Last week, the citizens of South Dakota, California, and Oregon sent a clear message to their elected representatives: stop restricting safe abortion at the state level. All of the victories were terrific news for supporters of women's reproductive freedom, since in the 33 years since Roe v. Wade guaranteed American women's right to a safe and legal abortion, hundreds of state-level restrictions that disproportionately target poor women, young women, women of color, and women living in rural areas, have slowly been eroding that right. The ballot victories were also significant because they came from the people themselves – so whining about "judicial activism" is strictly off-limits this time.
Of course, just when I was getting all psyched about how state legislators might just sit up and listen to their constituents, Republicans in the Missouri legislature had to go and write the most messed-up report ever. The report, authored by a Special Committee on Immigration Reform, concluded that high rates of illegal immigration in Missouri can best be attributed to…why, abortion, of course! Actually, I'm being unfair. Illegal immigration is not just abortion's fault. Here's what the report says:
The lack of traditional work ethic, combined with the effects of 30 years of abortion and expanding liberal social welfare policies have produced a shortage of workers and a lack of incentive for those who can work.
Indeed. Now listen to Rep. Ed Emery (R-Lamar) explaining his logic:
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"We hear a lot of arguments today that the reason that we can't get serious about our borders is that we are desperate for all these workers," Emery said. "You don't have to think too long. If you kill 44 million of your potential workers, it's not too surprising we would be desperate for workers."
I hesitate to dignify this nonsense with a refutation, but for the record, the United States has a higher fertility rate than Europe, Canada, or Australia – places that all have high rates of immigration, legal or not. And when it comes to social programs, the United States' are some of the weakest in the developed world (43 million uninsured Americans, anyone?), especially after six years of shameless cutting by the Bush administration and the 107th, 108th, and109th congresses. As for the work ethic? Well, I guess this guy has been consulting for the Missouri state legislature.
It also seems opportune to mention here that women in Missouri must already jump over a number of hurdles to access a safe and legal abortion, and that the Missouri legislature has been very busy indeed cooking up further restrictive legislation. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 97 percent of Missouri counties currently lack an abortion provider, adding up to a grand total of six (6) providers in the entire state (population 5.8 million). As of December 2005, Missouri also requires that teenagers secure parental consent before they can have an abortion, forces women to undergo state-directed counseling designed to discourage them from having an abortion and then wait 24 hours before they're allowed to have the procedure (kind of tricky if one of the 6 providers is a long way away from where you live and work), and makes public funding available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest (as of 2003, 11.6 percent of Missourians were officially living in poverty). Private insurance policies are required to cover abortion only in cases of life endangerment, unless women spend extra money on an optional rider.
Clearly, the Missouri legislature has been hard at work restricting abortion. I wonder how much time and effort they've put into reducing unintended pregnancies, since 14,590 of them occur every year. But I guess the more babies teenage girls have, the less incentive there is for "illegal immigrants" to come flocking across the border.
Luckily, Democrats on the Very Special Committee on Immigration Reform refused to sign the report, calling it "ridiculous," "embarrassing," and "delusional." Right on. I would also add "damaging" and "dangerous" to the list – since this woman-blaming, finger-pointing nonsense at the expense of a frank and intelligent discussion of the real root causes of contemporary issues (might illegal immigration have something to do with the harsh global inequalities resulting from decades of U.S.-backed conflict and U.S.-supported draconian economic policies in Latin America?) smacks of Jerry Falwell's hate-filled assertion that abortion and homosexuality were to blame for 9/11. Seriously, these people have no place in our state legislatures. Let's send an even louder state-level message next time around: stop electing them.