Resolution of the abortion issue will be a seminal test for our democracy
Shrouded in hypocrisy, entangled by complexity and ensnarled in a battle for control, the abortion issue will be a real test of the structure of our democratic form of government.
Will there be a new overarching federal law along with specific state laws governing abortion?
It is a central focus in the 2024 presidential election, and there are also firestorms raging in the halls of state legislatures and Congress.
With impending elections, candidates for state and federal offices are honing their positions, often to fit the audience they are appealing to at any given time.
But a few constants are abundantly clear.
First is the blatant hypocrisy.
Many state legislatures are fighting to pass restrictive laws to prevent abortions but are not fighting equally as hard to ensure pregnant moms have access to needed prenatal health care.
There are vast disparities across states when it comes to access to vital health care services needed to sustain the life of the unborn, especially among low-income women.
What good are prenatal programs if those who most need them do not have access to them?
Where is the outreach to ensure that babies are born healthy with the best start possible?
What about the well-being, care and needs of babies and children after they get here?
A recent report reveals the low participation in the nutrition and health care program designed for women, infants and children known as WIC. Seventeen states had participation rates lower than the national average, and Missouri was among them.
Supporting and funding efforts to increase participation could be so helpful in many ways because WIC not only provides supplemental food and nutrition education, but also makes referrals to get needed health care for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women.
Will pro-life voices be just as vocal to fight, adopt and promote measures that ensure the infants and children already here get the life-supporting care, nurturing and resources they need?
The abortion issue is also entangled by complexity, beginning with the perennial and overriding question: At what point does life begin? The beliefs as well as answers are anchored in both religion and science.
Whether viewing abortion through a religious or scientific lens, the issue is further complicated when the health of the mother or the viability of life for the unborn enters the decision of whether to carry a pregnancy to full term.
In addition to those lenses and prenatal health concerns, there are other complexities that come into play.
Under what extenuating circumstances did the pregnancy occur? How should pregnancies resulting from rape, incest or underage victims factor into the decision? These violent and illegal acts are no longer considered valid exceptions for an abortion in many states, including Missouri.
These questions bring us to the third force that engulfs the abortion issue: The battle for power and control over what the laws and policies should be, and how one supersedes the other.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that women no longer have the constitutional right to have a legal abortion, putting the control issue front and center.
There are those who believe that access to abortion should be legal and government has no role in telling a woman what to do with her body. The decision about whether to have an abortion or not is left up to her, her doctor and maybe her family and her God.
There are also advocates and health care professionals who believe that abortions will occur anyway, and that those who choose to have them should be able to do so privately and safely. That no law will prevent someone who is determined to have an abortion. Therefore, many women’s lives will be put at risk as they seek abortions through illegal means.
So where does this multifaceted, powerful and overriding issue playing out in the public square leave us?
In June, the United Nations issued a statement summarizing the current crisis and impact of changing abortion laws as well as other impending conditions that could result for women in America, depending on the adoption of proposed policies and laws.
Since the Supreme Court’s decision just over a year ago, fourteen states have passed laws banning abortions, and many others are enacting laws and holding ballot referendums.
The varied legislative actions occurring at the state level show the possible outcomes when conflicting priorities, intransient beliefs, and the quest for control come into play. Ohio and Missouri are good examples.
Whether at the state or federal level, the lasting and controlling answers should be determined in the voting booths.
The abortion issue stands to be one of the biggest test of how well our democracy works.