Mother's Day is an iconic American holiday when mothers around the country are showered with love and appreciation along with greeting cards, flowers and candy.
For those 40% of women in Tennessee struggling to provide food and housing for their families while juggling jobs, childcare, transportation, and school, Mother’s Day may not seem quite so joyful; especially when you consider that motherhood is a lifelong commitment with a huge price tag: $272,000 being the cost to raise a child to age 18.
An even greater existential threat for the many women in this state is the fact that Tennessee lawmakers now deem it their moral and political imperative to criminalize and eliminate a woman’s access to legal, safe and affordable medical and surgical abortion procedures; effectively making motherhood mandatory; despite the risks that may pose for both mother and child.
And make no mistake, childbirth is NOT safe, particularly in Tennessee where 16 hospitals have closed, 13 of those in rural areas, the direct result of this legislature’s irrational refusal to provide expanded Medicaid for all Tennesseans.
As a result, mother and infant mortality rates are dangerously high in this state, ranking us 33rd and 38th respectively.
To put that in perspective, nationwide out of every 100,000 births, 24 women will die from complications either during childbirth or shortly thereafter. For women of color, childbirth is an even scarier proposition since they are four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than are white women. Contrast that to surgical abortion which is 99% safe and 12 times safer than giving birth.
The medical abortion pill, also under attack, comprises the bulk of non-surgical home abortion procedures by simulating that of a spontaneous miscarriage. It is 98% effective and costs from $200 to $600 depending on insurance. Compare that to the average cost of childbirth, which without insurance or complications runs around $13,000.
Since Tennessee has the highest percentage of minimum wage workers earning $7.25 per hour—and 47.6% of them are women—it is understandable why many women would choose to forego parenthood by whatever means possible. Rather than put themselves and their families at greater personal and financial jeopardy, many women are choosing to avoid childbirth.
Personal safety for women is another serious concern in Tennessee. Our state is now ranked among the top 10 most dangerous states in the nation.
It’s also 10th in the country for the greatest number of women murdered by men – double the national average. Although crime and violence are directly linked to the proliferation of guns and the elimination of gun controls, violence against women reflects the worst kind of misogyny, never more evident than in the passage of those laws denying women their ability to make critical, life-changing, and sometimes life-saving healthcare decisions without interference or oversight from politicians.
Therefore, it’s ironic that in Tennessee, the state which was pivotal to passing the 19th Amendment granting Tennessee women the right to vote, lawmakers are now systematically consigning Tennessee women to that of second-class citizens.
There is hope, however. Although our rights to privacy and equality are under attack, we still have our right to vote, which we must use wisely and well. Make 2022 the year when we elect those individuals who will honor, respect, and support the well-being of those hardworking women of Tennessee.
Happy Mother’s Day, ladies.
Murfreesboro, TN 37128