While she runs my credit card, the clerk makes polite conversation. “Is this rain ever going to stop?” she sighs, describing how there is no way to get her toddler in and out of a car seat without getting soaked.
“Well, now I’ll need to see pictures of your toddler,” I say, and like all proud mothers she gets out her phone and starts scrolling. She almost slips past a photo of her 11-year-old daughter with a friend, saying “And that’s Jaycee who stays with us,” when I stop her and ask what “stays with us” means.
Jaycee, she explains, came for a sleepover about a year ago and never really went home. “I don’t know what to do,” she says. “Her mom is only 26, and she also has six younger children. Jaycee feels safe with us, so she stays.”
I wonder if our state legislature considers cases like Jaycee’s, children who fall outside the safety nets they think they are building with bills like House Bill 158 (a foster care bill of rights) and HB 1 (last year’s adoption and foster care reforms).
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In a 1997 interview with The New Yorker, writer Jeanette Winterson said about human nature, “Most of us spend a lot of time censoring everything that we see and hear. Does it fit with our world picture? And if it doesn’t, how can we shut it out, how can we ignore it?”
It seems Jaycee, her mother, the additional six children, and even the clerk whose family has taken Jaycee in, all fall into the “shut it out and ignore it” category, while the conservative wing of our legislature pat themselves on the back for a job well-done.
Rep. James Tipton wrote in the Feb. 20 issue of The Anderson News, “The House passed HB 148 by a 69-20 vote last Friday. This measure seeks to prepare Kentucky for the possibility that the Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade by prohibiting abortion in all cases except when required to save the life of the mother or prevent serious harm to her. The Senate also passed Senate Bill 9, a measure which bans abortion after the child’s heartbeat can be detected.”
A friend who is expecting texted: “Is Kentucky really going to pass a six week ban? We didn’t even suspect we were pregnant until five or six weeks, then it took a month to get a doctor’s appointment. And we didn’t know the health/viabilty until 12 weeks.”
Let’s be clear. It’s not a heartbeat bill. It’s a ban.
Pro-lifers would have us believe that Roe v. Wade created abortion, and that striking down the law will be the panacea, the final solution, the big win. But the facts say otherwise. Terminations of pregnancy date back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and so the pro-life obsession with banning a woman’s right to choose begs the obvious questions:
Is the goal of the pro-life movement—which began in 1980, not as a moral movement but as a Hail Mary pass to get Evangelicals to the polls—to significantly reduce the number of abortions?
If so, programs offering free birth control, pre-natal and well-baby care, and subsidized childcare so women can return to work might go a long way.
Or is the goal zero tolerance?
Gov. Matt Bevin and his caucus have been clear: they seek to outlaw abortion in Kentucky, even as thousands of years of history clearly tell us that outlawing abortion does not end abortion.
So in addition to women risking their lives by trying to self-abort, let’s consider what a Bevin ban — what criminalization —looks like.
How do you suggest punishing a poor, scared, 16 year-old from Appalachia, Louisville, or Lawrenceburg?
Will there be a significant fine, a sliding scale, maybe, based on income or lack thereof? Or will public shaming, her mug shot, in the local paper do?
Will you put women in the county jail or state prison —“Lock her up! Lock her up!” comes to mind — and for how long? What happens when she loses her job and her health insurance for going to jail? Are you going to support her? Am I?
Do these scenarios fit your world picture? Or will you simply ignore it?
Teri Carter is a writer in Lawrenceburg.