Arkansas’ Quest to Build a Monument for Aborted ‘Babies’ Isn’t Going Great

Last year, the state legislature quickly passed a bill to honor so-called victims of abortion and celebrate the fall of Roe. Let’s check in on their progress!

Arkansas’ Quest to Build a Monument for Aborted ‘Babies’ Isn’t Going Great
The Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock. Photo:Wikimedia (Other)

Last year, Arkansas Republicans, who hold a supermajority in the state legislature, easily passed a bill to construct a memorial that would honor the so-called victims of abortion and celebrate the fall of Roe v. Wade. The monument, which will sit on Capitol grounds next to a Confederate war memorial and a statue of the Ten Commandments, will recognize “the 236,243-plus babies that were never born as a result of Roe v. Wade” in Arkansas, state Sen. Kim Hammer (R) said of her proposal in March. Republicans say this 236,243 figure comes from the state’s Department of Health, but NPR says it was unable to independently verify it. Abortion has been banned in Arkansas since the Supreme Court overturned Roe in 2022.

About a year after the bill (which passed without any guidelines for what the memorial should be) was signed into law, the quest to actually create the “Monument for the Unborn” has been pretty bumpy, NPR reported on Tuesday. First, the legislature charged the state’s Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission with recommending designs for the monument to the secretary of state, who will make the final decision. Hammer said last year that the monument, which will essentially accuse every person who’s ever had an abortion of murder, will be “tastefully done.”

But according to NPR, the commission accepted proposals from the public that included an idea for “a marble sarcophagus carved with wombs” and “a blindfolded fetus balanced on an umbilical cord pedestal,” which is just “one of several fetus statue designs” the commission weighed. Tony Leraris, a member of the commission, told the outlet he was “just dumbfounded that we would even consider some of those monuments on our Capitol.” Leraris continued, “I just don’t know how you tastefully immortalize an aborted fetus.” Welp, you and I both, Tony!

Eventually, the commission landed on “a living wall of greenery” and a plaque that will include quotes from the Bible and the Arkansas state Constitution. Meanwhile, now that the design has been squared away, NPR notes that “the fundraising effort” to actually build the monument hasn’t even begun yet. Good luck with that, I guess—except not really, because this is possibly the worst thing in the world that a government could spend money on. Maybe that’s why Tennessee’s fundraising efforts for its own monument for “victims of abortion” didn’t exactly bring in the big bucks.

A churchyard anti-abortion memorial in Pennsylvania in 2020. Photo:Jana Shea (Shutterstock)

This final design of greenery and Bible verses is more subtle than a sarcophagus carved with wombs, but, as one Democratic state senator who opposed the bill pointed out last year, it’s still inflammatory by design: “This is injecting a contentious political issue to the grounds of the state capitol, and it’s doing so in a way that I would have to imagine is going to be very painful for a lot of women who have gotten abortions in the last 50 years,” Sen. Clarke Tucker (D) said in his arguments against the monument.

The legislation for the monument states that it will serve “as a memorial to the lives lost from 1973 to 2022 due to the decisions of the United States Supreme Court,” and “as a constant reminder of our duty to protect the life of every innocent human person, no matter how young or old, or how helpless and vulnerable that person may be.” Of course, it’s hard to square that language with reality in Arkansas, which was ranked one of the worst states in the nation for overall child well-being in a 2022 study. Arkansas also ranks highest in the nation for maternal mortality and third in the nation for infant mortality. (Research has also shown that states with the most restrictions on abortion have higher maternal mortality rates.) Certainly, something to think about every time you’re in the Arkansas Capitol, stroll past the memorial to the Confederacy, and glimpse upon the Monument for the Unborn…

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