Here's why people are connecting the Texas school shooting, the baby formula shortage and the fight over abortion rights

Here's why people on Twitter are connecting the Texas school shooting, infant formula shortage and the fight for reproductive freedom. (Photos: Reuters)
People on social media have been making connections between the Uvalde school shooting, the infant formula shortage and the fight for reproductive freedom. Here's why. (Photos: Reuters)

With news about the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, dominating news headlines and social media feeds, there have been endless angles on the situation — from the heartbreaking discussions of the lives and deaths of the 19 children and two teachers murdered in the classroom to the heated arguments about gun rights and mental health and the police.

One particularly passionate and unrelenting take, prevalent on social media, has been to link the shooting to two other major news stories — the leaked Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and the ongoing baby formula shortage. It involves some social media users calling out the hypocrisies of those against abortion rights, claiming they are "pro-life" while simultaneously lobbying for gun freedoms that result in dead children, and of GOP lawmakers who want to take away a woman's choice to continue a pregnancy while not feeding or protecting their infants once they are born.

“This country absolutely hates children,”an concluded one Twitter user. Many others shared similar sentiments.

Also making the rounds again has been a viral meme that gained popularity after the 2017 Las Vegas shooting of 59 concertgoers. That meme, often attributed to Gloria Steinem but actually written in 2015 by Navy vet Brian Murtagh (who Yahoo Life was unable to reach for this story), compares gun rights to abortion control — something that holds particular resonance with the current angst over the fate of Roe v. Wade.

“How about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion — mandatory 48-hour waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence,” it says in part. Murtagh, in 2017, told Bustle, "I thought it was a really, really clever way to show the hypocrisy between the different positions."

Christian F. Nunes, president of National Organization for Women (NOW), the largest organization of feminist grassroots activists in the U.S., draws connections between the issues as well. "Historically, the wellbeing and support for child-rearing has fallen under the responsibility of women," she tells Yahoo Life. "The right for a woman to decide what is happening in her body, the ability to have access to baby formula to raise her child, and the peace of mind she has when she sends her child to school have all been politicized and jeopardized. This harmful situation not only hinders women’s freedoms, but it harms our next generation of children the most."

A lot of the people making those connections now on social media "are thinking about how hollow the pro-life rhetoric sounds when it’s not connected to actually helping kids to stay alive," Mytheli Sreenivas, associate professor of history and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Ohio State University, tells Yahoo Life. “To put it most bluntly, I think we saw it with the infant formula shortage, with what feels like real lack of interest among politicians that babies have food — and now, tragically, in Texas, where preserving the life of children is of very little interest to our politicians.”

Sreenivas, in a Washington Post opinion piece she wrote just a few days before Uvalde, called "The tie between the Buffalo shooting and banning abortion," made the connection about “the shared roots of racist violence and antiabortion policies,” explaining that “both are part of a long history of American anxiety about fertility and the reproduction of a native-born ‘White race.’” There were tweets about that link too.

While the connections are a bit different when centered around the Texas school shooting, there are many overlapping issues, Sreenivas points out.

“The results of these policies all disproportionately impact poor and marginalized folks, including Black folks and other people of color,” she says, such as with the abortion bans, the latest of which has just taken effect in Oklahoma. “There’s a lot of data showing that who will be most impacted in most states are those who cannot afford to travel to get the care they need,” says Sreenivas. “But it’s equally true for things like formula; those parents who are able to scrounge up resources or drive so far to get what they need are the people who can insulate themselves most from the consequences of these policies.” With the shootings in both Buffalo and Uvalde, it was also people of color who bore the brunt of the violence and loss.

Also running through all these issues is a “thread of this assumption and disregard about women and their bodies,” notes Sreenivas, who says that was particularly clear with the “well, if you can’t find formula, just breastfeed” argument some people were making, despite many women not having paid maternity leave or the “luxury” to breastfeed, let alone all the other issues involved.

“The punitive aspect, or disregard for women’s autonomy and bodies,” Sreenivas says, “weaves through.”

That's something Nunes echoes. "Beyond the label of 'pro-life' is the fact that losing reproductive freedom is about control, specifically control over women’s bodies," she says. "If the protection and support of our nation’s existing children was a priority, then tragedies such as mass shootings in our schools for decades would not be acceptable and baby formula shortages would be prevented. And yet, here we are."

So what can people do to actually make a difference? "The phrasing 'Vote for our lives' is not being overdramatic," stresses Nunes. "In the short term, [it's about] contacting your local political representation, voting, donating to breastmilk banks and refusing to accept the false rhetoric that tells us there is nothing that we can do."

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