That Missouri passed new legislation adding new roadblocks to access for women seeking abortions sadly isn’t very shocking. Last week a state senate committee voted to pass two new laws restricting abortions: a mandatory ultrasound that needs to be viewed 24 hours prior to the procedure, and a data collection bill, meant to gather information about why a woman is seeking an abortion.
It’s easy to see why the committee is so interested in asking personal questions about women seeking abortions. After all, they seemed to think it was their job to ask personal questions of the advocates opposing the measures as well.
[Planned Parenthood Lobbyist Michelle] Trupiano was lobbying against two bills. One, sponsored by Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Peters, would require abortion providers to ask women seeking an abortion why they were seeking the abortion, and another bill by Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, that would increase the state’s existing informed consent law.
After Trupiano stated her concerns with the two bills, [Sen. Jane] Cunningham asked her:
“Have you ever had an abortion?”
The Senate Lounge became very quiet at that point. Trupiano told Cunningham that the answer to that question was none of her business, at which point Cunningham got a bit combative until Bartle reminded her to allow witnesses to answer the questions asked of them.
The attitude that Cunningham took in questioning Trupiano epitomized the condescending mindset that anti-choice legislators have in assuming that women are not smart enough to make their own decisions on abortion. They said as much when advocating for the ultrasound bill itself.
“The most effective way to protect children and keep women from being wounded for life is to ensure that women facing unplanned pregnancies have received factual information concerning their decision,” Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said at the hearing conducted by the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Monday.
Opposition to the legislation disputed the effectiveness of the bill, saying an ultrasound would be ineffective.
“Women who come in the day of the procedure — they’ve made up their mind,” said Michelle Trupiano, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. She said most women choose not to view the ultrasound.
But many anti-abortion activists say a mother seeing her live fetus would be enough to persuade her to forego an abortion. Legislative staff said 11,580 abortions took place in Missouri in 2008.
“I just can’t imagine a woman making a statement like that,” Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, said of a woman going through with an abortion after viewing an ultrasound.
Women who want abortions are assumed to be “confused,” “misinformed,” and “unaware” about the procedure; they are treated as though they are unaware that they are pregnant and need someone to make their decision for them to “protect” them from “being wounded for life.”
Not every legislator on the committee was willing to say that women weren’t smart enough to make their own decisions. As Sen. Jolie Justus stated, “I think all it is meant to do is probably create some shame for a woman who is facing the worst decision she’s ever had to face in her life.”