I remember sitting in the pews of a Baptist church as a pastor condemned abortions, because “baby killers don’t deserve heaven.” In true hypocritical fashion, I knew the adults refused to let most of their precious children learn learn about sex ed. But abortions? They dedicated a full hour, because it’s easier to condemn than understand, easier to villianize than to empathize.
The sermons have made their way into Kentucky General Assembly, where a 20 week abortion ban was just approved. I’m not claiming surprise, as the Republicans have been biting at the bit for years to get this legislation passed. Bevin and his followers want to paint the picture of loose women who want to kill babies, that they’re just trying to “save lives and do God’s work.”
This is a false narrative, because if Bevin wanted to save lives then he wouldn’t be repealing Medicaid, he wouldn’t be putting people in more dire straits with Right to Work. He’s essentially stripped away the possibility of getting- already low bar- healthcare and taking money from women’s pockets.
Kentucky has been consistory ranked low on healthcare in general, with women’s healthcare even lower. Right now the state is ranked at 44 (it was 47), with Louisiana being the worst at 50. Kentucky ranks at 47 for Women’s Life Expectancy at Birth, with a 45 for socio-economic and wellbeing, but a 35 for overall care. In other words, basic healthcare is livable, but having a child is dangerous. After having a child, a woman’s economic hardships will be a harsh reality.
Did you know that it on average costs over $300,000 to raise a child in America? Republicans will tell you that you can’t put a cost on a life, but that’s easy to say if one’s world isn’t based primarily in agriculture and coal mining. Kentucky farmers and miners don’t even reach to $20,000 annual these days for household income.
And now let’s get into the pre-birth costs. Prenatal vitamins with health insurance are covered, but without it you’re looking at a $2,000 expense. Then, add in about $450 dollars for bottles, maternity clothes, etc. In addition, add in cost of taking days off from work or having to quit work altogether. With no standard maternity in America, women will have to either use vacation days or just not get paid (or lose their jobs because a boss expects her to be a full time mom now).
“What to Expect” gives great advice for mommies to be, and prepares women for the sticker shock of having a child. With insurance, a baby can cost between $5,000-10,000 for birth alone. But then:
While maternity expenses for insured moms might seem high, the numbers are far higher if you have no insurance at all. The Truven Report put the uninsured cost of having a baby at anywhere from $30,000 for an uncomplicated vaginal birth to $50,000 for a C-section. And those prices have increased dramatically in the last four years. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, the cost of having a baby increased 50 percent between 2004 and 2010, and they’ve likely increased since then.
Maternity costs can also vary from state to state by 50 percent and even more within some states, according to the Truven report. A 2014 study by the University of California, San Francisco found that hospital charges for an uncomplicated vaginal delivery ranged from $3,296 to $37,227, depending on the hospital. For a C-section, costs ranged from $8,312 to nearly $71,000.
Legislators don’t want this narrative. They want to pretend that all moms have magical karma that will prevent them from coming into economic hardships. The fact is though, it’s getting to the point where debt and motherhood are intertwined together as a moral must, that a woman must be expected to carry and birth and raise without mentioning that she can’t afford to even feed herself, how can she afford a child?
How can she afford even an ultrasound? Under the new law, a woman must receive one before she can move forward with the abortion procedure. “The bill requires a physician or qualified technician to perform the ultrasound and position the screen so the woman may view the images.” Already the ACLU has deemed the move reprehensible enough to sue, but in addition to that, “The medical staff will be required to describe what the images show, including the size of the fetus and any organs or appendages visible.”
Ultrasounds are expensive, and ultimately unnecessary for abortions in the first trimester. However, Kentucky legislators want women to “make the best medical choices possible,” by shaming them into seeing a fetus most women in Kentucky can’t truly afford to bring into the world. There are conflicting articles that report the ultrasound might be an intra-vaginal ultrasound, which is not only highly unnecessary, but also more expensive that the average over the belly ultrasound. Also, an intra-vaginal ultrasound is an invasive procedure, one that even one woman said felt akin to being raped.
So let’s put money aside and wade into darker waters. Rape, sexual assault, and incest are not exclusions to the new 20 week abortion limit. Kentucky ranks 41 in rape crimes, with over 997 reports. One would imagine that women after being raped would be given information about abortion procedures after a rape, but they’re not (bold added by me):
Every hospital with emergency room services shall have a physician or sexual assault nurse available to examine victims of sexual offenses reported to a law enforcement agency. Such examinations must include emergency room treatment, evidence gathering services, tests, and information about services for treatment of venereal disease, pregnancy, and other medical or psychiatric problems. The pregnancy counseling provided to victims of reported sexual offenses may not include abortion counseling or referral. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 216B.400 (Enacted 1974; Last Amended 2006).
Women who have been raped may be given the Plan B pill, but that’s not guaranteed. In the event a teen is raped by her father, well, she will have even worse problems:
Written informed consent with 24-hour waiting period of mother; of one parent or guardian if mother under 18 and unemancipated, except when medical emergency or by judicial proceedings for court to waive parental consent; doctor must notify spouse if possible prior to abortion, if not possible, within 30 days of abortion [notification of spouse has been held unconstitutional by the attorney general. OAG 82-97.]
Let’s paint this picture then: A young girl is raped by her father/brother/uncle, so she goes to the emergency room. When she does, they test her, patch her up, perhaps get her in contact with counseling and police. They don’t mention where to go for an abortion. She discovers she’s pregnant, but her father/brother/uncle won’t give her consent to get the procedure.
Without consent, she would need to find a judge who will believe her, within 20 weeks. The judges will all have waitlists and backlogs. She needs to find a place to get one, unaware that Kentucky only has two abortion clinics in the entire state. Someone has to drive her to Louisville, to EMW Women’s Surgical Center, which has a waitlist and a back log. Not to mention the money, to the tune of over $650 (not including the drugs and consultation fee). How to get that as a teen with no money?
On top of all this, she must go through an intra-vaginal ultrasound, reliving the trauma of her rape, while a doctor tells her what the fetus looks like, and shows her the image. Basically, at this point, it’s state required torture and trauma. These narratives aren’t what get heard at the $70,000 tax payer cost emergency sessions. No, these narratives are called “rare,” blatantly ignoring that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted before reaching 25, some statisticians calling that number hopeful.
Bevin has made it very clear in the fine print of his 20 week abortion limit that he thinks men should have the right to a final say. In here, its stated that a man can sue if a woman gets an abortion without his notice. In other words, a rapist can sue his rape victim over an abortion. A victim of rape can be attacked again, and have her life ruined, and it’s perfectly legal.
Women deserve better, we deserve to be treated as equal citizens, with full control over what happens to our bodies. Treating a fetus with more respect and love than for the women that hold them isn’t godly, it’s tyrannical. Taking away Medicaid, forcing women to pay out of pocket for every single step of a pregnancy isn’t pro-life, its pro-birth. Forcing women to accept a baby from rape and incest is asking her to go through hell, and pay money for the experience for the rest of her life. Giving men a revenge clause for women taking control of their lives and their bodies is beyond shameful, it’s disgusting.
Pro-choice doesn’t mean anti-birth; it means seeing the world as it is, seeing the cruel realities women live with. We need better protections for women to get all the medical treatment they need, and that includes abortions, that includes Medicaid and affordable healthcare, that includes being able to have full access to information at hospitals. We need to start preaching for women instead of against them.