Last week, five men on the Supreme Court decided that, when it comes to a particular medical procedure that only women undergo and that only doctors perform, physicians and women hold absolutely no power. In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg held forth on the opinion, "Ultimately, the Court admits that 'moral concerns' are at work…" In its decision, many have noted, the court focused on these over-reaching moral concerns, placing far too much emphasis on "protecting" the woman from the power of her own decision making. In her published speech, The New Politics of Abortion: An Equality Analysis of Woman-Protective Abortion Restrictions, Reva Siegel points out, in reference to the South Dakota abortion ban passed earlier this year, "The use of a woman-protective antiabortion argument to defend the South Dakota ban reflects a shift from fetal focused to gender-based justifications for abortion regulation." The majority in this case used a similar "it's for your own good" brand of logic.
It is worth noting that Justice Ginsburg is the only woman on the Supreme Court, and one of four dissenters in this case. I write this because the Supreme Court, as a male majority, imbued themselves with the power to decide for millions of women what was "moral" and "right." As Ann Friedman notes on Feministing, this "…exclusively male group", reminded women of their place, in the decision. It is particularly disturbing when the male justices muse clueless over women who regret their abortion experiences, "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." This pseudo-therapeutic guesswork about women's abortion experiences is completely out of place in a Supreme Court decision.
The justices go on to moralize,
"It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns, only after the event, what she once did not know: that she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast developing brain of her unborn child, a child assuming the human form."
It may come as a surprise to these judges that most women who choose to undergo an intact D&E, the banned procedure, are not making spur of the moment decisions. The paternalistic undertones of this kind of reasoning should scare us all. The justices go on to opine that, if a woman knows exactly what the procedure will entail, she may be more inclined to carry the pregnancy to term and have that baby. And clearly the reasoning here is that women need legal guidance and high level government intrusion in order to make these life changing decisions.
Amazingly, there is absolutely no sense that there are many women for whom the "gory" details do not dissuade but just make very sad. The justices truly must believe that women do not understand the consequences of their decisions. It's a "father knows best" scenario where women are like little girls who not only must be protected from their "poor decision making" but from their weak and fragile nature as well.
Even conservative Cokie Roberts weighed in on This Week on ABC saying, "As a woman I am offended by Justice Kennedy's paternalism." "Offended" may be strong enough for Cokie but it doesn't begin to touch what I think Justices Kennedy, Alito, Roberts and Scalia did to women through this decision. This decision will affect a relatively small – but vulnerable- minority of women in this country. It is this vulnerability that the Justices played upon in their high-minded, holier-than-thou judgment.
Pro-choice advocates around the nation are rallying in opposition to the ban.
On Wednesday, April 25, the third anniversary of the largest march in Washington DC history — the landmark March For Women's Lives, Planned Parenthood supporters held rallies and demonstrations to express outrage over the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the federal abortion ban.
Planned Parenthood also created a "Wall of Protest" where people can post their photos or videos expressing opposition to this outrageous imposition into a woman's personal medical decision.
Finally, Rep. Jerold Nadler, Senator Barbara Boxer and a host of pro-choice advocates are pushing the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), a bill that would codify the rights guaranteed under Roe v. Wade.
Should it be surprising that a branch of our government pronounced a woman no longer has the right to make particular private medical decisions for herself? Maybe not. What should be shocking, however, is that this was a handful – yes, you can count them on your left hand – of men who imbued themselves with the power to make this decision for millions of women in this country.