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Thank you, Justice Kennedy, for protecting me from myself.

You want to know what bothers me the most about the Supreme Court’s ruling in Gonzales v. Carhart? It’s not that doctors are confused about what, exactly, has been outlawed, since “partial-birth abortion” is not a medical term, but, rather, an inflammatory phrase concocted by the marketing department of the Christianist right. It’s not that it encourages the antichoice movement to launch even more audacious attacks on the American citizenry’s reproductive rights. It’s not even that there’s no exception protecting the health of pregnant women. It’s the breathtakingly paternalist rhetoric Justice Kennedy employed in his explanation of the ruling:

“Respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in the bond of love the mother has for her child…. 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.”

If that doesn’t chill you to the bone, maybe you don’t get what Kennedy is saying.

He is saying that women are not fully rational. That they cannot be trusted to make vital decisions. That they must be protected from themselves. That they are, essentially, children.

I can’t help but wonder what’s next. Perhaps states might make it illegal for women to have sex outside of marriage, as a woman who engages in a one-night-stand might wake up the next morning and realize that she’s a slut. Maybe the professions should be closed to women, lest they reach their late 30s and discover that the corner office is not as fulfilling as they thought it would be and now it’s too late to have a baby. Maybe women should be barred from higher education, since men don’t like girls who are smarter than them. Maybe women should be denied access to desserts because, you know, they might feel all guilty and fat when they realize that crème brûlée has, like, a gazillion calories and three times the recommended daily allowance of saturated fat. I just don’t know. Maybe I better ask my husband.

April 20, 2007 | Permalink

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