You know what would be great? If pro-lifers actually focused on life.

Abortion restrictions are being introduced, debated and mostly passed across several states in the U.S. Texas has been the most notable, but many others — Ohio, North Carolina, Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi and North Dakota — are ramping up their anti-abortion legislation. But while the GOP claims to focus on “life,” many of the states dedicating enormous amounts of time, money and energy to limiting abortion also see incredibly poor health outcomes for mothers and children. I outline some of them over at Al Jazeera; here’s a bit:

In more than a dozen Texas counties, the maternal mortality rate is 100 deaths per 100,000 births – that’s on par with Morocco and Honduras.Pregnant women in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Mongolia, Syria and Kyrgistan have better health outcomes. And in two Texas counties, more than 900 women die for every 100,000 births – that’s right between the death rates for mothers in Somalia and Sierra Leone, which rank among the top three maternal mortality rates in the world.

That’s right: Pregnant women are dying at a rate of nearly 1 in 100 in some areas of Texas, and the state Republicans are concerned with making abortion, birth control and sexual health information more difficult to obtain.

They call that “pro-life.”

Republicans in Ohio also claim to value life, and use that to justify a new budget containing at least five different provisions that not only curtail reproductive rights, but basic information and freedom of speech. How is Ohio promoting “life”? By defunding Planned Parenthood clinics in that state and instead giving the funds to Christian anti-choice “Crisis Pregnancy centres”. Planned Parenthood offers a wide range of services, of which abortions are only a minuscule part and which state and federal tax dollars already don’t pay for. They’re the primary reproductive health care provider for low-income women around the United States, offering Pap smears, cancer screenings, STD tests, pregnancy tests, sexual health information, contraception, adoption referrals and many other services.

Crisis Pregnancy centres, by contrast, provide a series of misleading statements and outright lies intended to prevent women from getting abortions. Preventing abortion is their entire goal, after all, and they’ve proven themselves willing to say nearly anything, no matter how flatly untrue, to accomplish it. Actually helping pregnant women and their children, beyond handing them a few packs of diapers, is a secondary priority. The centres do offer pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, but typically don’t employ trained technicians who know how to adequately read an ultrasound. They can tell you you’re pregnant and point to the fetus, but that’s about it. Women, though, believe they’re getting actual health care, and may not follow up with ultrasounds or tests from real medical providers.

Ohio isn’t just defunding legitimate health clinics in favour of religiously-motivated ideology centres. The new budget signed by governor John Kasich also cuts funding to rape crisis centres if those centres give their clients any information about abortion. In Ohio, not even rape victims should have the right to choose – or get an honest answer if they ask a rape crisis counselor about their options.

Targeting rape victims and low-income women isn’t all Ohio pro-lifers have in store. They’re also restricting abortion generally, passing new regulations that on the one hand require abortion clinics to have agreements with local hospitals allowing the clinics to transfer patients there, but on the other bar public hospitals from entering into those agreements. They’re making it impossible for clinics to comply with the law, which has the effect of shutting them down. And they’re requiring doctors to read an anti-abortion script to pregnant patients.

While Ohio Republicans could find the time, energy and money to attack rape victims and women who want to plan their families, they were less interested in following up on the recommendations of a 2009 task force on infant mortality (PDF) in their state, convened after it came to light that Ohio had the 12th highest infant mortality rate in the nation. The death rate of African-American infants in Ohio is twice as high as that of white infants – black babies in that state are about as likely to die in their first year of life as babies in born places like Syria and Libya. The task force found that “A shortage of women’s health providers in many areas of the state results in long waits for prenatal care and long drives to primary care and delivery hospitals for many Ohio women” and “Many Ohio women have no reproductive health care coverage”. Their number one recommendation? “Provide comprehensive reproductive health services and service coordination for all women and children before, during and after pregnancy.”

So the Ohio GOP cut funding to one of the largest organisations that provides just that, and instead funnelled it into the coffers of anti-abortion groups which offer practically nothing resembling health care.

The entire piece is here. I know pro-life hypocrisy is nothing new, but the degree to which supposedly “pro-life” activists do not care about life after birth continues to be astounding.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Discrimination, Domestic Violence, Gender, Health, Law, Politics, Pregnancy, Rape Culture, Reproductive Rights, Sex, Sexual Assault and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to You know what would be great? If pro-lifers actually focused on life.

  1. The same was true with Prohibition. Within a few years, it was clear that prohibiting the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages wasn’t working. But people who were indebted to all their hard work to get the amendment passed in the first place were too prideful to recognize that they’d made a mistake.

    It’s easy to be Pro-Life when you’ve been convinced that it’s you against the world. Some people really do think that this crusade is some sort of moral cause against a societal evil. And those sort of attitudes lead to navel-gazing and a completely lack of real perspective. To them, it’s got to be everything they want or nothing.

    • Marksman2010 says:

      To them, it’s got to be everything they want or nothing.

