Many of us were disturbed by the murder of University of Mississippi undergraduate Ally Kostial last week. By all accounts, she was such a deeply kind and beautiful person. What could have possibly been the motivation to kill someone who radiated such powerful goodness?
This week, based on exclusive reporting from The Daily Mail, we learned the answer: Ally was pregnant with the child of the accused killer, a fellow undergraduate at Mississippi. He reportedly pressured her to have an abortion. She refused. So it appears he killed her and their prenatal child, in a reprehensible double murder.
For those who have qualms about using this term to describe his alleged action, recall the famous case in which Scott Peterson was charged with double murder by the state of California when he killed his wife Laci and their prenatal child Connor—who, horrifically, was found to have plastic around his neck and a slash to his body. Indeed, Scott Peterson sits on death row today only because the state of California rightly understands Connor to be a second murder victim.
Despite the high-profile nature of such cases, our culture is still not fully aware of the danger in which pregnant women find themselves—particularly in a patriarchal throwaway culture in which abortion is an expected means of permitting people to live their lives without the “burden” (or, as President Obama once put it, “punishment”) of a child.
Indeed, the double murder that killed Ally and her prenatal child is tragically typical example of how abortion rights have so grossly affected our culture—although you can be forgiven for not realizing this, given how poorly abortion is covered by most major media organizations.
First, abortion correlates strongly with intimate partner violence, especially (but not only) when a woman has had multiple abortions. Hook-ups and boyfriends very often drive a woman’s “choice” to have an abortion with the implicit or explicit threat of violence. Tragically, we’ve come to learn that abortion providers like Planned Parenthood are generally not interested in truly assisting women under threat of violence from their partners—only in procuring the revenue-producing abortion.
If a woman like Ally is strong enough to resist a male partner’s demand that she have an abortion, she puts herself at serious risk—not just for getting beat-up, but for being murdered. That’s right, murdered. The double murder that killed Ally is not some kind of outlier.
Women’s Health magazine has done important reporting on this. In an article titled, “Death by Pregnancy: Why are so Many Moms to be Dying?” they lay out some incredibly disturbing evidence. The main cause for the high death rate wasn’t a health issue like hypertension (as dangerous as issues like that are, especially for poor women). The main cause of death for pregnant women was found to be murder.
The first evidence for this terrible state of affairs came in 2001, when Isabelle Horon and Diana Cheng of the Maryland Department of Health did a study of deaths of pregnant women and published it in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association. They found that most of these pregnant women who died were in fact being killed: “Shot. Strangled. Beaten to death. By husbands, boyfriends, lovers. By the fathers of their unborn children.”
“Unborn children.” It’s an interesting term to use for a magazine so supportive of abortion rights. In this article, for instance, they laud the sign of an abortion-rights activist that read, “Hoes Before Embryos.”
Other data supports the connection between pregnant women’s deaths and pressure from partners, especially unmarried partners. The Women’s Health story highlighted a study published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health that found 43 percent of deaths of pregnant women over eight years in Washington, D.C. were homicides. They also noted that in 2017 a “rigorous, decadelong study of traumatic injuries among women of childbearing age was presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology” which “found that pregnant women are more likely to suffer violent trauma—and are twice as likely to die after trauma—than nonpregnant women.”
These facts are important enough on their own to be the basis of analysis, but there are other significant lessons to learn from last week’s double murder. The Daily Mail reported the alleged killer believed having a baby would “ruin his life.” This is tragically typical of the attitude toward abortion among those who attend and complete college.
In fact, a Brookings Institution study shows that someone who is college educated is more likely to think that an unplanned pregnancy will “ruin” his or her life than someone who is not college-educated. The same study also shows that poor women are significantly less likely to have an abortion than are rich women when faced with an unintended pregnancy.
It is also unsurprising to learn that Ally and her killer apparently had an “on and off” sexual and dating relationship. Because of the unreliability of contraception (especially over time), abortion has become necessary for our hook-up culture to maintain the devastating illusion of consequence-free sex. Indeed, somewhere around half of abortions come after failed contraception.
The privileged, male-driven model of consequence-free sex in our hook-up culture requires that women like Ally have an abortion to avoid the “burden” or “punishment” that is understood to come with an unintended pregnancy. Her accused killer appears to have been driven to rage by Ally’s refusal to capitulate to our culture’s patriarchal expectation. Instead of discarding her child, she courageously decided instead to protect and support him or her. And it appears she was killed for doing so.
Whenever I give abortion-related talks to an ideologically diverse audience, I can be fairly sure that one of the first questions will go something like this: “I understand what you’re trying to say, but where do you get off telling women what to do as a man? Shouldn’t men just stay out of this issue?” Most often the questioner is a pro-choice man.
My typical response is to first to try help him notice that “staying out of the discussion” in order to preserve the status quo is actually self-serving for most men. There is nothing gallant or pro-woman about offering so-called “choice” in a culture rigged against women in favor of those who cannot get pregnant.
Second, I point out that those of us who would like to see both prenatal children and their mothers protected and supported with the full force of law should beg to have men kept out of the abortion debate. In addition to supporting abortion restrictions at higher rates than men do, women also know first-hand that the legal availability of abortion has offered them anything but genuine freedom.
Powerful men have self-servingly created a culture that sees abortion as necessary, even sacred. But a culture that understands abortion this way hurts and coerces women. More often than we care to admit, as reportedly happened to Ally, it even leads to their death.