For over four decades, lawmakers and anti-choice activists have made desperate attempts to ban abortion. Currently, there are six states that have only one abortion clinic left: Mississippi, North and South Dakota, Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri. Since 2008, four clinics in Missouri have closed due to punitive anti-choice laws passed by the Missouri legislature, some of which have been targeted regulations against abortion providers. Missouri residents may soon lose abortion access, altogether, due to the state’s health department refusing to renew the St. Louis Planned Parenthood’s license, which allows them to provide abortions in the state. As a result, and devastatingly so, Missouri could become the first state in more than 45 years to stop offering abortion services.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) also recently signed HB 126 into law, banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy with no exception for rape or incest. This bill would trigger a statewide ban on abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. It seems that Missouri would be on a collision course to go from bad to worse, putting the lives of thousands of people into jeopardy.
Anti-choice organizations, through smoke and mirrors, have long pushed the narrative that attempts to restrict or ban access to abortion are meant to protect women’s health and to protect them from harm. The reality could not be further from the truth. Bans not only prevent women from accessing abortion services, but also can make it more difficult for women to access life-saving care, across all aspects of pregnancy — from full term delivery to miscarriage to ectopic pregnancy.
We saw this in 2012 with the tragic case of Dr. Savita Halappanavar, who died in Ireland from an infection caused by a miscarriage before abortion was legalized. Even though she was having a miscarriage and her fetus would not survive, she was repeatedly denied an abortion. She contracted septicemia as a result, and the infection killed her.
If politicians continue to restrict abortion access, we will see cases like Savita’s in the United States. Legislators cannot say they are “saving lives,” while revoking the right to safe and legal abortion. It is a recipe for disaster, with women paying the price in the end of policies implemented by political ideologues.
Clearly, lawmakers are displaying a clear lack of understanding of women’s health and medical reality. However, their disregard for women’s lives is most egregious. This past legislative session, lawmakers in Oklahoma and Ohio described a mythical medical procedure - saying doctors could remove an ectopic pregnancy from a fallopian tube and implant it in the uterus. This procedure does not exist and is not medically possible.
When a person has an ectopic pregnancy, it is an urgent situation that must be handled immediately. Sometimes the situation is even an emergency, which could even kill a pregnant person if left untreated. Pretending otherwise is not only cruel, but dangerous, and is a blatant display of disregard for women’s lives.
The bottom line is this: who is the best person to make decisions regarding women’s health? Politicians? Or medical providers in consultation with their patients? Who has the best interests of patients in mind? I say, the proof is in the pudding. While state legislators claim to care about the health and well-being of pregnant people, their actions say otherwise. Missouri is a perfect case in point where the state has the sixth highest maternal mortality rate in the nation. And the list goes on when you inspect other states maternal mortality rates in comparison to abortion restrictions. Based on the information at hand, Missouri has made it clear that its intentions are not set on the well-being of women, but on controlling women and dictating each pregnancy outcome.
It boils down to this: taking away access to abortion will not eliminate abortion, it will only put people in harm’s way. If anti-choice activists really care about women and the live of babies, they will work for policies that will reduce infant and maternal mortality and childhood poverty. You do not have to trample on the rights of others in order to be “pro-life.”
Having regard for the rights and freedoms of others, to make personal, private medical decisions — has never gone against the grain of life. On the other hand, infringing on the rights of others and taking away their liberty and freedom is nothing less than anti-choice and dictatorial.
Julie A. Burkhart is the founder and CEO of Trust Women Foundation. Trust Women opens clinics that provide abortion care in underserved communities so that all women can make their own decisions about their health care. Follow her on Twitter @julieburkhart.