Greatest Hits: Because respecting women means making all their decisions for them

Originally posted on May 12, 2007.

For many years, the political struggle over abortion was often framed as a starkly binary choice: the interest of the woman, advocated by supporters of abortion rights, versus the interest of the fetus, advocated by opponents of abortion.

But last month’s Supreme Court decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act marked a milestone for a different argument advanced by anti-abortion leaders, one they are increasingly making in state legislatures around the country. They say that abortion, as a rule, is not in the best interest of the woman; that women are often misled or ill-informed about its risks to their own physical or emotional health; and that the interests of the pregnant woman and the fetus are, in fact, the same.

They support women so much that they want to make the right decision for us, since clearly we don’t know what we’re doing. And they make an excellent point. After all, we have a long national history of making decisions for women, in their best interests of course. Women wanted to work as lawyers? Silly rabbit, lawyers are mens! And so the wise old dudes on the Supreme Court of yesteryear reminded us that it is women’s “paramount destiny” to “fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.”

It’s also the law of the anti-choice view.

Because look what happens when the women are allowed to decide for themselves what to do with their lives: All havoc breaks loose! If we had just listened to the Court in 1873, we wouldn’t have had uppity female attorneys, judges and legal scholars like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sandra Day O’Connor, Catherine Waugh McColloch, Dorothy Roberts, Sarah Weddington, Linda Coffee, Catharine MacKinnon, Mari Matsuda, Kimberle Crenshaw, and on and on. It’s been women, after all, who have generally fought for women’s rights, and who have challenged long-held assumptions and social rules that privilege men. They’ve really shaken shit up. And look what’s happened — women today are miserable. They’re opting out. They’re raising juvenile delinquents. They’re making their kids fat. They aren’t sleeping. They even choose to make less money.

Clearly, American women are a collective mess. Now, I know what you’re saying — there isn’t a whole lot of actual definitive data to tie working mothers to fat kids or delinquent children, the whole opting-out thing never actually happened, and what kind of moron chooses to make less money than someone doing the same work (yes, Virginia, the pay gap and the motherhood penalty are real)? But we can’t let silly facts get in the way of making sure women don’t screw up by making their own decisions. And anti-choicers are carrying on that proud tradition of totally making shit up if it means that it’ll allow men to make women’s choices for them — always in the best interests of the little ladies, of course:

The foundation, a nonprofit public interest litigation firm that has handled an array of conservative causes, has increasingly focused on abortion through its project called Operation Outcry. Mr. Parker said the group began hearing from women in the late 1990s who considered themselves victims of legalized abortion — physically and emotionally — and wanted to tell their stories. Operation Outcry, which grew to include a Web site, a national hot line and chapters around the country, eventually collected statements from more than 2,000 women, officials said.

In its friend-of-the-court brief, the group submitted statements from 180 of those women who said that abortion had left them depressed, distraught, in emotional turmoil. “Thirty-three years of real life experiences,” the foundation said, “attests that abortion hurts women and endangers their physical, emotional and psychological health.”

There are 1.3 million abortions performed in the United States every year. Abortion has been legal here since 1973, and while the abortion rate has differed over the years, there have been somewhere around 40 million abortions performed since Roe was decided. The experiences of 2,000 women are valid. Certainly those women regret their abortions if they say they regret their abortions. But 2,000 out of 40 million is not exactly demonstrative of a trend or a widespread issue. Even if we assume that the 2,000 is incredibly low — if for every 2,000 women who sign the petition, there are 100 who are silent — that still isn’t even 1 percent of the women who have terminated pregnancies in this country. People sometimes regret decisions they make, and there isn’t any reason why abortion should be any different. But clearly, paternalism demands that we save women from themselves by taking away their very rights to themselves.

Now, there isn’t really a question that illegal abortion kills women, and that women who live in countries where abortion is legal and accessible have far lower abortion-related injury and death rates than women who live in places where abortion is legal. Abortion indeed endangers women’s physical, emotional and psychological health — when it’s illegal or inaccessible. Because then, it makes them criminals. It puts them in the hospital. It kills them.

But since women may regret a choice that they made, we should clearly take away the right to make that choice! The 1873 Court could see this one coming from a mile away — if you give women choice and freedom, they’re gonna just go and muck it up. Better to just make their decisions for them. Luckily, we are blessed with a modern court that looks to its century-old predecessors for guidance when it comes to ensuring that women don’t fuck up their lives by doing anything voluntarily:

“While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained,” Justice Kennedy wrote, alluding to the brief. “Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow.”

