The abortion debate in America is dead. Most American’s feelings on abortion are hardened by faith, gut instinct or personal experience and poll numbers show that attitudes towards abortion have not shifted much in the last two decades. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the pro-life side no longer attempting to win hearts and minds through persuasion or impassioned speeches, but instead through draconian and impractical legislation. That is the only way to explain the insane political drama that has been occurring in the state of Oklahoma over the last few weeks.
The Republican controlled legislature in Oklahoma overruled the veto of Democratic governor Brad Henry to turn two of the most extreme pieces of anti-abortion legislation in America into law. The first stipulation of the bill is just strange. The second is out-and-out vile on all levels.
The first measure requires all mothers to hear a detailed description of the life and development of a fetus and view an ultrasound of the fetus prior to the abortion. The second measure blocks women from suing doctors for withholding or providing inaccurate information about their pregnancy. The belief on the part of the pro-life Oklahoma state senators is that if doctors don’t tell women about potential health or mental problems in the fetus it will cut down on the number that choose to have an abortion. The arrogance and lack of insight into both of these pieces of legislation is staggering and frightening.
The first bill completely ignores the complexity and mentality behind most people in America choosing to have abortions. The right likes to characterize wayward women as having “abortions on demand” and simply seeking abortion as an option so they don’t have to alter their “Sex in the City” lifestyles. But that is not the reality. Most women who chose to have an abortion have thought long and hard about the decision, they’ve considered the financial, emotional and social costs of what they are about to do.
Walking into the building to have an abortion is a fairly tough decision for most women and to assume that an additional baby-centered, birds-and-the-bees conversation is going to get them to change their minds demonstrates a grotesque lack of knowledge on the part of the bill’s authors. In the last week alone abortion clinics in Oklahoma have reported that while many women cry and are upset by the lecture no one has actually changed their mind and left a clinic.
The second bill is another egregious example of how political leaders on the right in this country are so dead set on making a political point with policy that they fail to realize the larger implications of the laws they are passing. (Think the Arizona Immigration law!) So a doctor can choose not to tell a woman of potential problems with her pregnancy because that information might lead to her having an abortion? What about a woman’s’’ right to simply know the health status of her forthcoming child? What if a child has a heart defect, but the doctor decides not to say anything because she feels the woman will have an abortion? The flip side is that in nine months this woman will give birth to a child that she has had absolutely no time to prepare for financially or medically. People want to know if they’re having a boy or girl so they can buy the right clothes. Should doctors stop giving that information because in some cultures people are more likely to abort girls than boys? The law presumes every pregnant woman is just looking for an excuse to have an abortion, and any law that assumes the negative is bound to violate civil rights.
The larger issue is the increasing overreach of these state legislatures as ideological goals are wielded like hammers over the legislative process. For those who see abortion as a blight upon society you don’t solve the problem by violating the health rights of every American citizen just to discourage the few that MIGHT engage in behavior that you dislike. What this really speaks to is the defeatist attitude of the Pro-Life Movement in America. They’ve given up trying to actually change hearts and minds, now they’re just trying to force feed policy down America’s throat whether people like it or not.