Recommended: A New York Times op-ed by Rob Schenk, an evangelical minister and anti-abortion crusader (Operation Rescue; arrested for thrusting a fetus at Bill Clinton in 1992), who’s changed his mind about the benefit of reversing Roe v. Wade, which protects legal abortion in the U.S.
His thinking is relevant to Arkansas, one of the states that have been at the vanguard of a wave of new laws aimed at making abortion all but impossible to obtain. Advocates hope the laws will lead to reversal of Roe by the Trump-impacted Supreme Court.
I’ve come to believe that overturning Roe would not be “pro-life”; rather, it would be destructive of life. I have witnessed firsthand and now appreciate the full significance of the terrible poverty, social marginalization and baldfaced racism that persists in many of the states whose legislators are now essentially banning abortion. If Roe is overturned, middle- and upper-class white women will still secure access to abortions by traveling to states where abortion is not banned, but members of minorities and poor whites will too often find themselves forced to bear children for whom they cannot adequately care.
What is “pro-life” about putting a woman in a situation where she must risk pregnancy without proper medical, social and emotional support? What is “pro-life” about forcing the birth of a child, if that child will enter a world of rejection, deprivation and insecurity, to say nothing of the fear, anxiety and danger that comes with poverty, crime and a lack of educational and employment opportunities?
Schenk acknowledges the “crisis pregnancy centers” and churches that purport to be looking after women in crisis. But he comments, based on experience of meeting panicked, bewildered and poor people in jails:
Alabama does have a network of “crisis pregnancy centers,” which offer support for women and their babies. But that support is limited, and should Roe be overturned, those centers will be woefully insufficient to help these women and their families raise and care for their children.
I’d like to think that the churches and pro-life organizations I worked with for those 30 years would provide the necessary tens of millions of dollars, thousands of volunteer hours, extensive social services, medical and dental care, educational support, food, clothing and spiritual assistance. But I suspect — frankly, I know — that they cannot or will not.
It’s a powerful message: Put your money where your mouth is. Read your Bible. Don’t pretend that a forced birth is the only option for women in crisis. He closes with a message worth sending to every Arkansas legislator:
Passing extreme anti-abortion laws and overturning Roe will leave poor women desperate and the children they bear bereft of what they need to flourish. This should not be anyone’s idea of victory. Anyone who thinks otherwise is indeed a fool.
And speaking of what “pro-life” means in real life:
Articles recently have noted that the states that have pushed the harshest and most numerous efforts to stop abortion tend to have the highest infant mortality rates. These states also have high rates of maternal death. Arkansas ranks 44th in maternal deaths. It is second-highest in infant mortality and 50th in teen births and the rise in anti-abortion legislation continues unabated.
Arkansas’s pre-term death rate has risen in recent years, coincidental with the rise in anti-abortion legislation. Meanwhile, it’s been an annual battle to continue broadened medical coverage for poor people, with a punishing “work rule” viewed as necessary to pry charity out of legislators.