Pravda in the Intake


Sadly, the pro-choice movement doesn't have much in the way of regular triumphant victories over those who want to roll back attitudes about sex and women's rights to the Victorian era, but last week, we did have a moment of joy when the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled against a lawsuit that could conceivably have forced doctors to lie to their patients. The lawsuit in question was brought by a Rose Acuna, who claimed that the doctor should have told her that her embryo was a separate human being before performing the abortion. Acuna appears to be one of the many women out there waving the "choice for me but not for thee" flag, which is to say that they join anti-choice causes after getting an abortion themselves, and gain pity within the anti-choice community by playing up how badly they were "duped" to get an abortion. The court, helpfully, pointed out that the state has no business forcing professionals to use their authority to spread misinformation.

The ACLU described the lawsuit as an underhanded attempt to mandate anti-choice scripts to be read by doctors that could be similar to scripts that have been pushed on doctors in other states through legislation. These sort of mandated scripts are often sold in paternalistic terms that assume both that women are too stupid to know what an abortion is and that legislators working from their low opinion of women have a better grasp on the practice of medicine than doctors with medical degrees. Perhaps the issue is that there are few, if any, courses at medical school in the fine art of assuming that all women seeking reproductive health services are stupid and slutty and need a lie-laden scolding for the high crime of having a normal sex life.

Aside from the official selling point of these laws, there's the unspoken selling point of pure sadism. Scripts like the one the plaintiffs wished to push on doctors in New Jersey usually have overwrought, maudlin, guilt-tripping (and inaccurate) language, in hopes that when the script is sprung on some already stressed out woman obtaining an abortion, she'll become upset or even cry. Considering how sadistic fantasies of suffering women are not unknown to anti-choice legislators, the idea that a lot of them dwell delightedly on the idea of adding to women's pain when voting for these laws is not completely out of the question. Think of South Dakota Republican Senator Bill Napoli's unnerving fantasy of the levels of degradation a woman would have to reach before he was satisfied that she deserves an abortion: "A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life."

First you get messed up bad and then you get your abortion. And if you weren't messed up before you step inside the clinic, there's a state-mandated guilt trip awaiting you in hopes to push you over the edge. Odds are that this script almost never achieves its sadistic intentions, but that doesn't justify its existence. Thankfully, the women of New Jersey will not have this extra obstacle put in front of them.

There's a strong whiff of the Soviet Union to these right wing attempts to remake reality by legislative fiat. Mandated clinic scripts are far from the only or even most famous example. The ongoing attempts to turn a religious teaching (creationism) into a scientific theory on par with evolutionary theory through legislation certainly get more press. But I'd put these abortion scripts right up there in the Soviet-esque ideology-trumps-reality category. A script in every doctor's office that equates an embryo with a five-year-old child doesn't make it true anymore than forcing patients to clap furiously will start saving fairy lives.

Nor does forcing doctors to read the script mean that you force anyone to believe it or even force them to read it with a convincing air about them. Even if the laws specify that doctors should read the script straightforwardly without giving any lip, how would you enforce that law? Is there a ban on a doctor rolling her eyes while reading the script? A ban on the doctor whipping out the script and prefacing her reading by saying, "The nutcases in the legislature require that I read you this load of horse puckey?" A law forbidding you from reading the script with a put-upon air of someone having to recite total nonsense?

If I were a clinic worker forced to read from an anti-choice script, I'd carry it around in a red folder labeled Pravda. Having a world-weary attitude about government-mandated nonsense is a rare pleasure in America. Most of the time, we're still up in arms about propagandistic lies and nonsense, because there's always a strong sense that a significant percentage of people buy into it. But inside the abortion clinic, amongst a group of people who either perform abortions or are seeking abortions, it's probably pretty rare to find anyone who's going to swallow the government line whole without question.

