American Madness

Intelligent Criticism in the Service of a Better Nation




Let’s see how many absurd state laws I can pick on this week.

Posted by Jason Ihle | No Comments

“I like you guys who wanna reduce the size of government – make it just small enough so it can fit in our bedrooms.” Josh Lyman, The West Wing.

Okay, this isn’t a ‘bedroom’ law, but it is a law aimed at legislating a very private issue and what people are thinking.

I’ll leave Arizona alone for a moment to focus on Oklahoma, that wonderful land where all women will now be required by law to undergo an ultrasound and hear a description of the fetus before having an abortion. But wait, there’s more:

Though other states have passed similar measures requiring women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma’s law goes further, mandating that a doctor or technician set up the monitor so the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

Let’s unpack this, shall we? This is quite simply one of the most patronizing laws ever conceived. This establishes a doctor-patient relationship in which the patient must be treated like a child. It’s a form of legalized bullying, a method of guilting women into reconsidering what was most likely a horrendously difficult decision anyway.

And even for rape and incest victims? So a teenage girl who is raped and impregnated by her father and wants nothing more but to be rid of the fetus that was forced upon her by her criminally abhorrent father must first see the ultrasound and be subjected to a lecture on the development of her rape love-child. The miracle of life is a beautiful thing, you see, and it must not be taken for granted.

But wait, there’s more:

A second measure passed into law on Tuesday prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb.

Brilliant! Now a doctor can voluntarily withhold vital information on the health of an unborn baby without fear of a legal claim against him. Believe it or not, abortion is not the only (nor probably the primary reason) expectant parents want to know about potential birth defects. There is a huge amount of mental and emotional preparation that people go through before raising a baby with Down’s Syndrome or a missing limb, for example. To keep this information from the parents-to-be is immoral, unethical and downright disgusting. To protect doctors who choose to withhold such information is the worst kind of zealotry.

But wait, there’s soon to be more:

Two other anti-abortion bills are still working their way through the Legislature and are expected to pass. One would force women to fill out a lengthy questionnaire about their reasons for seeking an abortion; statistics based on the answers would then be posted online. The other restricts insurance coverage for the procedures.

Okay, I happen to agree that insurance shouldn’t be paying for abortions unless there is a medical emergency and the mother’s health is in jeopardy. However, I don’t think the law should be denying insurance companies the right to cover abortions if they choose to. I thought part of the Republican platform was about letting business owners do what they want. But a questionnaire that women will be required to complete before having an abortion? Again, this is legalized browbeating and a bullying tactic.

What all these measures ultimately point to is a desire to legislate what’s in women’s heads when they have an abortion. Because abortion is legal the Oklahoma State Legislature can’t ban it so instead they pass laws designed to make particular types of thought into crime. Basically they’re forcing women to have abortions for the ‘right’ reasons. They don’t like that some people would choose to abort a baby with a birth defect. They can’t make it illegal. So they find a way to keep that knowledge from the woman. The questionnaire under consideration is another tactic to regulate what women are thinking and their reasons for having an abortion. You know what? Abortion is legal. That’s it, until the Supreme Court overrules a 37 year old decision. This would be akin to enacting a law that prevents a couple from adopting unless they have some proscribed set of criteria in mind when they do it. It’s not unlike hate crimes legislation, which also makes thought into crime. Incidentally (and ironically) most Republicans are against hate crimes legislation.

What’s in a woman’s head when she has an abortion is no one’s God-damned business.

Update: Because of an html problem, the last two blockquotes were unreadable. That is now fixed. Apologies.

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