Before we begin, I have a confession to make: I was born in Indiana. I don’t like to talk about it. We moved away when I was three, and I’ve always been grateful for the choices my parents made. I’m sure some people love the state, but while there are tiny bits in my memory that stand out as fun or pleasant, most of it is a foreboding, empty gray abyss, and it’s full of cornfields. When my mom moved back there and tried to get me to follow her, I laughed bitterly. I loved her, but there was no way I’d ever be able to live there.
I’ve never been more happy about that decision than now. See, I’m a uterus-bearing American of reproductive age who doesn’t want to bear children under any circumstances, ever. In Indiana, they have decided to take that decision away from people like me. They’ve decided to take it away from people who want a kid someday, but not this soon. They’ve decided to take the choice away from people who are in a dangerous relationship and will be trapped by a child. They’ve decided to take it away from people who are already unable to feed the children they have, much less a new mouth. But they’ll generously allow people who became pregnant through rape or incest to abort, and they’ll even allow people to have an abortion if the pregnancy is putting their life at risk, but even if you fall into one of those categories, you’ll still be forced to listen to the fetal heartbeat first, and wait 18 hours, and other assorted things meant to strong-arm you into changing your mind.
And then, if you’ve stayed the course and cleared all the hurdles put in your way by the patronizing assholes of the Indiana legislature, you’ll be forced to have a funeral.
CONTENT NOTE: medical images of human fetuses below the jump.
That’s right, people with unwanted pregnancies. They want you to inter or cremate a bit of medical waste. They not only want you to pay for an abortion, they want you to pay funeral costs.
They expect you to treat something a few millimeters long as if it’s a fully-realized, born person.
Let’s have a look at what they want you to spend all this effort and money to formally lay to rest.
Over 30% of abortions happen by the sixth week of pregancy. Of course, with Indiana’s TRAP laws closing all but a few clinics, you may not be able to get your abortion so soon, so we’ll give it an extra week, but it’s still not even a fetus yet: it’s an embryo. Here’s a seven week-old human embryo:
It’s about 9mm long, or around a quarter-inch for those of us raised in metric-phobic countries like the United States. Go grab a ruler and measure out a quarter-inch. Eensy-weensy, innit?
Now, an additional 55.5% of elective abortions happen by 12 weeks. By then, we have a certified fetus! Let’s have a look:
Well, my goodness! That’s finally got some features that vaguely resemble a human: arms and legs and all. It’s all of 80mm (3.2 inches) long. And, despite the fact it’s beginning to look more like a person than an alien blob, it has at no time up to this point developed anything like consciousness:
During this time there is no scientific doubt that the developing fetus is incapable of any form of conscious awareness. The fetal brain does not begin to develop until 3-4 weeks into the pregnancy, at which point it is little more than a hollow tube filled with dividing neurons. Between weeks 4 and 8 this neural tissue grows forming the major divisions of the adult brain (forebrain, midbrain, hindbrain and spinal cord). By 8 weeks recognisable facial features have developed and the cerebral cortex separates into two distinct hemispheres. By the end of the first trimester (12 weeks) nerve cells are beginning to form rudimentary connections between different areas of the brain. However, these connections are sparse and incapable of performing the same functions as an adult brain. So by 12 weeks, although the fetus is certainly starting to look like a little human, the neural circuits responsible for conscious awareness are yet to develop.
Now imagine having to arrange for a funeral home to pick up a never-conscious bit of tissue this size, transport it, prepare it for burial or cremation, get it a casket to bury or cremate it in, and then either pay interment costs or put the thing in an urn on a shelf somewhere. All told, with the cost of a (very cheap) children’s casket and the expenses for processing the body and paperwork, you’re looking at an additional $4,000- $5,000 for aborting a pregnancy you didn’t want. All for something that is roughly somewhere between the size of a pea and a lime.
Now, a person might choose to do this for a wanted pregnancy they lose early. They may choose to hold an actual funeral, even. We humans are symbolic creatures and yes, a potential person might mean a lot to us. I’m not going to argue with a parent who needs to think of it as a baby. But legally, it shouldn’t considered one. It’s a bit of tissue that could potentially develop into a person, but it doesn’t have any right to use another person’s body, any more than a born person does. If the person it’s growing in wants or needs it out for any reason at all, well before it develops anything even close to a consciousness, that should be the end of it.
To make someone pay to bury a bit of medical waste as if it’s an actual person is absurd. And these legislators know it’s absurd. It’s just another way to punish pregnant women* for not wanting to be pregnant. And so all people who are currently pregnant or have the potential to become so are forced to suffer endless, unnecessary shit just because these jackasses want to make it impossible for them to control their own fertility.
This time, the anti-abortion crusaders have gone so far that even some in their own pro-forced-birth contingent realize how outrageous it is.
“Today is a perfect example of a bunch of middle-aged guys sitting in this room making decisions about what we think is best for women,” said Rep. Sean Eberhart, a Republican who described himself as “as pro-life as they come.” Rep. Sharon Negele, a Republican who sponsored a bill to impose restrictions on Indiana’s Planned Parenthood last year, agreed: “The bill does nothing to save innocent lives. There’s no education, there’s no funding. It’s just penalties.”
They don’t like it when the naked truth is showing, do they? Most of them don’t give a shit about the precious widdle babies, but they do very much enjoy punishing pregnant people for wanting or needing to end that pregnancy.
Once again, it’s the poor who will suffer the most. Wealthy pregnant people will have no problem finding someone to terminate their pregnancy, affording the travel costs and time off work for the procedure, and paying for a completely unnecessary funeral. But this bill, if it becomes law, will put abortion completely out of reach for many.
This is what’s happening to reproductive rights in our state legislatures in 2016.
I don’t care if you’re for her or feeling the bern. I don’t care if you want to boycott the presidential race completely. But if you care at all for people’s right to control their own fertility, get off your ass this fall and vote these anti-abortion shitstains out of the legislatures.
And remember that the next president will be the one to appoint the Supreme Court justices who will decide those rights for the next generation or two. Choose accordingly before you and your loved ones completely lose their right to choose.
*Most of them don’t yet realize that such a thing as a pregnant trans man or non-binary person can happen. But I’m pretty sure they’ll come up with terrible ways to target them extra when they do.