With that in mind, it's hard not to wonder what legislators who pass these laws intend to achieve, since they'll be convincing no one. No doubt plenty of legislators are motivated by the glow from making self-righteous but pointless symbolic gestures. But there's quite possibly more to these scripts than that. Mandatory scripts seem to be in the same category of abortion clinic regulations as mandatory sonograms or landscaping requirements—in other words, they're TRAP laws, which is short for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. The idea behind TRAP laws is that if you put enough arcane and pointless regulations on abortion providers, eventually they'll be unable to keep up with them all, fined for breaking the pointless laws and then run out of existence.

Congratulations to the state and the women of New Jersey for evading one more trap set for them by right wing activists.

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  • http://eileen.undonet.com invalid-0

    The purpose of this law, and no doubt the reason it was passed, was to “establish the separate personhood” of an embryo or fetus and graduate factoid to fact.

    It really does not matter that NO society in all of recorded herstory has ever accorded personhood to any part of gestational material (and that is the real nature, after all, of a fetus). The legislation in SC shows how this gradual erosion has resulted in the state actually referring to fetal personhood but they do so without bothering to account for the fact that a single organism (the pregnant woman) will have rights removed in order to provide rights to a legally ficticious person. They also never bother to show how this dual-rights organism “works” legally.

    Kansas also has used this incremental encroachment on rights and definitions to declare, by legislative fiat, that the 20th week of pregnancy (and one assumes LMP is used) is “Late Term”; that a Phantom Procedure called PBA is always performed in this “legally defined late term”; and that “all these late term fetuses are viable”.

    Incremental removal rights is a common occurrence in a developing authoritarian society. As an old German might say “Wir haben diese Scheiße vorher gesehen!” (we’ve seen this shit before).

  • http://realchoice.blogspot.com invalid-0

    Everybody admires the ex-smoker who, after getting lung cancer turns into an anti-smoking crusader. We admire the reformed drunk driver who now speaks out for MADD. But with abortion? If you discover after it’s too late that you were lied to and ended up with a dead baby when you thought you were just getting tissue removed, you’re supposed to shut up and let the next woman learn the way you did — the hard way, when it’s too late.

    That’s the prochoice motto, it seems: Submit and shut up.

    And you call it “empowerment.”

  • http://www.turntheclockforward.org/ invalid-0

    the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled against a lawsuit that could conceivably have forced doctors to lie to their patients.

    The Supreme Court’s decision actually amounted to a ruling that doctors are allowed to lie to their patients, at least as long as those patients are women seeking abortions. Acuna asked point-blank about the nature the being she carried inside of her, and Turkish lied. Either “it’s only blood” or “it’s only tissue” is a lie. The embryo Acuna carried was an organism (if you don’t know the difference between an organism and tissue, look it up — these are terms with actual meaning in biology, not just personal preference) belonging to the species Homo sapiens.

    There is a philosophical argument to be had about whether every human being should be considered a “person” and thus a bearer of human rights. Doctors shouldn’t be required to come down on one side or the other of that philosophical argument, true, but that wasn’t at issue here.

    Whether the embryo/fetus is a human being, as defined in the lawsuit, is not a question of philosophy but of biology. Turkish lied and said that Acuna’s daughter or son was “just blood” or “just tissue”. By lying, he withheld information from Acuna that she considered relevant to her abortion decision. And that’s OK with his defenders, apparently.

  • http://eileen.undonet.com invalid-0

    Everybody admires the ex-smoker who, after getting lung cancer turns into an anti-smoking crusader. We admire the reformed drunk driver who now speaks out for MADD.

    Not everybody does. In fact many people, myself included, see that form of hubris as an extreme form of hypocrisy. Furthermore this comparison assumes, as the Anti Abortion Propaganda Industry (AAPI) automatically does, that terminating a pregnancy is always harmful to all women, as smoking and alcoholism is to all people.

    I know you’re aware of Joyce Arthur’s essay “The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion” – When the Anti-Choice Choose but perhaps re-reading it will remind you of the actual duplicity of the anti-choice movement.

    Of course you, Christine, are well aware of this duplicity since you collaborated with Crutcher in the infamous (S)Lime 5 book of statistical lies – this is the also infamous Crutcher who perpetrated and was caught at the “fetal parts for sale” fraud.

