Red, Blue & You: The Meaning of “Pro-life”
Georgia’s healthcare system needs a lot of improvements and the restrictions on a woman’s right to choose will make the problem much worse.
In June, the Supreme Court took away a constitutional right that has been in place and upon which women have relied for almost 50 years. Many in Georgia have celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade as a win for the “pro-life” movement.
Let’s remove abortion from the equation for a moment, though, and examine what state policies would most logically be described as pro-life. Supporting the right to healthcare is about as pro-life as it gets. It is a stance that supports the dignity of life from the moment a person is born to the moment they die, regardless of their wealth, race or job status.
Supporting strong protections for clean air, water and land is also deeply pro-life, as the very existence of the human race is entirely dependent on those resources being available. Supporting better worker protections and wages is important to life, as well, so that individuals can live a healthy, balanced life and have the income they need to support a family.
Some conservative leaders in Georgia have made it very clear that they believe we are a pro-life state while simultaneously opposing policies that would foster and protect life the moment a child emerges from the womb.
The state’s inability to expand Medicaid or fully invest appropriately in our own healthcare system has made Georgia one of the worst states for maternal and infant mortality. More than half of Georgia counties, 82 out of 159, do not have an OB/GYN; 63 counties have no pediatrician and nine don’t even have a physician. The state of Georgia has made some investments in healthcare, but we should do more to care for new mothers and their babies instead of dictating what a woman can or can’t do with her body, which is a basic violation of human rights.
The problem is only getting worse. In the past ten years, eight rural hospitals have shut down in Georgia. Just last year, a 33-year-old woman in Cuthbert died from a heart attack after waiting 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive and then going 25 miles in the ambulance to get to a hospital in Alabama. A hospital less than a mile from her home had closed three months earlier.
Georgia’s healthcare system needs a lot of improvements and the restrictions on a woman’s right to choose will make the problem much worse. In 2020, the most recent year that data is available, there were 31,000 abortions performed. Most of these procedures (66%) were chosen by Black women, despite the fact that only 37% of women in the state are Black. This should come as no surprise given the staggering rate of maternal mortality, the lower rate of insurance coverage and the lower quality of care that Black women receive.
Now, more women across all races will be forced to give birth, have more complications and receive insufficient care, though it is clear that these burdens will fall disproportionately on women of color.
Expanding Medicaid would go a long way in solving some of these problems, and countless lives have been lost by our state’s refusal to do so for the last decade. Those same leaders who tout our state as being pro-life are sacrificing the lives of their constituents because they’re afraid of political backlash and the threat to their own ambitions.
The truth is that we need more pro-life leaders – people who believe that the richest country in the history of the world has a duty to provide a basic standard of living to all those who live in it. Georgia has the resources to be a true pro-life state, but we continue to cut taxes for the wealthy and offer lucrative deals to billion-dollar businesses instead. Letting people suffer and die without healthcare is a choice, one that our leaders make every day that passes without action.
The right to life is sacred but it is a right that is denied to people in poverty, many people of color, and now, some women without the means to travel to a state that protects their right to control their reproductive healthcare. Until that right is shared equally among all, is Georgia really a pro-life state?
The right to an abortion in Georgia now ultimately rests in the hands of the Georgia Legislature. We have very important local elections this November and women’s rights are on the ballot. Democrats must elect more pro-choice leaders if we want to have a chance to protect women’s right to choose.