Women or Children First?


As Dave Weigel noted yesterday, South Dakota's anti-abortion activists are focusing less on a universal Right to Life than a universal Need to Mother. Reva Siegel and Sarah Blustain have an excellent American Prospect piece on the rhetoric behind the ban, drawing from interviews with activists and a 70-page task force report that preceded the legislation. A snippet:

The task force found that abortions cause long-term emotional and physical damage to women, everything from suicidal ideation to the possibility of breast cancer. But the task force's report went even further: It argued that the state needed a ban because of the epidemic overriding pressures on women to abort—from a family member, a husband or boyfriend, or an abortion clinic—that make extra protection from abortion necessary. Finally, to make credible its claims about women's health and women's choices, the task force made repeated claims about women's nature. It asserted that women would never freely choose an abortion—even absent outside pressures—because doing so would violate "the mother's fundamental natural intrinsic right to a relationship with her child." The task force took as a statement of biological and psychological fact that a mother's connection to her unborn baby was more authentic than her own statement of desire not to be pregnant.

The South Dakota abortion ban, in other words, is the bastard child (fetus?) of essentialism and paternalism (Abort!). It's as if Concerned Women for America got hold of a dated NOW playbook, and the rest of the article gives reason to believe that this is more than a cynical attempt at reframing the issue. An energized group of anti-abortion agitators is committed to the idea that it must stop trying to tell women not to abort their children and should just concede that all women are children. I miss the old activists.

Whole thing here.

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  1. Of course the task force is pretending the common occurrence of giving birth and then having post-partum depression does not exist.

  2. If coercion was really what the anti-choice agitators were concerned about, abortion would quite simply not be a political issue. Coercion is what they operate with.

  3. Um, wait… I thought the patriarchy wanted women barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen; not skinny, pretty and chained to a desk… which is it?

  4. With that logic, you may as well outlaw sex outside of marriage, because sometimes women and girls are pressured into sleeping with guys they don’t really want to sleep with.

  5. It’s not the location, it’s the chains that matter.
    Skinny, fat, desk, kitchen — none of that matters as long as the chains are in place and held solely by men.
    Why is it that the overwhelming majority of those concerned about preventing abortion are precisely those who are ineligible for the procedure? Could it be that they really do know what their mother’s think of them?

    Shirley Knott

  6. Oh, I see. Those baby-blue and pink colors – colors traditionally associated with childhood – in the bumper stickers that read “Abortion is Bad for Women” aren’t a reference the aborted fetuses. They’re meant to refer to the women.

  7. Wow Shirley! Great typical knee jerk blame men for everything feminist response. Polls consistently show there is no significant difference of opinion between men and women on abortion rights.


  8. The article discusses the report of South Dakota’s abortion task force, but doesn’t provide a link to the report itself. So here’s a link:


    Here’s an excerpt from the report:

    ?We received and reviewed the testimony of more than 1,940 women who have had abortions. This stunning and heart-wrenching testimony reveals that there are common experiences with abortions. Women were not told the truth about abortion, were misled into thinking that nothing but ’tissue’ was being removed, and relate that they would not have had an abortion if they were told the truth. . . .

    ?Ms. Linda Schlueter, Vice President and Senior Staff Attorney of The Justice Foundation, testified that it is particularly significant that both of the plaintiffs in the landmark abortion cases, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, have sought to have the courts overturn the decisions because it is now so clear how abortion violates the rights, interests, and health of women. Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade, believed that an abortion would help her, but she was never told about any physical, emotional, or psychological consequences. She actually never had an abortion herself, but her work in several abortion clinics caused her to see the truth. Sandra Cano, Doe in Doe v. Bolton, subsequently told the court that she never even wanted an abortion and her case was a fraud.?

  9. The task force found that abortions cause long-term emotional and physical damage to women, everything from suicidal ideation to the possibility of breast cancer.(emphasis mine)

    Someone who knows more about this is welcome to correct me but my impression is that the abortion/breast cancer connection has pretty much been debunked.

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