    Have you bought any lipstick made from baby parts lately?

  • http://eileen.undonet.com invalid-0

    Acuna asked point-blank about the nature the being she carried inside of her, and Turkish lied. Either “it’s only blood” or “it’s only tissue” is a lie.

    Since there is no “being” in utero and furthermore “being” is a philosophical term the physician answered the query in an appropriate medical manner.
    The embryo Acuna carried was an organism (if you don’t know the difference between an organism and tissue, look it up — these are terms with actual meaning in biology,

    There was more than an embryo in her uterus – the complete gestational material was present. That gestational material had formed a semiallogenic graft attached to the uterine lining and as such was a part of her body. While part of that material was a developing mammalian organism it was not yet a mammalian organism and would not be until it was being sustained, as organisms are, by its own organs after birth. A gravid woman is a single organism – despite factoid “proof” to the contrary.

    Whether the embryo/fetus is a human being, as defined in the lawsuit, is not a question of philosophy but of biology

    Biology is incapable of answering such questions since they belong in the philosophic/socio/legal relm. Just as there is no “judge” or “mayor” classification in biology so there is no “human being classification. You should be aware, however, that no society in recorded herstory has accorded the rights of a human being to gestational material. How would such a dual rights bearer work legally?

  • http://www.turntheclockforward.org/ invalid-0

    “gestational material” is a dehumanizing euphemism I haven’t heard yet. Kudos!

    You mentioned the embryo’s own organs. You are aware, aren’t you, that “just tissue” doesn’t have its own organs? That makes even Turkish’s version of what he said a lie.

  • http://www.turntheclockforward.org/ invalid-0

    Sorry about the tags. Let me try to close.

  • http://eileen.undonet.com invalid-0

    “gestational material” is a dehumanizing euphemism I haven’t heard yet. Kudos!

    Since we are referring to human gestational material there’s nothing dehumanizing about it and since I am referring to the placenta; amnion; chorion; amniotic fluid; embryo/fetus; etc as a collective unit and not dishonestly separating out one part of that collection in order to pretend it has a separate existence as other than a part of the pregnant woman, the phrase I used was both accurately descriptive and biologically correct and was not a euphemism.

    You mentioned the embryo’s own organs.

    Reading comprehension is not your strong suit. The organs I referred to were capable of sustaining the offspring and therefore were quite obviously the post-natal organs of the infant.

    Would you like to tell me how you find organs in a morula? Even a fetus does not have organs capable of sustaining its life and, with developing lungs particularly, will not be capable of sustaining the brand new organism separated from the woman until the first breath is successfully taken.

    The really awesome thing about birth, from a biological viewpoint, is that one organism splits and becomes two.

  • http://www.turntheclockforward.org/ invalid-0

    The really awesome thing about birth, from a biological viewpoint, is that one organism splits and becomes two.

    That’s really just not even remotely accurate. But you could probably get a job with Dr. Turkish.

  • amanda-marcotte

    The idea that a woman is unaware that terminating a pregnancy requires removing the embryo requires a pretty strong assumption that women are extremely stupid. I'm not buying it. I've got no idea what's going on with Acuna, but she's signed her name to a lawsuit that's basic premise is that women are too stupid to put their pants on one leg at a time. She can think or feel what she wants, but since she's out there promoting the idea that the law has to protect women from themselves because we're too stupid to breathe, then she has a fight with me.

    The recent <em>Carhart</em> decision in the Supreme Court basically picked up this argument that women are too stupid to know their own minds and have to be banned from receiving entire swaths of medical care on the theory that we're too stupid to understand medical consent. I disagree, strongly, that women are stupid. And I'm sick to death of anti-choicers pushing the notion that we are.

     

  • http://eileen.undonet.com invalid-0

    They never are sure whether it will be more effective, from a propaganda viewpoint, to portray women as stupid or evil.

    Stupid or evil? Stupid or evil? Which should I choose?

  • invalid-0

    You’ve already demonstrated very clearly your ignorance of basic biology and your reliance on anti-choice factoids as a substitute for facts.

    Nuff said!