The following op-ed was submitted by an Arkansas Strong reader who wishes to remain anonymous. If you would like to join the conversation, email us at email@example.com.
Come to Arkansas and find seemingly contradictory values represented: hospitality and rugged individualism, grit and obedience, candor and a hefty dose of minding your own business. We are a beautiful collection of perspectives, wouldn’t you agree?
Arkansans are also stubbornly proud, especially in their mistrust of government. Rural Southerners have an especially unique skepticism of government intervention, which is as ingrained in us as the right to bear arms and looking out for your neighbors.
But despite our diverse opinions and our indignation with nosy government, we have a problem standing up to overreach with one specific issue. Why? Well, it’s simply impolite to talk about certain things.
Chief among the “impolite” topics is the issue of reproductive freedom. In other words: abortion. Or women’s healthcare. Or murdering babies. Or the right to choose… depending on who you’re asking.
Earlier this week, I read that the Arkansas Abortion Amendment was certified by the Attorney General. According to Arkansans for Limited Government, the group behind the Amendment’s effort to restore some abortion access in the state, politicians make for bad doctors. Regardless of how one feels about abortion, the group argues, we don’t need politicians regulating reproductive decisions. We don’t need government in the exam room, so to speak, regulating things as personal as pregnancy.
I cannot help but agree.
Regulating people’s healthcare, especially a woman’s organs, is not only a divergence from our cherished values of personal freedom and individual liberty but a stark example of burdensome—even deadly—government overreach.
The notion of limited government has been etched into our consciousness and our traditions, but the regulation of reproductive healthcare challenges this ethos. It forces us to question whether a government that we already view with suspicion should extend its reach into the most private corners of our lives.
Personal independence is not just a value, but a way of life in Arkansas, and interference should be seen as an affront to the principles that make us who we are—people in control of our own lives. Personal liberty means we alone decide our destiny. And we alone know what is best for ourselves and our families.
The regulation of abortion is a logical paradox, even outside of a morality paradigm, because of its relevance to government overreach. And I’d like you to bear with me for a minute. I know it’s a polarizing issue; I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind about how they morally feel about abortion. What I’m aiming to do is reinvigorate a healthy skepticism of government.
I would never presume to know what is best for another person’s health or for the choices their family must make.
Now extend this to the Arkansas state government, which has proven that it cannot be trusted on matters of the collective or individual good. When the government regulates our healthcare and steps into our doctors’ offices, the government undermines our trust, implying that the entity of the state knows better than we do when it comes to decisions about our own lives. This is antithetical to what it means to be an Arkansan—a self-reliant, responsible individual.
And speaking of responsibility: government overreach, well-intentioned as it may be, often brings about its own unintended consequences. In Arkansas, regulations disproportionately affect our rural communities. It is our duty to ensure that any policy reflects a commitment to fairness and justice for our rural communities rather than perpetuating already awful health disparities between urban dwellers and rural folk.
I’m not here to change minds on how people feel about abortion. Your judgment of the issue is yours, and yours alone. You are entitled to your opinion, and oftentimes, those opinions are rooted in compelling and valid experiences.
No, this is not about changing minds. But it’s about keeping the government out of our homes and hospital rooms, out of conversations with our families and our doctors.
It’s not my business, or the government’s, to know the myriad of factors going into a person’s decision regarding the trajectory of their life. I don’t know if a person was raped. I don’t know if a person suffered a miscarriage. I don’t know if a family got a terrible diagnosis.
The point is, I don’t know what’s best for you.
The government doesn’t know either and it sure as hell doesn’t have any business telling people what’s good or right. That’s between them, their doctor, and the Good Lord above.
Let’s get back to our Arkansas roots and keep government where it should be: out of our doctor’s office and back in the business of governing policy, not people’s lives.