIFICE IN SEXUAL POLITICS

The key elements of sacrificial religion, as Girard defines it, are the presence of
intolerable tension that must lead to social disruption; the choice of a victim
who cannot strike back to absorb the community’s violence; and the
concealment of the function of the sacrifice, which employs actual violence
for the purpose of stabilizing institutional violence. Abortion in America is
upheld not as medical or even political policy, but as, in fact, a religious

Abortion in America precisely fits the structure of religious sacrifice,
where the best victims are the most defenseless. Like a classic sacrificial
victim, the fetus is both blamed for the disorder surrounding its conception
and acknowledged as innocent, sometimes at the same time. Here an
abortion worker displays sacrificial ambivalence, as if not “we” but other
forces made abortion happen:

I see more of murder the further along they get….I believe that,
yes, it is a potential life or being, person, but at the same time it
is not independent ofthe mother and it’s not able to live by itself.
Until we can reach that point.. .it’s really the mother that has the
decision over the life.(Reardon 254)

But on the other side of the battle line in the culture wars, abortion is no
less a religious issue. Abortion directs violence toward an entity which has
human ancestry, but is denied the right to vengeance, which defines a person
in the community. The real nature of the violence and the victim are
concealed, in defiance of rationality, for the violence works in a powerfully
conservative way to preserve the current social structure while satisfying
mimetic cravings. The structural violence of a society which values the
achievements of male bodies and denigrates those of female bodies remains
in place, but women are allowed the chance to escape the violence by
shedding their own blood and that of their offspring. The women remain
eternal disciples, despising their own bodies as the source of their social
constriction and seeking always to deflect the death of being that seems to
be their lot. The fears assuaged by abortion are atavistic and at the root of
human culture; the language of rights and social contracts does not touch
them. Cooperation in abortion is cooperation in a sacrificial system, with all
the deceit, oppression and futility that that entails.

Does such a recognition free us from mimetic desire? No; our desires
and envies remain. But to recognize the devices that conceal our own
dependency from us is to do much towards enabling us to choose our
masters wisely. Indeed, we may be able to emulate one another in the
freedom that is willing to endure suffering to proclaim truth and justice. To
provide an escape from the endless cycle of sacrificial violence—of
sacrificial abortion in particular—we must recognize the ways in which
reproduction is a burden for women and address the truly deep terrors of
sexuality with self-restraining love, love which agrees to suffer the
consequences of evil it has not caused. Such love constitutes the only
rational way to live.