[Ed. note: Welcome Nan to Hay Ladies! Nan is a grant writer with a Texas non-profit who enjoys reading feminist blogs, promoting sex-positive attitudes and writing about things that make her ragey–feministy and otherwise. See evidence of this here.]
Over the weekend, Governor Rick Perry announced that he would be introducing emergency legislation in the Texas legislature requiring all women seeking abortions to be shown a sonogram and listen to their baby’s heartbeat before deciding whether or not to terminate. I heard this on the radio on the way to work this morning, and let’s just say I had to roll my eyes.
Apparently, it’s an emergency that us women just don’t understand what an abortion really is.
This legislation is moral posturing and little more. It’s an attempt at shaming women into making the “right” decision. Oh, sure, you still have a choice. Rick Perry and the anti-choicers just aren’t sure that you really understand what those choices entail, and they’re not sure you can be trusted to even make that choice. The law may guarantee you the ability to do what you want with your body, but you, dear ladies, obviously don’t understand what that even means. If you did, you wouldn’t be having abortions, and if you do understand it and are still having abortions, you must be heartless heathens who deserve all of the added guilt.
The problem with this legislation is this: it’s both ineffectual and possibly damaging. I doubt it will lead to fewer abortions. This is moral posturing parading as law. I will not take anti-choicers seriously about wanting to cut down on abortions until they start promoting comprehensive sex education. You know, the kind where they explain exactly what sex is, how it works, what birth control is, how it works, and give individuals all the information they need to make informed choices about what they do with their bodies. Oh, wait, shoot. I just said individuals should have choices about what they do with their bodies. I guess now I see the rub. Here’s what I’m saying without the sarcasm: women do not have abortions because we just don’t understand what abortion is. We don’t have abortions because we’re morally bankrupt, and we don’t have abortions because it’s just as emotionally easy as going to get our nails done instead. We have abortions because we feel it’s the best possible choice in whatever situation we find ourselves pregnant. Some of us struggle with that choice more than others, but feeling guilty is not a requirement to validate the choice. I’m not going to play into these shenanigans by saying, “But women already feel conflicted about having an abortion! Doesn’t that make you feel better?” Many do, but that’s not the point here. My point is that this type of thing will not curb abortions because it doesn’t address why abortions happen in the first place. This legislation is just a morality parade with little worth.
And how is it damaging? It creates an air of hostility around abortions, meaning we’re much more likely to end up with women going to places like the one in Philadelphia in order to get access to the procedure they’ve determined that they need without the hassle of being forced to jump through hoops that only serve to make them feel bad about something they clearly wouldn’t otherwise understand.