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Austin Cline

Abortion and Spousal Notification

By January 23, 2013

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How long do you think it will be before conservative Christians are calling for laws requiring women to notify spouses before they can get an abortion? Or even notify the father before they can get an abortion? It probably won't be very long at all - Republican political candidates are already being given questionnaires asking questions about this.

Keeping Women Quiet
Keeping Women Quiet
Photo: Sasha/Getty

Such requirements might sound extreme, but they aren't too extreme for anti-choice activists. It wasn't that along ago that conservative Republican politicians mostly agreed that even though they said they wanted to ban abortion, they still wanted to have exceptions for rape, incest, and the health of the mother. That's gone now.

Then there are all the invasive ultrasounds and other medical procedures that conservative Christians want to impose on women before they can be allowed to obtain an abortion. These measures are all part of a massive increase in the number of restrictions on abortions that Republican legislators have introduced on both the state and federal levels over the past couple of years.

Anti-abortion state lawmakers have tried all manner of new laws to limit access to abortion in the past few years: mandatory ultrasounds, 72 hour waiting periods, scare-mongering mandatory scripts, and strict building codes, just to name a few.

But Robin Marty at RH Reality Check flags another potential new tactic: mandatory spousal notification. The National Pro-Life Alliance (NPLA) sent a questionnaire to candidates for the Kansas legislature, which Huffington Post obtained. Included in the 11 questions, most of which have become fairly typical anti-abortion fare, is this:

Will you support legislation giving spouses the right to be notified and intervene before any abortion is performed on the couple's baby?

Source: Mother Jones

I think most will agree that it's probably best if a woman can discuss this sort of thing with her spouse. Note that I say "can," rather than "does." If she can, hopefully she does, but if she can't then the state shouldn't be telling her to do so anyway. The reason is that if she can, it's because the relationship is strong enough and good enough; if she can't, there are deeper problems that aren't good for anyone involved.

Spousal notification requirements aren't about "protecting life" and are another piece of evidence that the "pro-life" movement is really an "anti-choice" movement. Spousal notification requirements only serve the goal of reducing the status and power of women relative to men. They enforce the idea that women aren't full adults because it treats them like children who shouldn't be allowed to make choices about their own bodies on their own.

You don't see anyone proposing spousal notification laws for men getting vasectomies or Viagra, do you?

And it's only to be expected that such laws are coming out of America's conservative Christian communities because that's how they view women: as second-class citizens who aren't fully adults and as needing to be treated like children. These laws may not directly enforce conservative Christian dogmas, but they embody the view of women held by conservative religious believers around the world.

Comments
January 24, 2013 at 3:37 am
(1) James says:

“Spousal notification requirements only serve the goal of reducing the status and power of women relative to men. They enforce the idea that women aren’t full adults because it treats them like children who shouldn’t be allowed to make choices about their own bodies on their own.”

While I too think that spousal notification should not be required, and that women should have control over their own bodies, and am pro-choice, I can’t help but feel you’re not being entirely fair here. However misguided/wrong they might be, if religious believers truly think life begins at conception, might not the motivation for this, rather than being domination of women, be that they think something along the lines of ‘it’s the father’s ‘child’ [because they think life begins at conception) too, so the woman should at least have to discuss this with the man because it’s jointly his child’? After all, it’s ‘notification’ not ‘permission’ (though I imagine it’s just the thin edge of the wedge).

“You don’t see anyone proposing spousal notification laws for men getting vasectomies or Viagra, do you?”

Again, they wouldn’t see this as a fair comparison: in those situations, no ‘life’ has been created, over which the ‘mother’ and ‘father’ have joint custody/responsibility.

Granted, there are ulterior motives in this agenda, but anyone not familiar with all your writings and ocming across this article solely might be justified in thinking you were ascribing motives without evidence. Perhaps a link or two to your other writings on ulterior motives or your/the realitybased community’s reasons for ascribing them would help avoid this?

January 26, 2013 at 9:33 am
(2) Austin Cline says:

However misguided/wrong they might be, if religious believers truly think life begins at conception, might not the motivation for this, rather than being domination of women, be that they think something along the lines of it s the father s child [because they think life begins at conception) too, so the woman should at least have to discuss this with the man because it s jointly his child ?

No, because being a person with right does not entail spousal notification. There’s simply no connection between the two.

Again, they wouldn t see this as a fair comparison: in those situations, no life has been created, over which the mother and father have joint custody/responsibility.

Actually, they don’t have joint custody and responsibility over the fetus and they might not have joint custody and responsibility after birth (depending on what happens).

Note that there are increasing attempts to criminalize mothers’ behavior when it might impact the fetus (like smoking and drinking) but not fathers’ behavior (fathers smoking in the home can affect the fetus).

The pattern is clear and unambiguous: all of the burdens are being placed on women. All of the hurdles are being places in women’s lives. None are being created for men.

This is the purpose, not a side-effect.

January 25, 2013 at 9:45 am
(3) deegee says:

The 1992 SCOTUS case (Planned Parenthood v. Casey) threw out Pennsylvania’s law requiring spousal notifucation. Justice Kennedy was part of the fragile majority which struck down this part of the Pa. law. So unless he gets replaced by another Scalia-Alito-Thomas clone, I don’t see this decision getting overturned and spousal notification becoming lawful.

January 26, 2013 at 1:34 pm
(4) Eve says:

Agree with James. Im pro-choice for many reasons but we will never find an agreement if we give wrong info about the other side.

January 26, 2013 at 6:03 pm
(5) Sally says:

“Actually, they donít have joint custody and responsibility over the fetus and they might not have joint custody and responsibility after birth (depending on what happens).

Note that there are increasing attempts to criminalize mothersí behavior when it might impact the fetus (like smoking and drinking) but not fathersí behavior (fathers smoking in the home can affect the fetus).

The pattern is clear and unambiguous: all of the burdens are being placed on women. All of the hurdles are being places in womenís lives. None are being created for men.

This is the purpose, not a side-effect”

Exactly!

All the ‘reasonableness’ in the world does not surmount the primary objection – that it is *my* body that is to be used as an incubator for a child that *I* (for *whatever* reason) may not actually want.

I refuse to budge on this point.

February 3, 2013 at 9:42 pm
(6) Deb says:

Sally, then get pregnant without the man. It is your body outside of the baby, but the baby’s body belongs to the both of you. If you don’t want to share with the man, then don’t invite him into your body.

February 8, 2013 at 7:20 pm
(7) Austin Cline says:

It is your body outside of the baby, but the baby s body belongs to the both of you.

Why?

If you don t want to share with the man, then don t invite him into your body.

She did share her body with the man

She can choose not to share her body with a fetus.

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