On a recent episode of “Meet the Press,” NBC News’ Chuck Todd asked Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson what would happen if a 13-year-old in his home state were impregnated after getting raped by a relative. “Are you comfortable with that?” the host asked.
The Republican governor grudgingly conceded that if a 13-year-old Arkansan is impregnated after getting raped by a relative, that pregnancy could not be voluntarily terminated. Before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, an abortion for that child would’ve been a legal option, but not anymore.
Around the same time, Philip Gunn, the Republican state House Speaker in Mississippi, considered a similar question and said abortion should be illegal even for a 12-year-old who’d been raped by a relative.
In both instances, these GOP officials were asked about hypothetical scenarios involving impregnated children. Occasionally, however, the public is confronted with a scenario that appears to be rooted in fact. The Indianapolis Star Tribune reported:
On Monday three days after the Supreme Court issued its groundbreaking decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, took a call from a colleague, a child abuse doctor in Ohio. Hours after the Supreme Court action, the Buckeye state had outlawed any abortion after six weeks. Now this doctor had a 10-year-old patient in the office who was six weeks and three days pregnant. Could Bernard help?
While the details about the child have been withheld, it appears that the girl was scheduled to receive care in Indiana last week.
Of course, it’s worth emphasizing for context that this door will also soon be closed: Indiana’s Republican governor and Republican-led legislature are moving forward with plans to impose new abortion restrictions. But since the Hoosier State didn’t act quite as quickly as Ohio to limit reproductive rights, the 10-year-old girl’s physician was able to pursue an out-of-state option.
Indiana’s General Assembly will convene in a special session later this month to debate a new abortion ban.
Will a real-world story like this cause some Republicans to reconsider their positions? CNN’s Dana Bash pressed South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on this point.
When the host asked the Republican governor, who’s reportedly eyeing a possible presidential campaign, if her state would “force a 10-year-old in that very same situation to have a baby,” Noem called the story “tragic,” but effectively conceded that South Dakota would, in fact, force a 10-year-old in that very same situation to have a baby.
“[E]very single life — every single life is precious,” Noem said. “This tragedy is horrific. I can’t even imagine. I have never had anybody in my family or myself gone through anything like this. I can’t even imagine. But, in South Dakota, the law today is that the abortions are illegal, except to save the life of the mother.”
The governor added, “What I would say is, I don’t believe a tragic situation should be perpetuated by another tragedy.”
Circling back to our recent coverage, if nothing else, there’s an unmistakable consistency to such a position: Terminating an unwanted pregnancy is wrong, the argument goes, regardless of circumstances. If that means the government will force raped 10-year-old children to proceed with unwanted pregnancies, so be it.
The question for the rest of the public is whether to vote for policymakers who espouse such a position.