A Moment of Near-Honesty on Abortion

Perhaps the most useful aspect of the peculiar legal battle going on in Mississippi over efforts to use a new “health” regulation to shut down the state’s lone abortion provider is that it shows the complete irrelevance of “health” or “safety” or “informed choice” or any other alleged rationale that anti-choicers deploy to restrict reproductive rights. The sponsors of the law in question, including Mississippi governor and “personhood” advocate Phil Bryant, make no bones about their intentions: making Mississippi “abortion-free,” or, to put it another way, a rogue jurisdiction where the exercise of constitutional rights is effectively prohibited.

As Irin Carmon points out at Salon, even if Bryant and company get their way Mississippians themselves will not be “abortion-free,” since anyone with the resources will simply go out of state. The practical impact, then, is to force to term pregnancies by the very poor, of which Mississippi has an abundance. Moreover, since making abortions less convenient will often delay them when it does not prohibit them, it will likely increase the number of later-term abortions. But for all their crocodile tears about late-term abortions, most anti-choicers of the “personhood” variety make zero moral distinctions between a fertilized ovum and a month-old child–or between a woman using the most common forms of contraception and someone committing infanticide.

So it’s all the same to Phil Bryant and his friends whether they are wreaking havoc on the choices available to women. Denial of choice is the whole idea. And the concept of abortion “restrictions” as a compromise between “extremes” on abortion policy is largely a crock.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.