By LaKeshia Myers
This week, women’s reproductive rights have been under attack. In the state of Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey signed a near total abortion ban into law. Under this law, all abortions in the state are illegal except when, “abortion is necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk” to the woman.” It criminalizes the pregnancy termination procedure, reclassifying abortion as a Class A felony, punishable by up to ninety-nine years in prison for doctors., and attempted abortions will be reclassified as a Class C felony. Equally disturbing, is the fact the legislation makes no exception for victims or rape or incest. The Alabama law is the most restrictive anti-abortion measure passed in the United States since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. The Alabama legislation comes just weeks after the states of Kentucky, Ohio, and Georgia passed similar “heartbeat bills” that would ban abortion as early as six weeks. Meanwhile, supporters of this kind of legislation have stated openly that their goal is to challenge Roe v. Wade in the supreme court.
Never to be left out, Wisconsin Assembly Republicans also passed legislation aimed at curbing a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy by passing the “born alive” bill. The bill before the Wisconsin Assembly on Wednesday addressed the extremely rare occurrence in which a baby is born alive during a failed abortion attempt. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there have only been one hundred forty-three instances nationwide in which live births resulted from at least 9.3 million abortion attempts between 2003 and 2014. There is no comparable data in Wisconsin because state officials don’t track it (CDC, 2019).
Under the bill, abortion providers would be required to care for babies that survive an abortion. Failure to do so would be a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a provider convicted of killing such a baby would face life in prison. Doctors insist the bill is unnecessary as they note babies are almost never born alive during failed abortion attempts and in the rare instances when they are, doctors are already ethically and legally bound to try and keep them alive.
The “born alive” legislation is nothing but a distraction from the real issue at hand in our state—Republicans refuse to adhere to the will of the people and expand Medicaid and grant more Wisconsinites health coverage. Federal law has already settled the abortion debate; it is legal and a constitutional right. The constant assault on women’s reproductive rights is being used as a smoke screen to thwart the public’s attention away from the fact that Wisconsin Republicans are shirking their responsibility to the people they represent.
It amazes me that the GOP is overwhelmingly concerned about the plight of the unborn, but they fail to show the same empathy and enthusiasm for indigent families who struggle to make ends meet, choosing instead to penalize them for being poor and not grant them access to quality healthcare. It seems like a stark departure from the Christian values I learned.
I am often reminded of Matthew 25:40-42, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”
Anti-abortion policies introduced at the state level are not about being pro-life; if they were we would see this reflected in all aspects of the Republican platform, we should see legislation that was pro-healthcare, pro-prevention, pro-medical coverage, or pro-humanity in the prison system. Instead we continue to see policies that encroach upon civil liberties and the freedom of individuals to make choices that are best for them. Having no choice at all is the antithesis of democracy, and for that, I will never stand.