I wasn't surprised by yesterday's ruling in Texas which bans all abortions after 20 weeks and which places standards on abortion clinics so onerous that most are expected to now close, but I was disgusted and dismayed. A state of more than 26 million people is soon likely to have just four clinics that can safely offer women the abortions they need or choose to have. Last month, when Wendy Davis successfully filibustered the Texas Legislature's attempt to pass this ban, one of the strictest in the nation, I cheered her strength and accomplishment and felt inspired by her courage and determination. But I also knew that win wouldn't last long. Republicans and pro-lifers in Texas were crazed with outrage; ire feeds them as fuel does fire. And indeed, Rick Perry, TX Governor (he of the "there are three government agencies I'll close when President but I can only remember two of them") soon called a second special session of Congress to again try to ram this bill through.
Yesterday, it passed, largely (and not surprisingly) along party lines. Perry praised the ruling as a defense of "our smallest and most vulnerable Texans and future Texans" while many other supporters claimed this was a sincere means of protecting women's health. These echoed the comments made earlier this summer, following House approval of a ban on abortions after 22 weeks ("the most restrictive ban on abortion considered by Congress in a decade", NYT, 19 June 13), by Speaker Boehner who praised the significance and import of the decision in saying "we have a moral obligation to defend the defenseless..."
This point is repugnant in its disingenuousness. America ranks 50th in the world in maternal mortality: 49 other countries are better than we are at keeping mothers alive during and just after childbirth. According to a report by the Huff Post in August 2012, the maternal mortality rate in the US has doubled over the past 25 years. And this while we spend $98 billion a year on pregnancy and childbirth, making us the costliest place in the world to have a baby. So we spend more to have more women die and now Texas wants to ban all abortions after twenty weeks which means if a woman finds out that she might die after that point, well, tough. If she finds out her baby has a horrible congenital condition and will die after birth, might be born stillborn, might need enormous amounts of medical intervention or assistance for ever after, well tough, her financial state, mental health, the welfare of the baby be damned.
Meanwhile, House Republicans, most of whom also profess to just love life so much, especially when not yet born, stripped funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program before passing the 2013 Farm Bill. Millions of impoverished Americans, including millions of babies and children, rely on SNAP for nourishment: according to a Food Research Action Center report from April of this year, “children in families receiving SNAP were significantly more likely to be classified as ‘well’ than young children whose families were eligible but did not receive SNAP.” So really, I think it is super-consistent with a love of life and just really great morals to make kids be born, but if they're born into poverty and need federal help TO EAT, well forget about it.
As well, the House GOP proposed in May to also slash funding to local school districts and health research but, naturally, all Defense and Pentagon budgets would not be touched. Ok, so you must have all children but if you need help paying for their educations, forget it. You have to rely on public education? Good luck to you.
No one wants more abortions to occur, no one hopes that abortion is in her future, no one gets excited about abortion. That's why the current "discussion" about it upsets me so deeply. Pro-life supporters, in the name of morality, accuse those across the aisle of murder and hate and sin and so forth. In my opinion, that cruel judgment is as hateful as what they accuse pro-choice supporters of "wanting to do."
Abortion-rights activists don't want more abortions, they just want women to have the right to choose abortion if that's what's best for her. They want the mother of three, already strapped and stressed and tired and scared, to be able to decide if she really can't have another baby; can't support it financially, can't handle it emotionally. They want the woman I know, who found at 32 weeks of pregnancy that her baby was braindead in utero as a result of a congenital defect that had caused intrauterine seizures for months, to be able to choose how and when to say goodbye, in a way safe for both of them. These are never easy decisions, but they are often the right ones for these women. And each is HER decision, no one else's, not least some random man in Texas or Pennsylvania (Santorum) or a whole host of others.
I know how fraught this issue is, but to take away the ability to choose for all based on the beliefs of only some upsets and concerns me deeply.