Arkansas is planning to install a “monument to the unborn” in the state capital of Little Rock following its nearly total ban on abortions last year.
Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a bill (pdf) on Friday (March 17) that permits the construction of a privately funded monument on its capitol building grounds dedicated to “unborn children aborted during the era of Roe v. Wade.”
The proposal was predictably divisive. Rep. Tippi McCullough, a Democrat who opposed the legislation, said to ABC News: “I could think of a thousand ways to better spend money that would be helpful to our citizens.” Several Republicans, including Rep. Jeremiah Moore and Rep. Steve Unger, also voted against the bill.
In 2019, Arkansas passed a law banning abortions in the state, except in cases of emergency to save a mother’s life. The trigger ban went into effect when the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 decision Roe v. Wade in June.
The Arkansas state capitol building is already home to two notable monuments, including one commemorating the Little Rock Nine, the first Black students to desegregate the Little Rock Central High School in 1957, and a slab engraved with the Ten Commandments. Briefly, the Satanic Temple erected a goat-headed statue on the capitol grounds to protest the aforementioned monument to biblical principles.
“From a Christian perspective, this has the look and feel of spiking the football. It looks like gloating.” —A comment from state representative Steve Unger, a Republican who voted against the bill, delivered from the Arkansas House floor
The bill, titled “Monument to Unborn Children Display Act,” establishes a fund that can accept gifts, grants, and donations from individuals and organizations to erect and maintain the new monument.
It is still unclear who plans to donate to the fund, and how much money will be mobilized to move ahead with the project. Quartz has reached out to the Arkansas Treasury for comment.
In 2018, Tennessee established a similar fund for the building of the “Tennessee Monument to Unborn Children, In Memory of the Victims of Abortion: Babies, Women, and Men.” At the time of writing, there have been no reports of such a monument being built. Quartz was able to confirm that nobody has donated to the fund.
Arkansas has the highest maternal mortality rate out of all US states, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, totaling 40 deaths for every 100,000 live births from 2018-2020.
March of Dimes, a non-profit that works to improve the healthcare of mothers and babies, finds that almost half of the counties in Arkansas are “maternity care deserts.”
This story was updated with details of the funds for the Tennessee anti-abortion monument.