Abortion is not a right in the United States. Given recent legislative restrictions, abortion is barely even a choice. Now, abortion is being attacked even as a research subject for PhD student, Lindsay Ruhr, at the University of Missouri. Kurt Schaefer, the state legislator pushing to block Ruhr’s research (no surprise, he’s a Republican), is claiming that researching the imposed 72-hour waiting period before an abortion procedure is akin to gleefully advertising killing babies at Planned Parenthood, all funded by taxpayer money. Schaefer’s ill-attempted protest is overflowing with either ignorance or a Republican version of Machiavellianism.
Missouri nincompoop, Schaefer, can have only several motivations for protesting the research of abortion access. Either his most truly held beliefis that abortion is inexcusably, horrifically wrong in any case and even mentioning the procedure could raise the Devil and cause the destruction of civilization or he’s trying to hide something. If the former, Schaefer is clearly unfit to be a representative upholder of the US Constitution which triumphs the separation of Church and State. Given that Schaefer is a Republican it does seem reasonable that he doesn’t care about or doesn’t understand separating religion (i.e., imposing personal beliefs on others) from governing (i.e., laws that respect “no establishment of religion”). So, option one: Schaefer is acting unconstitutionally. Perhaps.
However, if the ending abortion is not his only mission in life then he’s acting on more devious motivations. Perhaps instead of blindly crusading for his (outdated and inherently sexist) ideals, he is moving to block abortion research because he knows the inevitable outcome and is eager—perhaps desperate—to hide the facts. Schaefer’s delusional idea that researching abortion is the same as advertising for it seems to swing his political pendulum to the dark side, insinuating that he understands the 72-hour waiting period placed on abortion is nothing more than a cheap political trick to keep women subservient, barefoot, and pregnant. Therefore, option two: Schafer is obstructing the path towards evidence that illuminates how abortion restrictions only hurt women. More likely.
Furthermore, it can’t be a coincidence within days of the Supreme Court granting the request by the Center for Reproductive Rights to hear arguments against the destructive TRAP laws in Texas (the most significant case on abortion in recent history), research regarding these TRAP laws is blocked. Abortion research is desperately needed right now to factually understand the real world consequences of closing abortion-providing clinics (like women losing their job because of missing work, or being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, or women ending their pregnancies—and possibly their lives—themselves). It seems that if Schaefer truly believed the 72-hr waiting period was installed to help and protect women, as it was advertised, he should be welcoming research like Ruhr’s.
The best case scenario is that Schaefer is a religious zealot acting unconstitutionally; at worst he’s a deceptive supremacist acting unconstitutionally. Both are unacceptable for a politician. If trends like this continue and politicians like Schaefer are allowed to continue on their holy quest to eliminate all forms of abortion then the forward progress of women (primarily low-income women of color because they are disproportionately affected by lack of access to abortion services) will be (more) institutionally halted. Without research and academic exercise there will be a void of discussion surrounding abortion, and eventually there will literally be no place or safe tools for women seeking to end an unwanted pregnancy. We’ll be forced back to coat hangers. The path Schaefer would choose for women is simply unacceptable. Research about abortion, like that being done by Ruhr, needs to be championed and expanded so that we govern with factual information rather than fear mongering.
Photos found on Creative Commons.