The religious right is at it again. This time, Republicans in Tennessee passed a measure allowing for the construction of a monument to the unborn “victims of abortion.”
What they should be calling it is a monument to the systematic oppression of women by a society that is still run unduly in large part by religious fanatics.
The Republican-led Tennessee House of Representatives already passed a bill, and the Tennessee State Senate added an amendment, sending the legislation back to the house before it went on to Republican Governor Bill Haslam. The proposal would raise private funds to erect what the Tennessee legislature is calling the “Tennessee Monument to Unborn Children, In Memory of the Victims of Abortion: Babies, Women and Men.”
There is absolutely no point to this monument other than to guilt and shame women who made necessary reproductive choices for themselves. The vast majority of women who had an abortion don’t regret their choice, nor do they need a statue of Aunt Lydia to perpetually scold them for making the choice that was best for their families and themselves.
Less Reproductive Freedom
This proposal comes at a time when women have already lost significant strides toward reproductive freedom in our nation. It comes at a time after the Trump administration stripped the Affordable Care Act of requisite maternity coverage for women, stating that maternity care is not an essential health benefit. It also comes at a time when giving birth in America costs as much as the British royal family spent on Prince Louis’ birth.
Royalty. Giving birth in America costs as much if not more than giving birth to royalty. Isn’t maternity care essential? The proposal also comes at a time when the United States already has the highest maternal death rate of any developed nation in the world.
If the Tennessee legislature wants to erect any sort of a monument, perhaps they should start with a monument to all the women who have needlessly died giving birth or from complications of a pregnancy that needed to be terminated, but was not permitted due to interference by religious fanatics.
There is nothing pro-life about forcing a woman to die. And women are dying. Not only has the maternal death rate surged in America since 2000 forward, but the states with the highest rates of maternal death also have the largest number of abortion restrictions. And sure, that correlation is probably partially due to the fact that, of course, less women will be giving birth if there is access to abortion. However, there are other significant and disturbing factors at play here.
One is that the states that restrict abortion access the most also tend to be the least generous when it comes to women’s and children’s health altogether. We can see this in action with our current administration, who not only worked to restrict abortion access but who also gutted the ACA requirement for free birth control and who also went a step further by allowing employers to refuse to cover birth control at all under the guise of “religious freedom.”
Religious freedom? Why don’t families have the right to be free from their employers imposing their religious beliefs on them? After all, the employer-employee relationship should be as secular as it gets. What’s next? Do our employers get the right to force us to attend Bible study and worship services? If you get upset at the idea of your employer preaching fire and brimstone to you daily over the intercom, you should take offense at the idea of your employer making your family planning choices.
The “Victims” of Abortion
While I’m not necessarily suggesting people go around getting abortions at every turn, unborn babies are not really “victims” of abortion. Did you know that almost all sexually active women have had an abortion before they even knew they were pregnant? This kind of spontaneous miscarriage is often just passed off as unusually late, heavy periods.
There are victims, however, of lack of abortion access. We need to look no further than countries where religion really is the law to see this in action. In El Salvador, rape victims as young as nine years old are forced to give birth. The case of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland, who died when she was denied a medically necessary abortion, shows what happens when the anti-choice crowd has their way and religion is allowed to trump medical science.
If you think that such things could never happen in America, think again. In many areas, the only medical facilities available for miles are Catholic-run hospitals, which notoriously deny care to women based upon Catholic religious beliefs. For example, Tamesha Means nearly died after her fetus perished inside her. Even though the baby was non-viable, the hospital twice sent Means home with nothing but Tylenol. They failed to advise her that an infection from the non-viable fetus could kill her. Luckily, on a third ER trip, Means’ body expelled the fetus.
Too many women have fought awful, traumatizing battles like this, and a monument of this nature will only serve to shame and further traumatize women for their choices. What we should be building instead is a monument to progressiveness and bodily autonomy for all in the face of religious fanatics who see women as nothing more than brood mares, and who are willing to let them die a brood mare’s death.