Given those stakes, the justice argued, “The state has an interest in ensuring so grave a choice is well informed.”

Kennedy wrote that a month ago, in the most recent abortion-related Supreme Court decision. How beautifully it echoes truths of the past.

I say we take this a step further and really ensure that women don’t regret anything ever. We should institute a fresh new system wherein women are property of their fathers until their father chooses who they marry (wouldn’t want her to mess that up and have to get a divorce — just look what happened when we gave women full divorce rights!), and then their husband controls all of the money, property, progeny and decisions. Obviously she would stay home and raise the children — in the manner dictated by her husband, of course, since the children would be legally his. Wouldn’t want her to make a bad parenting decision and regret it forever! And we definitely wouldn’t want her to regret going to school or getting a job.

If we do this long enough, we could get to the point that the incredibly enlightened Dean Barrett has reached — where he writes about reproduction, pregnancy abortion and manages to not use the word “woman” a single time.

I think it’s a brilliant and innovative plan. And because I know pro-lifers love women as much as I do, they will be the first to give up their decision-making roles as the heads of major conservative and anti-choice organizations. The women in these powerful positions are not only abandoning their motherly and wifely duties by working, but they are making major decisions which affect many, many people — what if they regret it later? I look forward to the immediate resignations of Wanda Franz, Patricia Heaton, Judie Brown, Phyllis Schlafly, Linda Chavez, Mary Ann Glendon, Dr. Pamela Smith, Beverly LaHaye, Wendy Wright and Janice Crouse.

And I definitely know some women who are regretting voting for George W. Bush. To protect them from future suffering, we must end women’s suffrage. It even sounds catchy.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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4 Responses to Greatest Hits: Because respecting women means making all their decisions for them

  1. Dsperin says:

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind having someone else make all the decisions for once. It’d be quite the vacation! :P

    Seriously though, I can’t believe that “they might make a mistake, so lets take away the choice” is even being looked at as a valid excuse to criminalize abortion.

  2. SarahMC says:

    I recently read a really great example of double-standards for men and women.
    Men and women are both infantalized by the patriarchy. But it’s done for different reasons.

    When women are infantalized, it’s done in an effort to take away their choices and reduce their options in life. It’s done to restrict their rights and deny their agency.
    Women are too weak to do X, they are too “emotional” to do Y, etc. Women need protection; leave decisions up to the men. Women don’t know what’s best for them; they don’t know what they want.

    When men are infantalized, it’s done in an effort to relieve them of personal responsibility.
    Boys will be boys, men can’t control themselves when they’re aroused, you can’t expect men to pick up after themselves, cook for themselves, notice your feelings, etc.

  3. Kyra says:

    One wonders how many women regret having children.

    One wonders how many of them would never dare speak of it due to the extent to which such a regret is demonized. One wonders how many of them suffer significantly, to the point where they should’ve been prevented from making that decision, “for their own good.”

    One wonders if this means the state has an interest in making abortions compulsory. Surely it’s at least as justified as making abortion forbidden.

    Except that would be selfish. Whereas illegalizing abortion would force them to be selfless, instead, which is for arbitrary reasons known only to the religious right, something that women should be required to be, instead of having and using inconvenient rights to act like their own happiness and fulfillment is important or something.

    (And, five bucks and a cookie says that just like with restrictions on abortion, restrictions on childbirth would be interpreted and enforced so that wealthy white women were free to do whatever they wanted, and poor women and women of color were the ones getting screwed.)

  4. bmc90 says:

    I don’t see why you could not extend the same logic to force men to get forced vasectomies since I’m sure men are often greatly dismayed to learn they have gotten someone pregnant. Yeah that will happen. I also wonder if my relatives who had unplanned pregnancies regret (these are real examples) having a daughter now married to a drug dealer and also a teen mother, a son kicked out of the military for having sex with a minor, a son and daughter (a teen mother to boot) living together in the trailer mommy lived in (that grandma gave her) after mommy blew her brains out, and a daughter who has been in and out of jail for petty larceny. Those are my cousins’ and aunt’s kids. The one in college is the one whose parents got married after college and meant to get pregnant. Suprise suprise. That’s the legacy of half baked parenthood by people who were not prepared for it. It started with a few prom babies and got worse in the next generation.

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