The blogosphere has been a-twitter with the news this week of a proposed Missouri ballot initiative that would virtually ban abortion in the state. Unlike the South Dakota ban that was defeated last year, this ballot initiative does not come right out and admit its intentions to bar the procedure; instead, it would create such onerous requirements that no doctors would be able to perform abortion in the state and it would become de facto illegal. Insidious, huh?
Here’s why: According to the Jefferson City (MO) Star, the Missouri ballot initiative “would require doctors to extensively review the medical literature on abortion and investigate each patient’s background and lifestyle. It would require doctors to certify that the abortion was better for the woman than a full-term pregnancy.”
Taking a page right of Justice Kennedy’s Gonzales v. Carhart play book, in which he more than implied that women should not be trusted with a “decision so fraught with emotional consequences,” this ban suggests that women are not…smart? autonomous? adult?…enough to decide for themselves whether or not to end a pregnancy. Instead, doctors need to protect the poor little women to make sure they don’t make a mistake. And if the doctors “fail” and a woman later regrets her abortion? The doctor would be subject to civil suit.
Missouri’s ballot initiative makes clear how worried we should be about the emergence of the “abortion hurts women” argument – a line of “reasoning” that first appeared in the fight over the South Dakota ban. That the “abortion hurts women” line resonates with so many people is worrisome. Not because it’s true (which, on the whole, it is not), but because it validates the antiquated thinking that women are not men’s equals and not entitled to the full autonomy that citizenship provides. And because so many people seem to want that idea validated to begin with.