GOP healthcare hypocrisy
In a much-watched video recorded in mid-August, a South Carolina Republican legislator — a member of the “pro-life” crowd— recites a litany of gloomy statistics related to the welfare of women in his state. Then, he appears to choke up as he recounts the frightening medical crisis of a 19-year-old pregnant woman there. Rep. Neal Collins laments his support for a “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban which, he admits, could have cost the young woman her life when she suffered a miscarriage. He wants listeners to know that he had barely slept for a week after he learned about the women’s experience.
That would suggest a profound — though very late — awakening by an elected official if it affected his judgment on votes that came before him afterward. But it didn’t. Several days later, Collins supported a highly-restrictive abortion bill.
Like other Republicans who find themselves in a challenging political climate because of the elimination of reproductive rights, Collins was engaging in a bit of theater to suggest he was newly aware of the frightening implications of abortion bans. He wanted voters to believe that he suddenly understood the difficult circumstances faced by women in the state, especially those who are less affluent. But that didn’t stop him from banning most abortions, a prohibition which will fall most heavily on poor women.
Besides, it’s difficult to believe Collins was so ill-informed. South Carolina, like most other Deep South states, has had high infant mortality and maternal mortality rates for decades. According to WalletHub, South Carolina is the third worst state or district (counting Washington, D.C.) in which to have a baby, considering not only the cost of delivery, the rates of infant and maternal mortality but also the cost of such things as reliable child care.
And South Carolina isn’t alone. WalletHub — a site offering consumer financial advice, among other things — rates most of the other Deep South states among the worst places to have a baby. Those are also the states most likely to have passed laws practically banning abortions, forcing women to have babies in inhospitable environments.
Take my home state of Alabama, which Wallet Hub rates as the worst state in which to give birth. Alabama has the sixth highest rate of maternal mortality — defined as a death related to pregnancy — and the fourth highest rate of infant mortality, according to a 2021 report from the United Health Foundation. Alabama was also among the states that already had a law in place to ban all abortions as soon as Roe v Wade was overturned. Alabama’s law does not include exceptions for rape or incest.
Mississippi, according to Wallet Hub, is the second worst place in the nation to have a baby. It has the highest rate of infant mortality among the states and the third highest rate of maternal mortality. Like Alabama, the state already had an abortion law waiting for Roe v Wade to fall. Mississippi’s ban makes an exception for rape if it is reported to law enforcement authorities, but it makes no exception for incest.
Those states are led by conservative Christians who insist that they are intent on protecting life in the womb, but that’s about as far as conservative Republicans’ concept of being “pro-life” goes. As soon as the baby leaves the womb, those God-fearing folk lose all interest (at best) or become openly hostile to those families (at worst) There is no compassion in that version of “pro-life” morality, no kindness, no concern for those outside the magic circle.
Reportedly, there are divisions in the “pro-life” camp, with some arguing that the anti-abortion movement should now focus on making family life easier for those women who will be forced to give birth. There is certainly plenty to do in that regard. Conservative states could improve medical care by expanding Medicaid. They could make sure poor families live in decent housing. They could provide access to decent childcare for free or at very low cost.
But that hasn’t happened, as legislators such as Collins certainly know. That’s because the anti-abortion movement was never about protecting life.