Comment: How much of child’s life do pro-life seek to protect?

Amid the shouts and gory signs, there are stories of past pain that now have to be relived.

By Petula Dvorak / The Washington Post

The protesters — some of whom are professionals at this — traveled to Washington, D.C., to hold up their ghastly placards in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday as the justices heard arguments about the Mississippi ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

These people say they hold up photos of mangled fetuses to “save the babies” or “help the children.”

And yes, the children need help. In a nation where 1 in 6 kids can’t get enough to eat, four children were just slaughtered by gunfire in their Michigan school and 1 in 7 children is abused or neglected, I asked these folks how else they showed up for our most vulnerable people.

After those people are born.

“My support is prayer,” said Thomas Uhlman, 85, who fathered two children but said he never did any kind of charity or hands-on work to help kids and families who are struggling.

“I do babysitting,” said 20-year-old Alexie Hall, who said she works full time for an antiabortion group in Ohio and donates to the group.

“I donated,” said Mark Wolfe, 69, who said he gives money to the pregnancy crisis centers that are run by antiabortion groups.

Of the dozen I spoke with, one — Will Goodman — detailed volunteer work supporting living children, through Big Brother organizations and Habitat for Humanity.

Time helping to uplift the kids born into less ideal circumstances is a righteous way to help them. But this stuff? The gory signs? This isn’t helping anyone.

The visuals are bloody and jarring. They’ve been part of my neighborhood landscape on Capitol Hill for years. And I hate them.

Not only because they’re something I navigated around with a minivan full of small children for years. But also because they’re misleading about what abortion in America really looks like today.

Abortion rates in America have been dropping since it became legal in 1973 with the Roe v. Wade decision. It’s a tough number to pin down because it’s based on voluntary reporting, but it appears to hover around 17 for every 1,000 women, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research center based in New York and D.C. that supports abortion rights.

And that’s because of access to birth control, emergency contraception, sex education and social change.

It’s not dropping because of the bazillion laws the antiabortion lawmakers passed to circumvent Roe; like one that regulated the size of doorways in clinics as a way to have code inspectors shut them down. (If so-called TRAP laws worked, the national birthrate would be up. It isn’t. It’s actually declining.)

The abortion pill has changed the need for clinics and doctors in the early stages of pregnancy and, thanks to the coronavirus, is available in every state by mail.

And that’s how it should be, according to the 59 percent of Americans who say that pregnant individuals should be able to have control over their own bodies and abortion should be a legal option for them in “all or most cases.” And 39 percent told Pew researchers it should be illegal under those same conditions.

This Mississippi case is attacking the increasingly rarefied surgical abortions that happen after 15 weeks. And in many cases, these are the pregnancies that are wanted, hoped and prayed for and longed for and timed to the day; but are not viable.

Elizabeth Deutsch cried at her last surgical abortion, which was three weeks ago.

So did the woman carrying the baby, so did her loved ones.

The family was devastated,” said Deutsch, who was the nurse at that 19-week abortion. “It was a wanted pregnancy. But that was their only choice.”

Deutsch, a labor and delivery nurse in Burlington, Vt., came to D.C. and protested outside the U.S. Supreme Court this week in her dusky blue scrubs because she knows — better than most of the thousands of people protesting outside the court — how devastating, wrenching and vital surgical abortions in this modern era can be.

And those graphic signs that show what she sees in more intimate settings are right in front of her.

One of the protesters holding them makes it his practice to approach pregnant individuals in these personal, difficult moments to convince them to have their babies. His group does it by handing them a red rose.

“It’s the Red Rose Rescue,” said Goodman, 52, the Wisconsin man who is a professional protester and was arrested with a group of activists at a West Bloomfield, Mich., clinic in 2018, an en masse red-rosing.

He doesn’t have children. He is soft-spoken and friendly. His T-shirt calls abortion a “holocaust.”

Protesting near him was a woman with a “rape victim” sign on her chest who was telling her story. Another woman held a sign, “Mom By Choice.” There was another nurse.

These people are processing some of their darkest days while others wave graphic signs in their faces, demanding they relive them.

“I’m tired of women having to bare their souls for this,” Deutsch said. “I shouldn’t have to sell my best sad story just to have basic rights.”

Petula is a columnist for The Washington Post’s local team who writes about homeless shelters, gun control, high heels, high school choirs, the politics of parenting, jails, abortion clinics, mayors, modern families, strip clubs and gas prices, among other things. Before coming to The Post, she covered social issues, crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter @petulad.

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