In just the two months since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the number of people with the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy has been reduced by a third. That figure will only increase dramatically as so-called “trigger laws” (laws enacted by Republican legislators to go into effect after Roe was overturned) fall into place. For example, Idaho, Texas, and Tennessee outlawed nearly all abortions within their boundaries—and that was just on Thursday.
This monstrous undertaking of theocratic social engineering has already yielded horror stories from people who have become pregnant and are now being denied what was an established constitutional right for a half-century. By now, most Americans have heard about the 10-year-old Ohio girl who was raped and was forced to travel to Indiana in order to find a doctor willing to terminate her pregnancy. It’s a situation so horrific that even The Washington Post’s fact-checker initially treated it with faint derision, until it proved to be absolutely accurate. Americans have also heard about the Louisiana woman who was forced to carry what’s essentially a headless fetus to term, or else travel to another state. Or the Tennessee woman who was told she’d have to wait until doctors felt she was about to die before they would consider terminating her fetus, which was developing with no skull—and even then physicians refused to perform the procedure, out of fear of destroying their own careers. “Go to Georgia,” she was told.
These stories will multiply exponentially in the coming months, a fact that seems to be slowly dawning on the mostly white, mostly male—and almost entirely Republican—state legislators who eagerly passed these laws at the behest of so-called “Christian” supporters, without thinking about their real-world consequences.
Yet at least one South Carolina legislator has finally come to see the truth about what he’s done.
On Aug.17, South Carolina state Rep. Neal Collins tearfully shared a harrowing account of what a 19-year old South Carolina girl had gone through because of a “fetal heartbeat” law Collins himself had helped pass. Ironically, this display of compassion occurred amid the same South Carolina legislature’s debate on passing an even more restrictive ban on abortion.
Video of Collins’ statements was posted on Twitter; this one has been viewed more than 3.4 million times.
As reported by Aaron Blake on Thursday, writing for The Washington Post:
At a hearing, state Rep. Neal Collins (R) recounted the arduous journey faced by a 19-year-old thanks to an abortion ban he himself supported. Collins said the woman’s fetus was not viable, but that attorneys told her doctor they couldn’t extract it because it still had a heartbeat — the standard set in the bill supported by Collins that had gone into effect just the week before.
“They discharged that 19-year-old,” Collins said. “The doctor told me at that point there is a 50 percent chance — well, first she’s going to pass this fetus in the toilet. She’s going to have to deal with that on her own. There’s a 50 percent chance — greater than 50 percent chance that she’s going to lose her uterus. There’s a 10 percent chance that she will develop sepsis and herself, die.”
Collins added: “That weighs on me. I voted for that bill. These are affecting people.”
Yes, Rep. Collins, these laws are affecting people. It was so easy for Republicans—again, mostly men—to sign onto this hastily crafted legislation spit out by the GOP’s trusted ALEC legislation repository, without worrying about the actual impact. It was so easy go raise a hand and say “aye,” then go back to business, oblivious—or indifferent—to the massive harm just perpetrated. Well now Mr. Collins knows.
Not that it makes any difference. The bill under discussion above, banning nearly all abortions in the state, was approved and now heads to the South Carolina state House for a vote, where it will almost certainly pass. Tellingly, for all his stated concern, Collins was unable to muster the courage to actually oppose it: he abstained from voting.
The pro-choice majority in this country cannot sit around and wait for more state legislators to have epiphanies like Collins’. As pointed out by Isaac Bailey, writing for The Charlotte Observer, the white evangelical culture that brought this state of affairs on us is baked into the constituencies of people like Rep. Collins. Like a pathogen, it can’t be swiftly excised because it factors so deeply into the culture that these churches have fomented among their populations. Bailey rhetorically asks how, with South Carolina’s horrendous record on maternal mortality, this outcome could possibly have not occurred to Collins and his Republican colleagues.
The state has the eighth-highest maternal mortality rate in the nation, with black women dying at three times the rate of white women. It is the worst state in which to have a baby, and second-worst for women’s economic and social well-being. The state is ranked the seventh-worst place to raise a family, in part because South Carolina has the 44th ranked health care system, Collins pointed out, among many other sobering realities.
How is this possible? Bailey explains that the state’s residents have been carefully taught by the white Evangelical right to not think about such things.
Because in South Carolina, we weren’t supposed to know. We weren’t supposed to consider abortion as health care, only as murder, as an affront to God. To declare ourselves anything other than “pro-life” was to risk being shunned in church and at the Friday night football game and at the local Walmart. Good God-fearing people are “pro-life” and hate abortion. Bad people, you see, are those who think such during the 40-week gestation period, such gut-wrenching decisions should be left up to women rather than turning their bodies over to legislators who don’t realize what’s at stake for women they know – and so many they don’t.
And so expecting any sort of rapid sea change in this type of mentality is an exercise in futility. No matter how horrific the stories get, a segment of this country will not be moved. Opposition to abortion is part of their identity, fostered by decades of patriarchal, religious propaganda, and cynically channeled by the Republican Party while being fueled by enormous sums of dark, fossil fuel money. As long as that population exists, these laws will continue to be passed by legislators whose careers depend on that misguided constituency.
The only way to reverse this situation is to mobilize and vote them out. Every election, every time.
Every last one of them.
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