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Column: What kind of monsters would force a child to have a baby?

A woman dressed in a "Handmaid's Tale" costume with the Supreme Court in the background.
An abortion rights protester wears a costume based on “The Handmaid’s Tale” outside the Supreme Court on Oct. 4.
(Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images)

You may have seen the shocking story: An abortion doctor associated with Indiana University was asked to provide care to a pregnant 10-year-old from Ohio, which has banned abortion after six weeks.

The story, published by the Indianapolis Star, gained traction because this is one of the predictable nightmare scenarios in our post-Roe world, where heartless legislators are outlawing abortion even in the case of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life.

How can we be living in a country where a child who has been raped — because any child who turns up pregnant has, by definition, been raped — will have no choice in some states but to undergo a forced birth.

Opinion Columnist

Robin Abcarian

Was this story true, or apocryphal?

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Indiana University Health wouldn’t tell.

“Thanks for reaching out,” a spokesperson told me by email. “I’m sorry, but we don’t have any information to share.” The Indianapolis Star stands by its account.

On Friday, President Biden invoked the story when he slammed the Supreme Court for its bogus rationale in overturning Roe vs. Wade and announced he would order the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services to do everything in their power to protect access to abortion care, contraception and emergency care when a pregnancy endangers a mother’s health.

He has also directed the attorney general to ensure “robust legal representation” for patients, providers and others who engage in reproductive healthcare and/or cross state lines to do so.

“This isn’t some imagined horror,” Biden said. “It’s already happening.”

With mounting anger, he said, “Imagine being that little girl. ... Ten years old! ... A 10-year-old girl should be forced to give birth to a rapist’s child?”

Yes, Mr. President, that is exactly what the Supreme Court’s conservative majority has unleashed.

By overning Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court opens the door to reversing gay sex, gay marriage, contraception.

If the increasingly aggressive religious conservatives who dominate the Supreme Court and red state legislatures have their way, a pregnant child will indeed be forced to bear a child. What kind of American dystopia have these Christian extremists wrought?

Last month on “State of the Nation,” Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said that her state will make no exceptions to its abortion ban, not in the case of rape, nor incest, nor even to save the life of the mother.

“My heart goes out to every single woman who’s had to go through that situation,” said Noem.

(Translation: You’re 13 and got pregnant after your stepfather raped you? Tough luck, honey.)

According to the Guttmacher Institute, an information clearinghouse that supports reproductive rights, just under 4% of the 930,160 abortions in 2020 — or 37,206 — were obtained by minors.

Guttmacher has not released current statistics for how many girls under 15 years old had abortions, but in 2014, they accounted for 0.2% of 926,000 abortions. That may seem like a vanishingly small percentage, but it amounts to 1,852 youngsters who were able to exercise the right to bodily autonomy.

“I think we are heading in a direction of increasing absolutism and punitiveness,” Yale Law School professor Reva Siegel told the New York Times after the Supreme Court overturned the federal right to abortion and handed the matter back to the states.

As proof, Siegel offered the example of Mississippi, which has restricted abortion at the same time it has refused to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage. Mississippi has the highest rate of infant mortality in the country and one of the highest rates of maternal mortality, and will rip away health insurance from mothers a mere two months after they give birth, when they are still medically precarious.

Forcing girls, or anyone for that matter, to bear children is not just immoral, it’s dangerous.

Protests at the homes of conservative justices who want to overturn Roe vs. Wade are not an invasion of privacy. Forcing us to bear unwanted children is.

We’ve long known that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures. Childbirth, by contrast, is one of the most perilous.

“Pregnancy is often called a stress test that brings out underlying conditions that were not present,” said Lauren Ralph, a UC San Francisco epidemiologist who co-authored the Turnaway Study, which examined the effects of unwanted pregnancies and the differences in outcomes between women who were able to obtain abortions and women who were not.

Pregnancy is incredibly taxing. It can lead to all sorts of maladies — hemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, pulmonary embolism, anemia and worse.

“We found to our surprise that one of the more serious risks of unwanted pregnancies was maternal death,” Ralph told me. “We identified two deaths in our study of just over 1,000 people. Both were people who were denied a wanted abortion and later went on to give birth.”

Ralph, who researches adolescents and their decision-making around pregnancy and childbirth, said the study also found that women who wanted but were unable to obtain abortions reported being in poorer health after childbirth than women who received abortions.

They reported higher levels of chronic pain for five years, and more gestational hypertension in subsequent pregnancies and were more likely than women who had abortions to say their health was poor or fair versus good or very good.

“What we’re talking about here in the context of overturning Roe vs. Wade is really forcing parenthood on a young person,” Ralph said. “Removing autonomy from a young person in their decisions around pregnancy, from my perspective, is unethical. We know it will have negative health and socioeconomic impacts in both the short and the long term.”

How do we wake up from this nightmare?

There is only one way.

“For God’s sake,” Biden said Friday, “there’s an election in November. Vote, vote, vote, vote.”

@AbcarianLAT


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