Op-Ed: Missouri's New Anti-Abortion Law Is An Attack On Women

A conversation with Missouri State Rep. LaKeySha Bosley about the new wave of heartless “heartbeat” bills.

I can remember very vividly, sitting in the waiting room of a Planned Parenthood - alone, pregnant and scared to death of what I was about to endure.

I walked through a mob of protesters, who waved signs in my face and shouted, “It’s not too late.” One woman held up a photograph of a dead fetus the size of a mango, withered and bloody.

Just walking in the front door traumatized me so much my hands trembled while I gave my intake paperwork to the receptionist. A few hours later, I left feeling noticeably empty and hauntingly relieved.

I was 20 years old, single, broke and not ready for the life that would have been ahead of me had I chose to remain pregnant. The choice was hard, but 15 years later I have no regrets.

According to the CDC, over 600,000 women every year share some variation of my experience.

For some the abortion is because of financial and emotional ability, for others, it is about serious or life-threatening health concerns. The reasons for terminating a pregnancy are as personal as the reasons one gets pregnant in the first place - varied and complex.

On May 17, the state of Missouri passed a law criminalizing abortion at around 8 weeks. The measure, known as the Missouri Stands For The Unborn Act, not only discounts the fact that most women don’t even know they are pregnant that early, but also provides no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.

Missouri is one of 11 states that has introduced heartbeat bills including Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida, sparking nationwide panic and uproar.

I spoke with local Representative LaKeySha Bosley (D) of the 79th district, St. Louis City, who has been working tirelessly since the Missouri measure was passed.

“Abortion is under attack right now because it’s a Republican-controlled Supreme Court,” Bosley explained, her voice pained and steady. “They are trying to overturn Roe v. Wade by introducing these trigger bills. If they overturn the Supreme Court ruling, only then will all of these bills go into effect.”

In the meantime, abortion is still legal in all 50 states, but considering the battle we have ahead of us, that fact brings little comfort. The most shocking factor, of course, is that in states like Missouri, the new abortion laws leave no consideration for women who have been raped. One of the problems when it comes to presenting assault as an exception is that you would be hard pressed to find up-to-date statistics and facts about the occurrence of pregnancy during rape.

A 1996 report by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical University in South Carolina stated among adult women 32,101 became pregnant after being raped. Of the cases that were closely examined, a majority of them were adolescents who were assaulted by someone they knew. In a world where abortion is no longer a constitutional right, those young women would have less of a right to their own bodies than their attacker.

“This is putting us back into an age where we were only supposed to be seen, we were never supposed to be heard,” Bosley affirmed, “we are supposed to just be a vessel to bring children into the world.“

The common defense made by Republicans as to why heartbeat bills should exist tends to rest on the argument that God should be the ultimate decider when it comes to who lives and who does not.

Republican Representative Holly Rehder staunchly reiterated her beliefs during her remarks last Friday when she said, “To stand on this floor and say, ‘How could someone look at a child of rape or incest and care for them? I can say how we can do that. We can do that with the love of God.”

To Ms. Rehder, inquiring minds would like to then know why 33% of single parent households in Missouri are on welfare and living well below the line of poverty. Are those children being cared for?

While we wait for anti-choice Republicans to come up with answers as to how they will provide for a generation of unprepared mothers and families, I asked Representative Bosley the question of the day: How do we stop these bans?

“Get excited,” she said. “Find your elected officials, contact them, know who they are, find out where they are going to have their events, go to your individual neighborhood association meetings, go to your town hall meetings.”

The tried-and-true method of change in the US - despite its monumental failure to black and brown communities - is to invigorate voting at the local level and to pick up the phone and ask your representatives real and specific questions about how they will vote on issues that impact your daily lives.

It’s not enough to assume that a woman or a person of color will represent our needs; we have to do the work of asking questions.

Many are feeling very unheard, unseen and less relevant than ever before. It is not enough to retweet an article or post a photo with an angry hashtag. It’s not enough for women of childbearing age to picket and protest.

Abortion is an issue that affects communities of color - regardless of gender, orientation, familial goals or religion.

Bosley, who is 26 years old, references the voter fatigue we have all felt since the current administration took office. “I hear often of my generation, ‘the system doesn’t care about us,’ and I agree. The system is broken. But we can make the system work if we get involved. We have to get at the forefront of these problems in order to create the change that we are seeking. We have to elect people who have our best interest at heart and who think like us.”

Ashley Simpo is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and the Co-Founder of KINDRD, a professional wellness brand in partnership with #blkcreatives. She pens articles and essays on topics of motherhood, sexuality, mental health and the various intersections of blackness and community wellness

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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