Emery: Cruel Abortion Bans Have Nothing To Do With “Family Values”


(Courtesy Flickr)

By Nate Emery


On March 2, the Utah State Senate voted to pass an extreme ban on abortions. This bill, run by Republican Sen. Dan McCay, would ban all abortions except those performed to save the life of the woman or to end a pregnancy that is the result of rape or incest. Any physician who performs an abortion would be charged with a second-degree felony, a charge that carries a prison term of up to 15 years.

The final aspect of the bill contains a contingent effective date clause. This would allow the bill to only go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court decides that it is constitutional for states to outlaw abortion. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, Utahns would be immediately subject to McCay’s harsh law that would cruelly complicate an already difficult situation.

If this legislation passes, Utah will solidify its place among a number of conservative states in an all-out assault on Roe v. Wade and the right to choose. While politicians have passed similar bans in the past, they were usually struck down by the Supreme Court. The makeup of the Court has since changed, emboldening states to impose new restrictions—not only to gain political points with constituents but to become the state with the name on the case that finally overturns Roe v. Wade. McCay is representative of the fact that when (mostly white and male) politicians make these decisions, they are doing so based on mistrust and contempt for women, not the “family values” they claim to revere.

On March 4, the Supreme Court heard the first abortion-related case since Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined the Court. At issue was a Louisiana statute that requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. An almost identical law from Texas was struck down in 2016, with Justice Anthony Kennedy serving as the decisive swing vote. If the Court simply upholds the Louisiana statute, it will not necessarily overturn Roe and McCay’s bill. What it will do is signal to the states that the current Court is prepared to overturn Roe, emboldening the states to pass increasingly restrictive abortion bans.

The legislators who pass these extreme restrictions — and ones creating “sanctuary cities for the unborn” — always cite “family values” to justify the bans. Instead, these decisions are based on cruelty, demonization and control over women’s bodies.

Outlawing abortion does not result in women not getting abortions. It just makes it impossible to regulate who performs abortions and how. This makes an incredibly safe medical procedure potentially deadly. These bans put women into a position where they have to perform an unsafe procedure themselves or ingest harmful substances to preserve the “sanctity of life.

According to a 2005 study, roughly three out of every four women who get an abortion cite financial concerns as a primary reason for getting the procedure. Forcing these women to carry a pregnancy to term may force them to rely on Utah’s lacking social services for support. In fact, McCay initially voted not to advance a bill that would have provided free school lunches for the tens of thousands of food to insecure children that are in his district. (He later changed his vote in favor of the bill.) These “pro-life” and “family values” politicians do not actually care about the health and well-being of children, just exerting control over women’s bodies.

Parents who cannot afford to support the child that the state is forcing them to have may have to place the child into the foster care system. The number of children in the Utah foster care system who are abused or neglected is on the rise. When a child ages out of the foster care system, they are more likely to drop out of high school, not graduate college, become homeless, and resort to crime. Many of these children will be forced into a cycle of poverty and criminalization with very little to no relief from the Utah Legislature.

Forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term has been shown to also lead to poor mental health for women later in life. Women who are experiencing interpersonal violence may be forced to stay in abusive relationships as a result of the restrictions on abortion. Bans on abortions will also disproportionately affect women of color, showing that the politicians who pass these bans are also dedicating themselves to upholding gender and racial disparities.

It is not enough to call out “family values” politicians for their hypocrisy. They do not care that they are being hypocritical when they claim to value all life and then sponsor laws that would force women to receive unsafe abortions or resist efforts to guarantee food insecure children can eat at school. Politicians who hide behind a warped view of their faith and use faux moral justification to mask their cruelty need to have their discrimination and hatred unmasked for what it truly is.


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