Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Everyone loves freedom, except for Mississippi on abortion

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We celebrated freedom in these United States this week. Freedom in Mississippi is hanging by a legal thread, as the state’s draconian laws that essentially eliminates abortion in the state are temporarily put on hold.

If you needed to get an abortion in Mississippi, you only had one option — in the capital, Jackson — which still meant a significant drive from anywhere else in the state.

The Republicans in Mississippi decided that one abortion provider in its state was one too many, and passed laws making it virtually impossible to perform the medical procedure. Requiring hospital privileges, something that isn’t necessary, was the key point of the Mississippi legislation.

The old stat that gets tossed around is that 85% of all U.S. counties have no abortion services; that statistic hasn’t improved. Roe v. Wade might still be the law of the land, but in many parts of these United States, the Supreme Court decision doesn’t even apply.

Mississippi isn’t surrounded by the most enlightened of states: Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama. Factor in laws that require an overnight stay or limit teenagers from crossing state lines and women in that part of the South really have it rough.

You can get an abortion, especially an early-term abortion, in the United States, but getting that abortion is not as simple as wanting one.

This law, and the other similar laws, hurt sexual freedom in Mississippi and other states, but they also hurt economic freedom. If you can’t use your freedom to plan your family, you can end up with kids when you can’t afford them. Given the low benefits people in Mississippi and surrounding states receive, poor is as poor does.

We have learned throughout American history that even if laws are passed in Washington, often they come to the South and die. Black men had the right to vote thanks to the 15th Amendment, though the South got away with not allowing many blacks to be able to vote for the next 100 years.

Thanks to a judge’s ruling, the lone Mississippi abortion clinic can stay open, though little has been done before this point. One is too few, but still better than none.

Americans are good at talking about the idea of freedoms, but in reality, people aren’t nearly as free as they should be, especially compared to the rest of the First World. The European Union allows its citizens to go freely to live and work in another country; Americans, Canadians and Mexicans don’t have that freedom. Single-payer health care allows Canadians, Europeans, and others to pursue their own dreams without having to be tied down to a job for health insurance.

Poor Americans who are conservative want to keep taxes low on the off-chance that they might someday be rich. But they live in the First World country where that is the least likely to happen. And that was true long before the Great Recession of 2008.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that states cannot pass laws posing substantial obstacles or undue burdens on a woman’s right to an abortion. Having one abortion provider in a state larger than Rhode Island would seem to be an undue burden. having none would definitely be an undue burden.

This isn’t to say that the American dream is an abortion provider on every corner. Reasonable access can be in the eyes of the beholder, though the largest city and capital of a U.S. state should have more than one provider, and political intimidation shouldn’t be used to reduce Americans freedom.

The next step comes July 11 when a federal judge hears from both sides on continuing the temporary injunction. If not, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization will be put out of business and more than just symbolically, Mississippi will become the first state in the country where economic and sexual freedom don’t exist.

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