A 17-year-old, a woman who cannot currently afford a place to live, and a woman awaiting a life-changing promotion at work could all face one very important decision: whether or not to have an abortion.
The most restrictive abortion laws in modern America, introduced in 16 states across the nation, gained significant traction in the past few months. To name a few, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee all saw substantial progress for the pro-life agenda. Though the laws of these states diverge in the degree of restriction, all of the new legislation aims to dismantle the precedent of 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which guarantees a woman’s right to receive an abortion.
Georgia’s recently passed law, referred to as the Heartbeat Bill, states that when a fetus’ heartbeat can be heard, a woman can no longer legally receive an abortion. Tennessee’s bill outlines abortion as a class C felony, except in cases of a medical emergency. The bill explicitly states that mental illnesses do not qualify.
Alabama’s law confines abortion access strictly to individuals exhibiting serious physical ailments, and goes so far as to not allow rape victims the right to abortion. It also states that doctors who perform abortions can receive up to 99 years in prison.
Doctors who perform abortions for rape victims will be liable for a longer sentence than the actual rapists. Let that sink in.
Though many portray the stereotypical young woman seeking as reckless and promiscuous, in reality, 59 percent of women as of 2014 who receive abortions are already mothers, according to research from the Guttmacher Institute.
New laws restricting access to abortion spur a slew of unintended consequences, the most pertinent of which is the separation of children from their mothers. Other consequences include an even larger prison population in America, children born into poverty, and more young people put into foster care.
In examining the controversy over abortion, important to note is the Hyde Amendment. Passed in 1976, the Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal funds for abortion. Despite the pro-choice and pro-life divide amongst politicians, the federal government has not used any money to fund abortion since the passage of the amendment. This severely impacts women under the coverage of Medicaid or use government-provided health services. Private health care and out of pocket costs cover abortion. The procedure can cost up to $950, according to the Planned Parenthood website.
At six weeks into a pregnancy, electrical activity in the fetal pole produces a heartbeat because the fetus lacks developed organs. Many women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks. Factors such as stress, birth control, and even excessive exercise can all cause irregular periods and increase the time it takes for women to become aware of a pregnancy.
Under the new Georgia law, any woman who seeks an abortion after a heartbeat is detected is liable for murder. If prosecuted, women could receive a sentence as severe as jail time or even the death penalty.
With the passage of legislation that aligns with the pro-life movement in generally conservative states, what support will be offered to mothers who are unfit to raise a child? While many of these states espouse ideologies of decreased government spending, they do not acknowledge the price for the immense rise in necessary monetary assistance that comes with forcing women who do not feel fit to be mothers.
Are these taxpayers willing to spend more on healthcare, child-care, and public schools? Other increased expenses include food stamps and the foster care system. If these state governments vigorously protect these embryos, they need to ensure that emphatic support and assistance will continue once the children arrive in the world and require real, material assistance. How about the fact that children born into low-income families will have extensively higher chances of going to prison? Who will pay for those public defenders, and for an ever-increasing prison population?
Though substantial costs arise in limiting abortion access, more tangible issues ensue in the midst of a male-dominated government controlling decisions about abortion. A majority of male congress should not have complete control over a decision that impacts women to a vastly greater degree. Although this issue does affect men as well, and therefore male opinions should be both heard and valued, the reality is that many women seeking abortion face the challenge alone. That unique circumstance should also make a difference in attitudes toward abortion legislation and lawmakers who make such decisions.
That being said, if the conservative men enacting this legislation are so intent on banning abortion, there should be more concrete and enforceable laws that address male responsibility in raising a child. One cause of abortion is financial instability. If harsher laws on child support were passed, that could help decrease the number of abortions. In forcing a woman to bear a child, however, one must force men to take accountability as well.
Pro-life shouldn’t just be an abortion issue. If people are truly pro-life, that should end at birth. The ideology of sanctity of life must shine through in passing gun-control legislation, increasing welfare support, and bettering the public school system in order to protect and improve human lives. Alabama’s public education system is ranked 50th in the United States, according to Business Insider. If elected officials in Alabama devoted as much time, energy, and resources to the public school system as they do to abortion legislation, imagine how many children would live better lives.
If the lives of fetuses were truly the most pressing matter of the abortion issue, conservative politicians would take concrete steps to improve the lives of children and to ensure that women have support in bringing life into the world, instead of forcing oppressive and unconstitutional measures on women’s reproductive health.