What’s worse than the recent abortion ban in Texas? The fact that other states are following suit. While Florida has already floated a similar ban, the Supreme Court will hear a case in December that could overturn Roe v. Wade protections nationwide.
Here’s how we got here: The Gestational Age Act was passed in Mississippi in March of 2018, banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions allowed in the case of fetal abnormalities or to save the life of the mother, but not for cases of rape or incest.
At the time, said NPR, this made Mississippi the “most difficult state in the country to get an abortion.”
When Governor Phil Bryant signed the bill, he explained his reasoning this way: “Mississippi leads the nation in saving the unborn, protecting religious freedoms… We’re saving more of the unborn than any state in America, and what better thing we could do [sic]… And… we’ll probably be sued here in about a half hour. That’ll be fine with me! This is worth fighting over.”
(Translation: “Women and fertile people here have fewer rights than they do anywhere else in the country! I will die on this hill!”)
I was proud to sign House Bill 1510 this afternoon. I am committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child, and this bill will help us achieve that goal. pic.twitter.com/O0O4QeILLx
— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) March 19, 2018
Even though Bryant was probably joking about the potential lawsuits, he wasn’t laughing for long. Within a day, the state’s last remaining abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, sued the state over the new law. Three years later, that same case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, will be heard by the Supreme Court and there’s a strong possibility the Court could effectively overturn abortion rights nationwide, at which point red states would be free to institute as many obstacles to the procedure as they want.
Last Thursday on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly with host Catherine Hadro, Mississippi’s Attorney General Lynn Finch shared her sick delight about the upcoming hearing.
When asked about the sheer significance of the case, Finch gushed,
This will be the most significant, game-changing case probably in my lifetime that affects… overturning Roe v. Wade and sets us on a new course…. I just think God has given us this opportunity to be here… the prayers, the uplifting, it’s just been incredible for myself, for the team. We know that we’ve been lifted up. We know that people have been there for us, helping us every step of the way…
Because who needs basic human rights if taking them away makes Finch and her team feel good?
Finch’s argument for overturning Roe? Apparently, having reproductive rights “shackle states to a view of facts that are decades out of date.”
How could they be out of date? Finch argued that, 50 years ago, professional women had to choose between having a baby and having a career. But now, it’s possible to have both at the same time. She said, “Now you have the opportunity to be whatever you want to be. You have the option in life to really achieve your dreams, your goals, and you can have those beautiful children as well.”
Excuse me? What opportunities?! The 154 economists who filed an amicus brief refuting her claim “that social progress since Roe v. Wade has made abortion no longer necessary for pregnant women in the U.S.” also said this:
Mississippi’s celebration of parental leave policies is particularly bizarre, as the United States is one of only two countries without a national paid maternity leave policy. While scores of countries, including Bulgaria and Latvia offer more than a year of paid leave to new mothers, the United States provides for only twelve weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (‘FMLA’). Making matters worse, half of all working women are not covered by FMLA due to various exemptions…
In other words, having babies against their will would indeed hurt women who want (or need) to work.
But you can already hear Finch’s rebuttal, can’t you? So what if women don’t get guaranteed paid leave? Just take your baby to daycare!
Well. About that. The economists already had a response:
… Mississippi’s claims about childcare fare no better. The real (inflation-adjusted) price of childcare has increased by nearly 50% since 1993, to a median price of $10,400/year for infants and $6,500/year for four-year-olds. Thus, a hypothetical mother working full-time and making $15 per hour — which is more than double the federal minimum wage — faces infant childcare costs that total one-third of her gross pay. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines “affordable childcare” as less than 7% of family income, but there is only one state in the country, Louisiana, where daycare costs qualify as “affordable” under that rubric. Further, federal childcare subsidy programs are underfunded and reach only about 1 in 6 eligible children.
Perhaps Finch was only thinking of parents who have the privilege of a regular 9-5 job while forgetting that nearly one in five American workers work in food service and retail industries — not to mention how many Americans have multiple jobs or otherwise hectic schedules.
The economists continued:
Affordability is not the only barrier to childcare access. Working mothers also deal with schedules that are erratic or misaligned with daycare hours… These unstable and unpredictable work schedules create significant barriers to securing reliable childcare.
For those mothers who can make it work, they still likely won’t make what they did before they were pregnant even though they need more money with the baby.
While the past 50 years have seen remarkable social and economic progress for women in the United States, significant hurdles remain — particularly for working mothers. Studies show that up to the point of parenthood, men’s and women’s earnings evolve similarly. But as parents, their earnings diverge sharply: mothers experience an immediate and persistent one-third drop in expected earnings while fathers’ earnings remain largely unaffected.
Of course they do. And women have it particularly bad in Mississippi.
… Mississippi has the highest rate of residents without health insurance in the nation, the highest poverty rate, the highest infant mortality rate, the highest rate of babies born prematurely and a maternal mortality rate higher than most of the nation. Black women in the state are about three times more likely to suffer a pregnancy-related death than other Mississippi women.
How could anyone be surprised? Mississippi is also the only state without a law requiring equal pay for men and women.
(There’s a lot more great information in the economists’ brief; I highly recommend reading through it for yourself.)
At this point, you have to ask: If Finch thinks abortion is so unnecessary, why bother banning it at all? Logically, wouldn’t people just stop getting them if they don’t need them? If women were actually getting paid enough, and had the resources needed to raise every child they conceived, and had all the contraception they needed to choose the appropriate number for them, then the abortion rate would likely plummet.
But it’s much easier for Finch and Bryant to ask the conservative super-majority on the Supreme Court to ban abortion with a flick of their wrists. The alternative would be using their power to enact laws that help people in their state — and there’s no chance they’d ever consider that.