Thursday, March 01, 2012

Why I Don't Like the Ultrasound Laws

I'm all in favor of informed consent -- particularly in the case of abortion, where the stakes are so high. A lack of informed consent can lead to the death of a cherished child and the devastation that this causes to women.

However, I think that most approaches prolifers take to ensuring informed consent, including new ultrasound laws, while well-intended and helpful, are a bit off-kilter. The two problems I see are:

1. Giving abortionists too much wiggle room to circumvent the laws
2. Placing power in the hands of the state rather than the hands of the citizen

I've listened to years worth of tapes of National Abortion Federation meetings, and from their discussions I have an idea of how abortion mills work to circumvent informed consent laws. The typical approach is to tell the woman something like this:
Antichoice forces have passed a law requiring us to try to intimidate you and make you feel as guilty as possible for making the choice that is best for you. They have prepared misleading materials that we're required to offer you. Do you want to look at them?
What woman is going to say yes to that?

I can imagine similar scenes with required ultrasounds:
Antichoice forces have mandated that we offer to subject you to an intrusive ultrasound procedure and try to bully you into thinking that you're doing something wrong by exercising your right to choose. You can opt out if you prefer. Do you want to be subjected to the antichoice guilt trip?
None of this should come as any surprise. We know abortionists and their minions lie to convince women to abort. Why should we expect them to stop lying just because we've passed a law mandating that they pass out a pamphlet or read a script?

The problem of putting power in the hands of the state rather than the woman brings a multitude of undesired consequences.

The big one is that we already know we can't trust the state to look after the well-being of abortion-vulnerable women. Abortion supporters in positions of power and influence have a long history of looking the other way, from the greased palms of the illegal era to the Kermit Gosnells of today. Why should we think that they'd be any more willing to enforce informed consent and ultrasound laws?

Putting power in the hands of the state rather than the woman also plays neatly into the abortion-advocacy narrative of prolifers as mean and controlling and just wanting to bully women.

Putting the power in the hands of the women would eliminate these problems. And how can that be done?

Right-to-redress bills, as championed by David Reardon and Feminists for Life, would allow the woman to sue the pants off any abortionist for failing to provide adequate informed consent. She would not have to prove any injury. In fact, she would not have to prove anything. It would be incumbent on the offending abortionist to demonstrate that he had indeed provided appropriate informed consent. All the law has to do is define what types of information must be provided -- a clear understanding of risks, an accurate depiction of the unborn baby that would be killed, a realistic prognosis regarding any health problems in the mother or the baby, resources available to address her problems in a less drastic way and, perhaps most important of all, over half a century of research indicating that fear and ambivalence in early pregnancy are normal and typically self-limiting.

Fetal homicide bills put additional power behind these right-to-redress laws. Giving the woman the power to press charges for the murder of a child if vital information is withheld from her would have abortionists shaking in their shoes. It certainly would make them less cavalier about making glib statements dismissing the humanity of the unborn child.

The final advantages to the approach of empowering the woman is that it would force abortion advocates to reveal their real agenda -- disempowering women in order to achieve their own financial, social, or political ends. It would turn the tables, clearly showing that it is the abortion advocates, not the prolifers, who are hell-bent on imposing their values on women.


The Winding Ascent said...

You continue to rock my world with your sound judgment, clear presentation, and overall strong, consistent, continued support for victimized women.

Kathy said...

Good points, but would such a law be enforceable? It sounds like it goes too much against the American concept of "innocent until proven guilty"; and the fact that defendants are not required to prove their innocence, but rather it is up to the state to prove their guilt.

It *should* be an easy matter of "proper paperwork = innocent", "no proper paperwork = guilty", but as you also pointed out, we can't trust the state to properly police abortion mills, so would they even care? Plus, I wonder how easy it would be to falsify records. I remember the case you speak of frequently, of the girl who was dead or dying from an abortion, but was charted as being "pink, alert and responsive", because that was filled out in advance of the abortion and practically carbon-copied. All the abortion mills would have to do is tell the woman, "sign here, here, and here", possibly without giving her time or space to read the material, and then, bingo, proof that they've "properly" informed her.

But would such a law necessitate that a woman *have* an abortion, or merely that she go contemplating an abortion, and even if she decides not to go through with the abortion, she can still charge them with improper informed consent, for their failure? The former would be hard to police and would require a woman actually to undergo an abortion procedure, so sting operations a la Lila Rose would be practically impossible to do; the latter would be much easier for *anyone* to expose, particularly Lila Rose. And in the latter case, if an abortion doesn't actually have to happen, it is just the level of informed consent given to the woman seeking abortion that is under scrutiny, it would be harder for PP and other abortion mills to wiggle out of post-sting investigations, by saying (as they did in the case of statutory rape victims), that they weren't *really* that young and/or weren't *really* raped, therefore they are innocent of the crime with which they were charged. If the woman has to undergo an abortion in order to complain, then if Lila Rose went pretending to seek an abortion and "changed her mind" before going through with it, and then charged them with failure to provide informed consent, they can say, "Well, you didn't have an abortion anyway, and the law requires you to have an abortion before you can complain about the lack of informed consent."

Christina Dunigan said...

You really make me stand my ground, Kathy! Good for you!

For your first point, criminal law is "innocent until proven guilty." Civil law requires a mere preponderance of evidence. We provide the plaintiff attorneys with a plethora of ammunition about how abortionists deliberately mislead women and discourage them from asking questions. The woman sobs piteously on the stand. The abortionist has what to present? The kinds of paper covered with fine print that almost nobody ever reads. "Sting" operations by prolifers could be made available to the plaintiff attorneys as well, showing that Abortionist X has lied to prospective patients.

And as for the abortionist lying, that's why we make it incumbent upon him to document that he really DID provide informed consent and not just a huge pile of forms. Let THEM figure out how to document enough to cover their asses.

Yeah, the woman would have to actually undergo the abortion to have any right to sue -- unless the law had a provision for suit for emotional distress when doctors try to actively bully a woman into an abortion. But the idea isn't to smack down abortionists for doing wrong; it's to keep them from doing the wrong in the first place by making sure they know that if they wrong a woman she can fight back.