Abortions, guns show political hypocrisy

Swasti Singhai, Final Focus Editor

Last week, 19 elementary school children woke up to go to school. Millions of students do, but for those 19, Tuesday was different. Because for the last time, they ate breakfast—maybe cereal, maybe pancakes, maybe toast. For the last time, they packed their backpacks: folders, pencils and lunches zipped up within. For the last time, they said bye to their parents, maybe with a kiss, maybe with a hug, maybe with a heartfelt “I love you!” For the last time, they walked out of their house. For the last time, they walked into school, sitting in a plastic chair in the last classroom they would ever learn in. For the last time, they went out to the playground, maybe on the swings, maybe on the slides, maybe in the sand. For the last time, they ate lunch with their friends, anticipating the summer nearing in two days. For the last time, they spoke. They breathed. They lived. 

That’s not all. For the last time, teachers welcomed those students in class. For the last time, students laughed with their friends. For the last time, parents saw their child.

Yet these deaths, these murders, were brushed aside by politicians with the usual “thoughts and prayers” that have become the all-too-familiar response when tragedies similar to this one occur in the United States of America, the nation that inexplicably refuses to do anything to solve this devastating, but solvable, problem. In a nation where 88% of the public supports background checks on gun buyers,  Congresspeople actively oppose legislation that could prevent the thousands of lives lost to gun violence each year. The same governor who once tweeted his embarrassment that Texas was #2 in the nation for new gun purchases and not #1 just recently gave a speech as to how “the state of Texas is in mourning with [families] for the reality that these parents are not going to be able to pick up their children.” 

It’s sickening, because every passing day, lives are lost to political games. To cowards who would rather accept millions of dollars from the National Rifle Association (NRA) than ever address the blood on their hands. The words they never speak, the actions they never take, kill. 

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of watching people who are supposed to represent the people, who are supposed to protect us, fail to do anything more than offer the same, oft-repeated empty words—not coincidentally, but intentionally. 

Some argue for alternate solutions, such as arming teachers and increasing law enforcement at schools. But when two armed police officers responded immediately to the scene at Uvalde, Texas, the shooter shot both and proceeded to shoot 19 children and two teachers. Could an armed teacher really do any more than two armed, trained police officers? 

This right to bear arms has resulted in more mass shootings than days have passed this year, but ironically the same political party, the Republican Party who refuses to take up discussion about gun laws, claims to be “pro-life.” 

“I will always fight for life as your governor,” said Texas Governor Greg Abbott. 

But he didn’t mean this about the 4,000 gun-related deaths in Texas in 2020, or the 28 children who died in Texas schools, or the 67,000 children victim to abuse and neglect in Texas’ households, or the 100+ children who died in the Texas’ foster care system, whose inhumane conditions were ruled to violate children’s Constitutional rights in 2015. 

He meant this about fetuses. 

Along with the 20 laws to restrict abortion rights in the state, Texas legislature recently passed a trigger law, which would ban abortions within 30 days of a potential overturning by the United States Supreme Court of Roe v. Wade, while providing no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. 

With Justice Alito’s recently leaked draft opinion, the overturning may occur sooner than imagined. Unsurprisingly, this is the exact same Supreme Court who ruled last week that defendants on death row who were provided ineffective representation in trial are barred from presenting evidence that was later discovered, making it all the more likely that innocent people will be executed in a country where 11% of all defendants on death row are found to be innocent. 

The hypocrisy doesn’t end there. Justice Alito’s draft opinion specifically states as justification for overturning Roe v. Wade that “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any Constitutional provision”, conveniently ignoring the 9th amendment, which directly states that “the enumeration in The Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” But let’s just pretend that the 9th amendment doesn’t apply. 

Romania, too, once had a strict abortion ban, something that many Republican-led states would quickly enact with Roe v. Wade overturned. From 1966, the enactment of Romania’s abortion ban, to 1989, the prohibition of the ban, an estimated 10,000 women died as a result of unsafe procedures, according to a study conducted by Foreign Policy. In fact, 7.3 million Romanian women had undergone back-alley abortions during the three-decade ban. Historical precedence clearly shows that banning abortions only bans safe abortions. It only results in more deaths. So much for being “pro life.”

In parallel, historical precedence shows that stricter gun laws work. A study done by Columbia University examining more than 130 studies conducted in 10 countries found that the “implementation of laws targeting multiple firearm restrictions is associated with reductions in firearm deaths.” The logic is pretty straightforward—if deadly, life-threatening weapons are less accessible, the chances of people being killed by those firearms go down. But they would rather accept the $54 million that the NRA spent on the GOP in the 2016 election than accept the truth. Just to name a few examples, Mitt Romney accepted $13 million in NRA donations and Mitch McConnell over $1.2 million. Their defense is that guns will be circulating regardless, that guns don’t kill, people do. But although Australia at one point had similar public opinions on gun ownership to the United States, after a mass shooting in 1996, the country imposed sweeping restrictions and only one mass shooting has occurred since. 

When it comes to bodily autonomy, the GOP is hypocritical once again. Mandating vaccines to simply protect the lives of others, particularly those high-risk for COVID-19, becomes a violation of bodily autonomy.

“[The issue is about] whether or not somebody is going to have something put into their body that they do not want put into their body,” Abbott said, rallying behind anti-vaxxers. 

Philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson argued the concept of bodily autonomy with an analogy: let’s say you are the only person with the right blood type to help an unconscious person with a fatal kidney ailment. Even then, you would not be required to donate your kidney. Thomson argues that “abortion does not violate the fetus’ legitimate right to life, but deprives the fetus of the pregnant person’s body.” But the GOP quickly turned against bodily autonomy when it came to abortions, passing legislation banning access to abortions while gun safety legislation–a cause that is quite literally pro-life–has time and time again been met with deafening silence. 

Gun violence is now the leading cause of death in children in the United States, and if the GOP cared more about them than the millions of dollars and votes they receive from the NRA, we wouldn’t see “thoughts & prayers” on Twitter following every mass shooting, we wouldn’t see more outrage for the unborn than the living. We would see action and legislation. 

So we must speak up and hold politicians accountable: protest, email, call, donate, and educate ourselves. And while it’s easy to become desensitized to the countless deaths and tragedies happening on a daily basis, even one death is far too much. Hundreds and thousands of lives should not be at stake just so a handful of politicians can keep their re-election offers lined. We’ve had enough.