Back in 2018, the Tennessee legislature greenlit a bill to establish the “Tennessee Monument to Unborn Children, In Memory of the Victims of Abortion: Babies, Women, and Men.” The monument was going to be erected on Capitol grounds, fittingly, next to a statue honoring Confederate soldier Sam Davis. Five years on, Quartz reported on Wednesday that the monument is nonexistent—because nobody wanted to donate money toward its creation.
The language of the 2018 bill prohibited state funds from being spent on the monument’s construction and stated that “the monument must be erected using private funds.” In an email to Quartz, a spokesperson from the Tennessee Finance & Administration Department confirmed that—again, five whole years later—“there have not yet been any contributions received to deposit into the fund.” It’s almost as if abortion is widely popular and people would rather donate to abortion funds, which serve a practical purpose. Most people also seem to have the good sense to distinguish between aborted embryonic tissue and actual “victims.”
That the “monument for abortion victims” has received approximately zero donations is undeniably pretty hilarious. So, too, is the mix-up around who’s responsible for its failure. Republican leaders in the state House and Senate were supposed to appoint members of their bodies to oversee the monument’s construction, but no one could answer Quartz’s pretty basic questions about this.
In 2018, a state House Republican said the monument would “recognize that atrocities occurred because human beings were treated as less than human,” and “the vulnerable and defenseless were subjected to the will of the powerful.” Yet, apparently, not even he could find the will or motivation to raise the funds and get the ball rolling on this.
The entire fiasco feels emblematic of the anti-abortion movement’s reliance on hollow symbolism that not even they seem to really believe, all while providing any resources to children and families. Tennessee ranks 41st in the nation for the health of women and children due to high rates of maternal and infant mortality. The mere idea that a statute—which equates a health service with murder—could swallow up people’s resources amid these health crises, speaks to anti-abortion lawmakers’ willfully deranged priorities.
Despite the failure of Tennessee’s monument for the, err, “unborn,” earlier this month, Arkansas’ legislature passed a bill to erect a similar monument. Elsewhere in Tennessee, in Chattanooga, the “National Memorial for the Unborn’’ has been displayed since 1993 at what was once the Chattanooga Women’s Clinic. The clinic was forced to cease operations when the owner of the building went bankrupt, and anti-abortion activists raised $300,000 to buy the building and dedicate it to an anti-abortion memorial, all as local pregnant people scrambled to get health care.
We’re almost certainly going to be treated to more proposed “abortion victim” monuments, due to the popularity of grossly offensive Holocaust and slavery comparisons among anti-abortion activists—not to mention that many anti-abortion lawmakers openly align with anti-Semites and honor Confederates with statues. And yet, for all their showmanship, none of them can name a single “victim of abortion.” Truly, not one!
In contrast, Rosie Jimenez of Texas died in 1977 as a direct result of being denied coverage for a safe, legal abortion by the Hyde Amendment. I could list quite a few women and pregnant people who have nearly died from being denied an abortion or pregnancy-related care as a result of abortion bans. Funny—and extremely fucking sad—how that works.