The Texas Observer ran a piece late yesterday about the 5th Circuit’s decision to go ahead and allow Texas’ forced trans-vaginal ultrasound law to be enforced while its constitutionality is challenged in court, and it contains some pretty interesting (but hardly shocking) information about Judge Edith Jones, who wrote the court’s decision. (Full and enthusiastic disclosure: the Observer piece is by my fiancé, Patrick Michels.)
It would seem that this is not Judge Edith Jones’ first rodeo with Judge Sam Sparks, whose decision she overturned to put the ultrasound law into action during its court battle. Judge Sparks is the U.S. District Court judge who originally ruled in favor of an injunction against the ultrasound law. His decision was both colorful and pointed. He wrote, in part:
It is ironic that many of the same people who zealously defend the state’s righteous duty to become intimately involved in a woman’s decision to get an abortion are also positively scandalized at the government’s gross overreaching in the area of health care.
Michels reports that Sparks, feisty benchman that he is, has also famously “invited lawyers to a “kindergarten party” to learn the basics of our American court system,” after which none other than Judge Edith Jones “took him to task, in a letter addressed to Sparks and circulated far and wide.” So you know, stay classy everybody.
But, writes Michels, “Jones comes to this case with some predispositions of her own.” Jones has been called an “eternal bridesmaid,” for the fact that for decades she’s popped up as a conservative favorite for a Supreme Court nomination, but always ends up being too right-wing for serious consideration.
Jones was on a 2004 panel that dismissed Roe v. Wade‘s now-named plaintiff Norma McCorvey, who in her later years decided abortion shouldn’t be legal after all. Though her case was dismissed, it wasn’t because Jones didn’t pretty much agree with her. From the Texas Observer:
Jones conceded that McCorvey’s suit wasn’t a live issue anymore, but wrote she hoped the Supreme Court would take up Roe again soon:
“In sum, if courts were to delve into the facts underlying Roe … they might conclude that the woman’s ‘choice’ is far more risky and less beneficial… That the Court’s constitutional decision-making leaves our nation in a position of willful blindness to evolving knowledge should trouble any dispassionate observer.”
In the appellate court’s opinion today, Jones follows the same logic that drove Perry, Patrick, and the law’s House author, Rep. Sid Miller: A woman going in for an abortion doesn’t really know what she wants. During the session, Patrick said the bill “empowers” women.
In case you missed it, Jones wrote that if courts would reconsider Roe v. Wade, “they might conclude that the woman’s ‘choice’ is far more risky and less beneficial.” Based, of course, on science that doesn’t exist and nowhere proves or suggests that abortion is at all unusually detrimental to a woman’s mental or physical health. In the decision filed yesterday, Jones writes:
The provision of sonograms and the fetal heartbeat are routine measures in pregnancy medicine today. They are viewed as “medically necessary” for the mother and fetus. Only if one assumes the conclusion of Appellees’ argument, that pregnancy is a condition to be terminated, can one assume that such information about the fetus is medically irrelevant.
About which Michels rightly points out: “Read another way, Jones is suggesting that what those meddling New Yorkers at the Center for Reproductive Rights really want is just to end all the pregnancies.”
To which I would like to add some things. First, I’d like to point out that for abortion-seeking pregnant women, pregnancy is in fact a condition to be terminated. That’s the fucking point, and abortion-seeking women know what they’re doing. I love this thing where anti-choice people seem to want to believe that large abortioneer organizations are forcing happy pregnant women to abort by sneaking them into clinics where they thought they were just like, gonna get a pat on the back and a lollipop, and if it wasn’t for things like the forced trans-vaginal ultrasound law, the women of America would be aborting every single pregnancy possible at the evil whim of Planned Parenthood.
Second: and I just can’t say this loud enough, IT IS FUCKING DANGEROUS TO BE A PREGNANT WOMAN IN THE UNITED STATES. The maternal mortality rate in the United States is absolutely atrocious. From the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals:
With 99% of maternal deaths occurring in developing countries, it is too often assumed that maternal mortality is not a problem in wealthier countries. Yet, statistics released in September of 2010 by the United Nations place the United States 50th in the world for maternal mortality — with maternal mortality ratios higher than almost all European countries, as well as several countries in Asia and the Middle East.
From CNN, reporting on Amnesty International’s research in May 2010:
Deaths from pregnancy and childbirth in the United States have doubled in the past 20 years, a development that a human rights group called “scandalous and disgraceful” Friday.
In addition, the rights group said, about 1.7 million women a year, one-third of pregnant women in the United States, suffer from pregnancy-related complications. Most of the deaths and complications occur among minorities and women living in poverty, it noted.
So please, anti-choice people, give me a fucking break with your bullshit about how abortion is dangerous to a woman’s health. Carrying a child to term is far, far more dangerous. Why? Because women–especially socioeconomically disadvantaged ones, who disproportionately tend to be women of color–do not have access to the reproductive health care they need. And who restricts their access to the care they need? Republicans, who are all about making substantial funding cuts to programs like WIC, which helps poor women access prenatal care and resources for their existing children.
Fact: the forced trans-vaginal ultrasound law was not created with women’s health and safety in mind, and it was not created by people who have women’s health and safety in mind.