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Letter to the Times: Are you really going to force a child to have a baby?

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

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Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, lots of commentators have written about what it will mean for women who can get pregnant. For example, some states have already enacted total abortion bans, and many more, including Kansas, will attempt to follow suit. An abortion ban means no abortions, no exceptions, even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life. 

Abortion bans — particularly bans on abortion for children who get pregnant by a family member — are just plain cruel. And that’s what’s at stake if the proposed constitutional amendment on the Aug. 2 ballot passes. 

Incest is more prevalent than you might think. Authorities estimate incest occurs in more than 10% of American families, yet only 20% of incest offenses are reported. The crime often goes unreported because it is initiated by someone the child loves and trusts.  Incest includes sexual abuse and rape by fathers and stepfathers, as well as brothers, uncles, grandfathers, or cousins.

Girls who have started menstruating are among those who can get pregnant — that’s Biology 101. And for many girls in this country, puberty is coming earlier than ever before, with studies showing that, on average, puberty is now starting for girls at around 10 years old — at least five years earlier than a century ago. So, if 10-year-old Sally has started her period, she can get pregnant.

And if 10-year-old Sally who has started her period is the victim of incest, statistically she has a high likelihood of getting pregnant because typically incest abuse is ongoing in the home — more incestuous rapes means more chances Sally will get pregnant. And Sally probably lives with her abuser, so she likely has nowhere to go to get away from the abuse.

If Sally gets pregnant, and if she lives in a state that bans abortions, Sally cannot legally terminate her pregnancy. The government will force 10-year-old Sally to carry the fetus to term and deliver the baby. Ten years old, the victim of incestuous sexual abuse, and Republicans want to force Sally to have that baby. Value them both?

If the proposed constitutional amendment passes on Aug. 2 (a “yes” vote), state legislators will have the power to ban abortions in Kansas — and they will.  It’s not just hyperbole. Earlier this year, Republicans proposed House Bill 2746, a law that would ban abortions in cases of incest (and rape).  If the constitutional amendment passes, Kansas legislators will pass laws forcing children to have babies. They’re not even hiding it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement in response to the overturning of Roe, stating that the decision “carries grave consequences for our adolescent patients.” While such a position statement by the AAP is important and appreciated, it’s a shame we are at a point where pediatricians have to formally announce that children having babies is a bad thing. Hopefully, we intuitively know that the state forcing children to have babies is bad. 

Think for a moment about the devastating psychological, familial, and spiritual impacts each child-incest victim experiences. Add on forcing that child to carry and deliver her abuser’s baby is, well, just plain cruel. No 10-year-old child should ever have to think about being pregnant and bearing a child. 

Vote on or before Aug. 2 (early voting has begun). A “yes” vote passes the amendment, a “no” vote defeats the amendment. 

— Amii N. Castle (she/her), Lawrence

Cast your ballot in the Aug. 2 election

You can quickly request an advance ballot to be mailed to you at KSVotes.org. The last day to request a mail ballot is July 26.

To see what’s on the ballot, visit this link. For information about voting early in person, visit this link. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 2.

* We are not election workers *

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