On Tuesday night, Donald Trump delivered his first post-impeachment State of the Union address. Although impeachment did not actually come up — and neither did the mess that is the Democratic Iowa caucus results — Trump did attempt to champion multiple health care initiatives in the United States. To no surprise, abortion was not one of them. In fact, Trump took a jab at abortion rights in a dangerous comparison to neonatal research.
During his speech, the president introduced two Kansas City guests: Robin Schneider and her daughter, Ellie. When Ellie was born at 21-weeks-old gestation, she weighed less than a pound. “Through the skill of her doctors and the prayers of her parents, little Ellie kept on winning the battle for life. Today, Ellie is a strong, healthy, 2-year-old girl,” Trump proudly exclaimed.
He then invoked Congress to provide an additional $50 million to fund neonatal research. But, immediately following this declaration, Trump made a pointed remark about abortion. “That is also why I am calling upon the Members of Congress here tonight to pass legislation finally banning the late-term abortion of babies.” The pro-life constituents in the crowd roared in applause.
By bringing this up just after introducing a toddler and a call to action for neonatal research, Trump invoked a dangerous comparison between abortion and parenthood. Neonatal research and abortion are two completely separate and non-conflicting subjects. The fact that promoting medical research for premature babies was used to demonize abortion in this speech poses a serious threat to women’s health care, when in reality, these two circumstances are unrelated.
But Trump’s plan to promote neonatal research may be more divisive than just this one mention in the State of the Union — abortion access could be in danger given the way state-level bans are playing out. In Missouri, where the Schneider family is from, Trump’s Supreme Court call against abortion is actually working. Missouri is one of the few U.S. states that could actually ban abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy or before there is fetal viability.
Why is this so dangerous? Not only is the Missouri initiative to block abortions after eight-weeks dangerous for the entire pro-choice movement, but if passed, it also makes a larger case for the Republican lobbyists who are trying to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2020. Beyond that, abortion bans in any state already prove to be extremely dangerous to women’s health care. By restricting access to healthcare or shutting down facilities that perform abortions, many women put their lives at risk to take other measures to perform abortions. As for 2018, the Guttmatcher Institute estimates that illegal abortions are responsible for 30,000 deaths a year.
The restriction also imposes danger to women who are survivors of sexual assault or women who don’t have the funds to access an immediate abortion. But, Trump and Republican lawmakers are making sweeping promises that in 2020, abortion rights will still be in danger under the guise of “late term bans.” Specifically, lawmakers are chipping away, state-by-state, to reevaluate bans and blocks that will eventually amass to overturning Roe v. Wade.
Parenthood and abortion are two very different problems, and supporting the funding of neonatal research does not and should not have any bearing on safe access to abortions on the state-level. In fact, over 50% of women getting abortions are already parents, and that is a completely independent fight from health care for infants.
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