Sen. Jason Rapert’s Twitter feed alerts me to a major article in The Atlantic about abortion, all pitched on a foundation of Arkansas’s recent actions.
Rapert undoubtedly was drawn by his mention in the lower reaches of the article. If he’s concerned about the awful circumstance that was the point of the article, he gave no indication.
The article focuses on the successful effort to play off emotion to pass 20-week abortion bans in a number of states, including Arkansas, despite the laws’ unconstitutional abbreviation of the existing period for determining unlimited access to abortion — before fetal viability at roughly 24 weeks. Those laws are under challenge, though not yet in Arkansas.
A court HAS already enjoined Rapert’s even more draconian anti-abortion law to prohibit abortions at 12 weeks’ gestation.
But the article opens with the dreadful consequence of Rep. Andy Mayberry’s 20-week abortion ban, a ban with virtually no exceptions.
It is a story familiar to Arkansas Times readers because we shared it during the legislative debate. It’s the story related anonymously by a Little Rock Air Force Base pilot, Kyle Sanders, about his wife, Abbey, a surgical nurse, who learned at 19 weeks of pregnancy that the fetus she was carrying would not survive. They made the hard decision to terminate the pregnancy and they’ve now decided to step out publicly. The pilot commented then:
A bill proposing a 20-week cut-off for terminating pregnancies in the State of Arkansas just passed the Arkansas House of Representatives. It is arbitrary and wrong.
Our first ultrasound happened at nineteen weeks, as is the case within most pregnancies. It is usually the first opportunity for doctors to diagnose serious problems. By the time we were seen by a specialist, we were past twenty weeks. Recently a coworker came to my wife in tears, sharing her story for the first time. Her own ultrasound had revealed her baby’s fatal kidney failure and she faced the same gut-wrenching decision.
The Arkansas legislation establishes criminality at the very moment when parents and their doctors have to face painful reality. The bill is a product of ignorance and insensitivity to the suffering of parents and their unborn children. This legislation demands that grieving mothers carry their baby as long as possible, without exception. It declares that politicians know better than medical experts in every situation, even ours. This is not an argument about unwanted children. It is about the right of parents and their doctors to make educated and moral decisions with all the facts, not with a calendar.
The couple have now identified themselves in telling the story to a writer for The Atlantic. The details are just as wrenching. Just as unfair is the legislature’s decision not to provide for medical emergencies such as these, preferring to require a woman to carry a baby to term, no matter how bad the outcome. The mother has thoughts about Arkansas legislators who overrode Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of this unconstitutional legislation:
Abbey, a nurse who comes from a conservative Christian family in Oklahoma, never labeled herself “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” Now she pictures thrusting her sonogram and medical files at the lawmakers who voted for the abortion ban. “Would you let your own baby die slowly like that?” she would ask them. “If your wife was in these circumstances, would you force her to carry that baby?” She adds now, “I don’t think I could have gone on any longer, and any woman who was forced to would have lost her mind.”
The article makes clear Arkansas’s starring role in the battle to limit women’s medical rights.
The constitutional implications aren’t lost on Abbey, who emphasizes that she lives in Arkansas only because her husband is stationed there. She’s also seen him through deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. “I would have had to leave the state as a military spouse to get an abortion,” Abbey says. “That seems unfair when I don’t have a choice about where I live. I think it’s unconstitutional, and my husband supports and defends the Constitution on a daily basis.”
There are also public-policy consequences. Half of the dozen states that have passed 20-week abortion bans—Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas—are in the South, which has the highest poverty and uninsured rates and the lowest median incomes in the country, according to the Census Bureau. That means families in these states are among the most disadvantaged when it comes to caring for unwanted and disabled children. Arkansas, for example, ranks near the bottom in unintended and teen pregnancy rates (46th), number of doctors per resident (44th), and public health as measured by obesity, smoking, and diabetes (48th), according to data from nonprofit organizations and the federal government. Nearly one in five people in Arkansas have no health insurance. About the same proportion are living below the federal poverty line.
Proud of our legislature yet?
If not, don’t forget Rapert, preening over his moment to regurgitate familiar talking points.
Rapert, an ordained minister and the owner of a financial-services company, doesn’t sugarcoat his view of women’s motives in seeking abortion. “America, quit using abortion as birth control,” he admonished during an interview in his legislative office.
I might advise Rapert not to try that line out in person on the combat pilot quoted above. The same for Jerry Cox of the Arkansas Family Council, proud that the Arkansas legislature didn’t proceed down the “slippery slope” of allowing exceptions for fatal fetal abnormalities.
There’s so much more in this article about Arkansas — its crusade against abortion and the laundry list of laws passed in the recent session; its politicians in the vanguard of strangling the federal nutrition program that provides so many benefits to children the anti-abortionists claim to revere; its politician Mayberrys, who think other women must be bound in medical decisions by their personal views; the immense cost of preventing medical options for women.
Kyle and Abbey Sanders? They hope to try to have another child. But they say they’ll wait until they no longer live in Arkansas.