Posted Friday, May 20, 2011, at 5:31 PM
The bad news: Texas governor Rick Perry signed a bill into law yesterday that will require women seeking abortion to suffer through an additional ultrasound first. The good news: After the Rapture evaporates huge chunks of the anti-choice coalition to the great big nudist colony in the sky (not that their religious fantasies indicate sexual repression!), the nation can start moving toward humane, rational legislation that doesn't include the assumption that the most important use of government is preventing women from controlling their own reproductive organs.
Just kidding! The Rapture is sadly not real, so if you had any plans on nabbing yourself a free SUV that gets five miles to the gallon and has a nifty sticker depicting the recently heaven-bound on the back window, you may have to change your plans for this weekend. Sadly, however, the ultrasound laws are quite real and, according to the Guttmacher Institute, up there with gestational limits and halting insurance coverage of abortion in the latest trends in lady-hating fashion. Texas is a particularly brutal loss, due to the size of the state.
I sadly can't remember who it was, but a few years ago, an astute woman pointed out to me in some social-networking arena how abortion restrictions are patterned in their style after the Jim Crow laws that were finally banished through the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Not to compare them in terms of effectiveness or severity, but they work under the same basic logic. Jim Crow laws used a veneer of plausible deniability to get around constitutional protections in order to oppress black Americans, and abortion restrictions do the same to get around Roe v. Wade . For instance, many Southern states under Jim Crow required literacy tests in order to vote. The excuse for this was basically, "Hey, this isn't about race! Don't you want people to know how to read before they vote?," but in practice, literacy tests were about denying black people a chance to vote, often by giving different tests to black applicants and white applicants. Ultrasound laws work in the same way, by pretending to establish informed consent, but in reality, they exist only to keep women from exercising a constitutional right to abortion. To be clear, a big distinction between the two is that literacy tests were way more effective.
It's worth noting that one anti-abortion law that was attempted in Georgia and passed in Arizona is also a traditional Jim Crow law as well as an abortion restriction, and that's a law that allows someone to press charges against a doctor after an abortion if they think the abortion was done for "race-based" reasons. The law claims to be anti-racist, but in reality this is about giving women of color even more obstacles to overcome to get abortion than white women have.
As I've noted before , ultrasound laws are particularly galling, because they start with the presumption that women are so stupid that they don't realize they'll get a baby if they don't get the abortion. To people who support these laws and therefore the idea that women are this stupid, I suggest returning to the Bible, and particularly pay attention to the part where Jesus said those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.