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How Many Ova on the Wings of This Plane?

Let’s talk about jesuitical abstrusities.  I am about to land in one.

As I write this, I am en route to Phoenix, Arizona, where I have a three and a half hour layover before continuing on to Boston. As most people are now aware, Arizona recently passed a law defining pregnancy as beginning two weeks before conception. This is, of course, a legalistic ruse to bring down the sash of the window for first-trimester abortions, taking a medical convention to estimate due dates and codifying it into law.

As I understand it, this law, through sloppy writing, effectively defines every post-ovulation and pre-menstruation female as pregnant, every month. I think this means: I am about to become pregnant. And this surprising turn of events leaves me with metaphysical quandaries about the state of my womb—questions that only a medieval line of investigation seems fit to answer.

I take the phrase “jesuitical abstrusities” from my beloved grandfather, a lawyer who, though he admired the rigor that generated them had no fondness for engaging in them himself.  But I adore the concept of jesuitical abstrusities. I imagine rooms full of very serious men of faith dedicating themselves to applying the sharpest intellectual scalpels of their time to the often absurd minutiae of the clear logical failures and utter impossibilities proposed to them by the stories of their faith, because agnosticism, much less atheism, simply wasn’t an option, at least not out loud.

Here are some questions that have been “answered” through jesuitical abstrusities: when does the host become the actual body of Christ? How many Angels can dance on the head of a pin? That one is pleasantly zen koan-ish. My favorite is the invention of a metaphysical log jam so that Judas wouldn’t be among the souls redeemed upon Jesus’s harrowing of hell, but would in fact be–somehow–the first to arrive AFTER the infernal halls were emptied. This was a doctrinal necessity. If A (Jesus’s death redeemed all the souls in hell) is true, AND B (Judas committed suicide before the Resurrection) is true,  BUT C (suicide is the only unpardonable sin) is a central tenet of your faith, there must be a way to resolve these separate truths into a coherent whole. Hence: Judas? Took the slow elevator down. Too bad for him.

In general, I wish that even a modicum of the intellectual rigor those long-dead priests (and their Talmudic scholar brethren) brought to bear on matters both trivial and momentous were a facet of modern political life. It seems unlikely that Arizona lawmakers have thought through the ramifications of their law—have not pondered, for example, what their new ideas about pregnancy mean for me, a casual traveler.

To wit: when do I BECOME pregnant? Is it when I enter AZ airspace (whoops, AS I TYPE THIS, I’m already knocked up!)? Is it when the plane lands? When I set foot on the ground? When I leave the airport? Since we’re ostensibly talking about matters of law rather than faith, I assume it’s not a Baptist version of pregnancy, where I will only become pregnant upon allowing Arizona into my heart. Conversely, when do I have my legal/philosophical abortion/ miscarriage? When the plane is in the air? Or not until we leave AZ airspace?

If, say, a quarter of the people on the plane are women who were “pregnant” upon whatever threshold Arizona’s legal space mandates, but will lose those “babies” upon proper distance from the area, ought we to be worried that radical pro-birth advocates will attempt to take down the “abortion flights”? How will this affect AZ’s spring break industry? Shouldn’t the bars be responsible for making sure pregnant ladies aren’t binge drinking?

The plane has landed. I am, I assume, “pregnant,” through a metaphysical act of connection and conception that does not seem to have included wifi.

At least I’m not barefoot. And I am about to go eat sushi and drink sake, pregnancy be damned.


Morgan Fahey: deals in unscripted possibilities.

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  1. Although, does it make me a bad feminist to use this law as an excuse to say I can’t clean the litter box more often? Pregnant women are not supposed to, you know. Or do I have to move to Arizona to do that? And, I am totally going to start using “jesuitical abstrusities” much, much more. Perhaps as my fantasy football team name.

  2. I made a point elsewhere that I actually want to raise here, on the official record, as well. The sad thing is not that Arizona’s ruling is so particularly crazy; it’s that dating pregnancy from pre-conception is a bad medical convention in the first place, based on a naive and falsely normalized idea of women’s bodies, hormonal cycles, and gestation. Abortion laws trying to limit abortion based on weeks gestation are *always* using science that fails to account for the reality of women’s lived experience. So, in my opinion, it’s not that we should back off of Arizona for this instance of crazyness, it’s that we should use Arizona as a means to point out a broader, more systemic, problem. It’s bad medicine, allowing for bad laws; all of it bad for women.


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