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.