A hasty decision that needs rethinking

Gun Rights

Not too long ago, in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 10-year-old child in Ohio who was raped and became pregnant had to travel out of state to receive an abortion.

Rather than recognize the heinous nature of the rape and the lasting physical and psychological trauma on the child, Republicans, from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to Rep. Jim Jordan, challenged the veracity of her story. Mr. Jordan tweeted that it was “a lie.” Conservative media pundits, including Tucker Carlson of Fox News, followed suit.

They were all wrong. Police arrested Gerson Fuentes, an Ohio resident, who admitted to raping the young girl on two occasions. He is being held on a $2 million bond and, if convicted, he will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

Meanwhile, as the girl sought and received a medical abortion in Indiana, Todd Rokita, the Republican attorney general of Indiana, stated that he would investigate Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the doctor who performed the procedure. He was later threatened with defamation after it was clear Dr. Bernard complied with state law.

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“This is the new world that we live in,” according to Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor and professor at Michigan Law School, where I recently received my LL.M. As she told Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post: “Instead of diligently investigating the rape, a Republican official is incentivized to signal to his supporters that he cares more about preventing the abortion than prosecuting the rapist. Rape victims will be twice victimized.”

In Arkansas, there is no exception for rape or incest, which, as I have previously opined in these pages, is inhumane. The law should afford those victims access to a medical abortion as soon as they determine they are pregnant. It is astonishing that it needs to be said, but in too many states politicians are making decisions that impugn human dignity.

Consider, for example, that Jim Bopp, an Indiana attorney who helped draft the Mississippi law that struck down Roe and a leader in National Right to Life, told Politico, “She would have had the baby, and as many women who have had babies as a result of rape, we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child.”

Alice Stewart, a well-known political adviser to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, among others, told CNN, “This girl, if she had reported this sooner, she could have opted for emergency contraceptives in this case.”

This is a 10-year-old child.

In recent decades, the Republican Party has been overwhelmed by the Right to Life movement in much the same way it has been consumed by the National Rifle Association and the Trump-led MAGA coalition. The unfortunate outcome of giving way to the hysteria of these activist groups is that the Party of Lincoln has sacrificed its capacity for reason and sensibility. Violence and intimidation against abortion providers is a common tactic among extreme anti-abortion groups, after all.

Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, as Arkansas does, is also bad for business. In May, The New Yorker published a story that said restricting access to medical abortion would hinder women’s education, employment, and earning prospects. Professor Caitlin Myers of Middlebury College, my alma mater, marshalled 154 economists to file an amicus brief in Dobbs that laid out the data. “Economists as a whole don’t have disagreement about this,” she said.

Arkansas has a long and interesting history of narrative and documentary film as well as television production. Films like 2013’s “Mud,” directed by Little Rock native Jeff Nichols, the third season of “True Detective,” from showrunner Nic Pizzolatto, who received his MFA from the University of Arkansas, and “Little Rock Central High: 50 Years Later,” from acclaimed documentarians Craig and the late Brent Renaud, are three of many examples.

Recently, however, multiple Oscar nominee Michael Shannon moved production of his film “Eric Larue” from Arkansas to North Carolina, where Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has sought to protect reproductive care. This is not surprising. Disney, Netflix, and WarnerMedia all pulled their film production in Georgia after the state passed a fetal heartbeat bill in 2019.

Political extremism, once an issue confronted afar, is having a reckoning at home. There are many worthy debates to be had about American society, but ensuring the medical care and health of a person who is raped and becomes pregnant is not one of them.

This heinous crime coupled with its everlasting trauma deserves immediate action from the Arkansas General Assembly in the wake of the “trigger” law. Regarding that law, it is never too late to rethink a poorly conceived idea.

Blake Rutherford, a Little Rock native, lives in Bentonville. He can be reached at Rutherford.Blake@gmail.com.

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