      Kevin, you strike upon an important point. Americans have to be the most stubborn people on the planet–and it’s not just abortion or Prohibition. It’s the War on Terror (whatever that means), it’s Vietnam, it’s the War on Drugs (see Prohibition above) and on and on and on.

      These people in Washington just don’t get it. We all hear this bullshit over and over and over: “America is the best country in the world!”

      Nope. It could be. It could be. It has some potential. First, if we would make reparations for the backs we broke and for land we stole to create it, and if we actually honored the adage of a land by the people, for the people, America might some day add up to something. Just maybe. Maybe. per-haps.

  2. BroadBlogs says:

    If so-called pro-lifers were really pro-life they would be concerned about things like prenatal care for pregnant women and toxins in our air and water. And they wouldn’t want to cut food stamps for poor kids. I could go on!

    • gratuitous_violet says:

      …but then they would have to admit 1. that their real goal is to control the definition of appropriate sexual relations (i.e. fucking up the shit of childbearing persons) and appropriate roles for women, and 2. that they don’t actually give a flying fuck about what happens to those children when they’re actually born.

    • gratuitous_violet says:

      …but then they would have to admit 1. that their real goal is to control the definition of appropriate sexual relations (i.e. fucking up the shit of childbearing persons) and appropriate roles for women, and 2. that they don’t actually give a flying fuck about what happens to those children when they’re actually born. Can’t have that! In fact, most of the anti-abortion folks I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with get quite offended when you suggest their motives may not solely consist of “save the babies!”

  3. Past my expiration date says:

    I want to make a statistical quibble about county maternal mortality rates in Texas.

    (I found the report by Googling “texas department state health services maternal mortality county” (PDF, it’s the second result, I don’t know how to provide the link).)

    The maternal mortality rates are based on one year (2010). The two one-year county maternal mortality rates of 900+ per 100,000 were based on 106 births (Jack County) and 103 births (Winkler County) — which basically means that one person died in each county. If that one person had not died (and I wish that one person had not), the maternal mortality rate would have been 0. Indeed the majority of counties had maternal mortality rates of 0. The one-year county maternal mortality rates of 100-900 per 100,000 were also based on statistically small numbers of births (139-914) and therefore deaths.

    So I don’t think it’s statistically valid to compare a one-year maternal mortality rate based on statistically small numbers of births and deaths to year-after-year maternal mortality rates for whole countries.

    But also I don’t think it’s necessary for making Jill’s point, given that (quoting the report) “the maternal mortality rate in Texas has quadrupled over the last fifteen years from 6.1 per 100,000 live births in 1996 to 24.6 per 100,000 live births in 2010.” — which is awful.

    I hope it is ok to say this. I am not trying to make light of the hypocrisy of the so-called pro-lifers, let alone of maternal mortality.

  4. Nancy Green says:

    I was just listening to a ‘success story’ at work. A woman found out early in a wanted pregnancy that she had breast cancer. She decided to continue the pregnancy and got care for herself and prenatal care– a delicate balancing act for her and her doctors. The baby needed to be in intensive care and continues to need medical support. Mother and child were there to present this story. So far, things are looking good for both of them.
    Without a strong health care safety net this working mother would not be surviving cancer, and her baby would not be doing as well as she is. They look great. You would never guess they were survivors.
    Ironic that the dreaded Obamacare is part of the government insurance that saved this woman and child.

  5. robotile says:

    Hi Jill,
    Do you know which Texas counties have those atrociously high maternal mortality rates you cited (900/10,000)? i clicked on the link but it just links to a general page which is hard to parse.
    Thanks!

  6. Sina says:

    Most pro-lifers (who are usually conservative and religious) couldn’t care less about the unborn child. If they did, they wouldn’t cast the mother and child out from the community. Instead of supporting the child, they brand it a bastard, and the mother a whore. They deny her the jobs and solidarity she needs to provide for her child. And if it’s not that, she at least has to be a subservient, repentant sinner to get minimal help. What it’s actually about is punishing women who dare to enjoy sexuality outside of marriage, where they are under the control of a single man who has the “right” to the child.

    These fake abortion clinics make me sick. They are institutions to mentally abuse women in desperate need of real counselling and support. Decisive women will quickly see through the trap- it’s the young and vulnerable they prey on, the ones whose lifes they can most easily destroy.

    • Sina,

      As a social worker I went to one of those fake abortion clinics thinking it was an actual abortion clinic for a client of mine. The woman who ran the place was so far off her rocker I was astonished, absolutely astonished that these places are legally allowed to exist. She sat me down and preached to me for a half hour about the horror of birth control and abortion, and at one point gave me a sideways glance and nervously stated “I’m afraid I’m talking to a liberal” as I sat and pondered how badly she would have psychologically abused my client had I sent her there without checking the place out first.

      Pro-lifers don’t care about life, they care about birth. I question the morals of anyone who can want a child born but not housed, fed, clothed, or medically covered.

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