Women’s health experts have warned that 2013 is shaping up to be the worst year for reproductive freedom in recent history. Despite the fact that the election season is over and the “War on Women” narrative has somewhat waned, there are certainly still battles raging on the state level. Obviously, those fights center on abortion access, but many of them get at something deeper, too — an inherent lack of trust in and respect for women’s intelligence.
In states across the country, measures that rest on the assumption that women don’t actually know what’s best for them — and need their lawmakers to provide them with just a few more facts — are being codified into law. Here are just five examples of condescending anti-choice pushes:
1. A bill filed in Texas assumes women don’t know how adoption works. The Texas legislature is about to enter its third special session, and lawmakers have spent most of the extra lawmaking time focusing on abortion restrictions. State Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) is championing a measure that will require women to complete a mandatory adoption course before being allowed to access abortion services — assuming that some women who decide to end a pregnancy must be totally unaware of their options. “It is my hope that, when presented with more information on adoption resources and services available, more pregnancies can be carried to term,” Lucio explained. Under the lawmaker’s proposal, a woman would need to complete an “adoption education course” and present a certificate of completion to her doctor before being allowed to proceed with the voluntary, legal medical procedure.
2. A South Dakota law reveals that lawmakers aren’t sure if women can think on weekends or holidays. Across the country, states are imposing mandatory waiting periods for abortion care, hoping that women will change their mind about their personal health care decisions if they just have more time to think about it. (Studies have actually proven that waiting periods don’t actually influence women’s decisions at all, since the majority of women seeking abortions have — unsurprisingly — already made up their own minds before going to their doctor.) The South Dakota legislature went one step further. Earlier this year, the state extended its 72-hour waiting period — which was already one of the longest in the country — to exclude holidays and weekends, giving women the opportunity to consider their reproductive health only during the regular work week.
3. A Virginia law sends women to right-wing crisis pregnancy centers and hopes they won’t notice the biased information. Under Virginia’s forced ultrasound law, women are required to look at an image of their fetus before being allowed to have an abortion. Like mandatory waiting periods, ultrasound requirements are popular anti-choice tactics that imply women aren’t capable of making an informed decision about ending a pregnancy. But a recent report from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia uncovered that Virginia’s ultrasound law has another unintended consequence: sending women to right-wing “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs), which are front groups for the anti-abortion movement. The state’s health department gives women a list of the clinics where they can receive a free ultrasound to comply with the requirement, but every single one is a CPC. And NARAL found that when women visit those CPCs, they typically receive misinformation about the health risks of having an abortion — and in some extreme cases, the CPC employees have even refused to hand over the ultrasound results to the women’s doctors, preventing them from following through with the abortion procedure they want to have.
4. A new Missouri law assumes women can’t follow their doctor’s instructions about how to take a pill. Instead of outright banning abortion itself, anti-choice lawmakers often place restrictions on the conditions under which women may end a pregnancy. Just last month, Missouri became the latest state to limit women’s access to the abortion pill, which allows women to safely end a pregnancy by taking abortion-inducing medication outside of the doctor’s office. Since taking a pill can be an outpatient procedure, medication abortion can give women much-needed flexibility over their reproductive health. But Missouri is the 11th state to require doctors to be present for the entirety of a drug-induced abortion, rather than trusting women to follow directions and correctly take a pill.
5. Supporters of North Dakota’s abortion ban, the harshest in the nation, hope it will help women realize they didn’t want an abortion after all. This year, North Dakota enacted the most stringent abortion law in the United States, banning the procedure after just six weeks. (The harsh law is currently being temporarily blocked from taking effect.) One of the legislation’s primary backers, Rep. Bette Grande (R), said she the six-week ban — which is based on the logic that fetuses have a heartbeat after that point — would give women the chance to realize they didn’t actually want to have an abortion. Not being able to terminate a pregnancy would “give people the opportunity to realize that there is a beating heart,” Grande suggested.
The implications of this type of legislation isn’t lost on women’s health advocates. State-level anti-abortion laws continue to pile up, and lawmakers continue to justify their attacks on reproductive rights with increasingly condescending explanations about why they’re necessary to protect women. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently launched a “They Think We’re Stupid” campaign to highlight states’ inherent lack of confidence in women’s ability to make their own decisions.