Mississippi needs to reevaluate which lives matter

Shae Slaughter

Just recently, Mississippi passed a bill that gave the state the strictest abortion laws in the U.S., banning most abortions after 15 weeks. (A day after the bill was signed, a judge temporarily blocked it until more arguments could be heard.) Besides being considered unconstitutional by many, this bill represents nothing but an arbitrary limitation on women who need help. Proponents of this agenda like to claim they are protecting the unborn and that these little lives matter, but I would argue that they are missing the bigger picture.

Before the passing of House Bill 1510, also known as the Gestational Age Act, Mississippi was one of many states that banned abortions after the 20-week mark. This time marker is still multiple weeks before the fetus would be viable and able to survive on its own. However, the one and only place in Mississippi that was able to perform abortions, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, refused to perform abortions after 16 weeks anyway. 

Given this information, it is clear that this bill’s passage was more useful as propaganda than it was as a legitimate policy. Mississippi lawmakers were celebrating becoming the “safest place for an unborn child,” but that seems to be at the cost of their state’s female population. At face value, women would only be losing one week of time if they were seeking an abortion, which is a minuscule change at best. However, the bigger problem is what this means about our priorities as we move forward. 

With Mississippi as an example, it is clear that while we spend time worrying about the lives of the unborn, we’re letting those who are already living down. According to Talk Poverty, Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the entire country. That means that nearly 21 percent of the state’s population was living in poverty as recently as 2016. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that Mississippi had the third-highest teen pregnancy birth rate in 2016. 

If these facts are true, which they are, it seems absurd that Mississippi would prioritize limiting abortions instead of making sure the babies who are born grow up with an opportunity to succeed. By forcing women to have children they either cannot care for or don’t want, lawmakers are ensuring that the poverty rate will only grow, that a cycle will be created and that there will be no chance to improve their standard of living. 

The same holds true when it comes to the choice to not focus on the causes of teen pregnancy, whether it be lack of education, lack of contraceptives or something in between. There will only be more women looking to get abortions. Many of these women who are forced to become mothers will also be forced to raise their child in poverty, and so once again the cycle continues. 

Right now, Mississippi and many anti-abortion people are trying to eliminate the result of the problem instead of the cause. If issues such as women’s health care, access to contraceptives, reproductive education and other causes of unwanted pregnancies were addressed, maybe abortion would not be such a prominent problem. Though I believe that women have the right to do what they please with their bodies, I also believe that placing importance on these areas would do a world of good not only for anti-abortion individuals but also the women dealing with pregnancy.