Sarah Huckabee Sanders Gives Her Blessing to a Memorial for Arkansas’ Abortions

Arkansas was “prevented” from being anti-abortion from 1973 to 2022, so now it will spend money to atone for protecting bodily autonomy.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders Gives Her Blessing to a Memorial for Arkansas’ Abortions
Photo:Al Drago/Bloomberg (Getty Images)

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) on Friday night signed into law a useless bill that approved the building of a monument to memorialize the number of abortions that took place in the state before Roe v. Wade was struck down. The bill—which cites the Dobbs decision to overturn Roe as well as a lecture from 1790 to let you know it’s serious—says Arkansas was “prevented” from being anti-abortion from 1973 to 2022. So now, it’s going to atone for the sin of protecting bodily autonomy through statuary.

This idea is plain old stupid and offensive for multiple reasons. While state departments of health track abortions performed at clinics and hospitals, there is literally no way to know the exact number of abortions performed in a state because people regularly self-manage abortions. A statue to memorialize the anti-abortion movement’s so-called 50-year failure is also a severe waste of money, even if the Secretary of State is required to find private entities to finance the public memorial.

The monument will “remember those children we were not able to protect and we will not be able to forget,” state Rep. Mary Bentley (R, duh) said, according to the Associated Press—aka the roughly 236,243 abortions in that took place in Arkansas since 1973. The memorial will only count “elective abortions” performed in the state; it will not count miscarriages that resulted in abortion care (because that would require Republicans to admit that abortions regularly save lives), nor will it seek to quantify how many Arkansans self-managed their abortions. It will also not count the number of patients forced to leave the state for abortion care after the 1992 Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey allowed states to put strict rules on facilities that performed the procedure.

Abortions have always happened and will always happen—in Arkansas and in every state, even if its leaders oppose them. Despite this, Arkansas is pushing forward. In its spirit of remembrance, the state’s Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission will supervise the design process, which will include input from anti-abortion groups. I’m fully expecting it to end up being a 12-foot fetus, inspired by the banners they love to wave at marches.

Abortion bans have gone over well with Republican legislators in Arkansas, but not all were in favor of the statue bill. State Rep. Steve Unger (R) compared it to gloating after the Dobbs ruling: “Public memorials to our nation’s wars where we face an external threat are right and proper,” Unger told the AP. “A memorial to an ongoing culture war where we seem to be shooting at each other is not.”

The end of Roe was the anti-abortion movement’s biggest victory, and as it considers its future, the movement is fracturing. Some are advocating for the death penalty for abortion seekers, while others hope to punish abortion providers. State Rep. Jeremiah Moore (R) told the AP he’s worried it will divide the cause: “It will only be used as a weapon to rally against pro-life values through fundraising and stirring up anger and vitriol,” he said.

Even a stopped clock—or an anti-abortion Republican—is right twice a day! There’s really no need to use your citizens’ tax dollars to celebrate their lack of full bodily autonomy.

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