Ten years old

Published July 7, 2022

By Thomas Mills

The impact of ending Roe v. Wade is quickly becoming clear. The ruling will yield a number of unintended consequences that include devastating effects on young lives. Some also might be surprising, like reducing, instead of increasing, the fertility rate. Nothing will serve to divide the country more, though, than states where abortion remains legal and where it does not. 

The most disturbing headline of the week reads, “As Ohio restricts abortion, 10-year-old girl travels to Indiana for procedure.” The girl is a victim of sexual abuse and Ohio’s law would force her to bear the child. By denying her an abortion, the state of Ohio has traumatized her further.

The second most disturbing headline of the week reads, “12-Year-Old Incest Victims Should Birth Dad’s Child, House Speaker Gunn Says.” The Mississippi House Speaker says that life begins at conception and he doesn’t believe there should be exceptions for rape or incest in the Mississippi law. That’s the position of a religious fanatic, but at least it’s consistent. 

 Politically, Democrats should be pushing these stories out in states across the nation. They illustrate the extremism of the modern Republican Party and indicate how out of touch the party is with mainstream America. Used correctly, episodes like these could drive a wedge between the GOP and the moderate voters who have been voting against Democrats. 

The two headlines present big problems for the GOP. Few people think that a 10-year-old rape victim should be forced to give birth. However, if life really DOES begin at conception, then aborting the fetus is the murder that so many fanatics claim. If exceptions can be made, then their whole argument for outlawing abortion before about 15 weeks is invalid. 

 And that leads to more questions. What about invitro fertilization? Are the eggs fertilized in a lab also lives? If they are discarded for one reason or another are the doctors guilty of aborting them? What about mothers who are implanted with fertilized eggs and then miscarry? Are they somehow liable? 

And what about the lives of mothers? We’re already hearing rumors of women with dangerous pregnancies that doctors are reluctant to terminate because of new laws. In states that ban abortion without exception, women almost certainly die from problematic pregnancies. So much for being pro-life. 

One unintended consequence of outlawing abortion might be to further reduce the fertility rate. In the days after the court ruling, doctors saw a spike in vasectomies. I suspect young women are also getting their tubes tied and they are going to be more diligent about using birth control without the option of a backup plan. If the birthrate continues to fall, then we’ll need even more immigrants to make up the difference in a declining labor force.    

Poor women will be disproportionately affected by outlawing abortion. Wealthier women will be able to travel to other states or get access to morning after pills. Poorer women, many who already have children, will be forced to bear children they can’t afford. Others will find themselves unable to get the education or skills they need to escape the poverty in which they’ve been raised. We’ll almost certainly see a spike in child abuse and neglect reports and need for more public assistance. 

Some pro-birth conservatives have been urging Republicans to support measures that help struggling mothers, but that’s just a naïve pipe dream. Republicans have built an entire party on denying assistance that would support unwed mothers or those who struggle to feed their families. Assistance would need to include universal health care, paid family leave, universal day care, free meals at day care and school, and increased funding for WIC and SNAP. Those policies are being denied right now as the GOP insists poor women give birth to children they don’t want and often can’t afford. 

I look forward to the day when Republicans are whining that businesses are discriminating against them because of their draconian laws. As companies look for places to locate, they will consider the laws that discriminate against women. Over the next twenty years, expect states with liberal abortion laws to attract companies while states that ban abortions to lose them.

Similarly, watch top high school students take a pass on schools where abortion is not an option. They may well avoid states where an unwanted pregnancy could end or curtail a college career. The divide between rich and poor states will grow.

The so-called “Pro-Life movement” is and always has been a pro-birth movement helmed by religious zealots. The only people who believe life begins at conception do so on religious grounds and enforcing those beliefs on the rest of us seems to be a violation of the separation of church and state. The impact of our new reality will disproportionally harm those who are always harmed the most when government denies our rights—our poorest citizens. Wealthier people will get around the laws. Corporations and those that value a professional career will avoid states that ban abortion. The people who remain will be those who share the zealots views and those without the means to escape them. While one ten-year-old girl was taken to a neighboring state, more will be force to bear their abusers children. That’s our coming reality.