Tuesday, May 14, 2019, marked a turning point for our country.
The state of Alabama passed a ban on all abortions unless the mother’s health is severely compromised by the pregnancy. While it will take months to take effect (if it does at all), the shockwave has been felt all around the country.
Other states like Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Georgia have passed similar, not as restrictive bans such as the “Heartbeat Bills” which prohibits abortion after six weeks. On Thursday Missouri passed a bill that would make abortion illegal after eight weeks. Arkansas and Utah have passed laws banning them after 18 weeks and Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska are working towards similar legislation. The group Right to Live of Michigan has launched a petition drive to put a voter initiative on the ballot to ban a standard abortion procedure in the second trimester. All of these laws are being challenged by organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and as of now, abortion is still legal in all 50 states. Breathe.
The Alabama bill was designed to challenge Roe v. Wade and may eventually make its way to the Supreme Court. All of this legislation around the country is happening because the court finally has a conservative majority after two appointments by President Trump: Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Many believe the court will be willing to overturn Roe v. Wade because of this newfound majority, but that has yet to be seen, and wouldn’t even be able to happen until after the 2020 election.
As per the US National Library of Medicine, about 42 million women worldwide choose to have abortions annually. Roughly half of these are unsafe. Of those 20 million unsafe abortions, one-quarter of the women will suffer long-term health complications from them such as hemorrhage and sepsis. The leading causes of abortion-related deaths are hemorrhage, infection, sepsis, necrotic bowel, and genital trauma. Yup, women die from genital trauma! Abortion-related deaths are significantly more common in countries that ban abortion (34 deaths per 100,000 childbirths) than those which don’t (1 or fewer per 100,000 childbirths).
What this data says is that women are far more likely to die from abortion if they don’t have access to abortion practices that are safe and legal, and banning abortion won’t stop women from attempting to get them. Abortion is always a woman’s last option.
None of us want to have an abortion, but the ability to control our bodies and our futures after an accidental (or worse, forced) pregnancy should be our right.
If that right is taken away, women will still seek them. Dr. Linda Ellison, CEO of Kai Health and an expert on abortion, explains:
“Abortion, the choice women make to opt into the procedure is an economic choice. It is an economic necessity for 98.9% of women in the US who obtain an abortion. That is the first and foremost reason American women get abortions. I have studied 729 women all across the United States who have undergone an abortion procedure. It’s the largest study ever done on abortion here, or anywhere else in the world. The data is strong. The data is extensive. The data shows that women and girls opt into an abortion because of economics. They don’t have the resources to have a baby at that time, or to add to their current family.”
The opening pages of the book, Freakonomics discusses the correlation between crime rates and abortion in what is known as the Donohue-Veitt hypothesis. Roughly 17 years after abortion was legalized in the US, violent crime rates dropped by 30%, after being at some of its highest levels ever. States with higher abortion rates saw greater crime reduction rates. The hypothesis explains that “legalized abortion appears to account for as much as 50% of the recent drop in crime and it goes on to further explain that “women who have abortions are those most at risk to give birth to children who would engage in criminal activity. Teenagers, unmarried women, and the economically disadvantaged are all substantially more likely to seek abortions. Recent studies have found children born to these mothers to be at higher risk for committing crime in adolescence.”
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey who runs a state that perpetually underfunds assistance programs, public housing, education, healthcare, and childcare services, signed the country’s most restrictive abortion ban on Tuesday and then allowed the execution of convicted murderer Michael Samra on Thursday. After refusing to grant him clemency, she stated, “Alabama does not tolerate murderous acts of any nature.”
The hypocritical argument of playing god that conservatives tend to latch on to when rejecting abortion is diametrically opposed to their historical support for capital punishment.
Of the 16 states that currently allow capital punishment, nine of them have either passed abortion bans or are planning to within the year. Furthermore, North and South Dakota, which both allow capital punishment would automatically ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Regardless of intention, the unborn that conservatives are so piously attempting to save will face a steep struggle in Alabama with the state ranking 50th in education, 46th in healthcare, and 45th in crime, economy, and opportunity. While legislators there are fighting hard for the unborn, it seems the state won’t do much fighting for them once they’re born. As George Carlin famously said of the pro-life movement, “If you’re preborn, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re f*cked.” Maybe it’s time to call the pro-life movement what it really is… the pro-birth movement.
Ann Lewis is an artist, activist, and writer based in Detroit. Her artwork reflects upon social and environmental justice issues.