So You Want to Protect Me: The Latest Installment of How to Control Women by Pretending You Know What is Best for Them // Crystal Nichols
We women need to stick together. We have fought a long hard battle through the ages in order to defend ourselves against the politicians, religious leaders, husbands, fathers, business leaders, and generally insecure persons who wonder what we might do if allowed to make up our own mind about things. Although we have come far, our opponents seem not to have noticed that it is the year 2016 and the same tired argument of doing things that harm us in the name of our honor or protection is no longer going to work. That is why I was absolutely thrilled about the fight put up yesterday by Justices Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor in the opening oral arguments of the Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, a challenge to Texas’s HB2, which seeks to make the standards so high for abortion providers that most (as many have already) must close their doors.
It is no secret that there are still many in our country (usually privileged White Christian males), who oppose abortions and they have the right to speak about the sanctity of “life” while at the same time believing funding for important programs benefitting mothers, babies, and older adults should be cut or eliminated. What really makes my blood boil though is when I see these same men unconvincingly say that they are working to protect women without considering scientific facts or the opinion of any women who they are supposedly fighting for. I get the impression that the women of the Supreme Court are also pretty disgusted by the thinly-veiled rhetoric being presented to them, as the following text from the oral argument transcript shows:
Ginsburg: [...] So what was—what was the problem that the legislator was responding to that it needed to improve the facilities for women’s health?
Keller: In the Petitioner’s first lawsuit, Planned Parenthood admitted that over 210 women are admitted annually are hospitalized because of abortion complications.
Ginsburg: As compared to childbirth, many, many—much riskier procedure, is it not?
Keller: Well, the American Center for Law and Justice and Former Abortion Providers’ amicus brief dispute that. But regardless there is evidence —
Ginsburg: Is there really any dispute that childbirth —
Ginsburg: —is a much riskier procedure than earlier stage abortion?
Yes, you read that right. The argument made by the man defending the Texas bill was so ridiculous that the Notorious RBG laughed out loud during her questioning of it. But this exchange happened after Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller lost control of his argument shortly after approaching the podium. RBG made it clear from the beginning that logic was on her side and that she was on the side of American women and protecting their rights under the law:
Ginsburg: That’s odd that you point to the New Mexico facility, New Mexico, after all, doesn’t force abortion clinics to meet the same standards that Texas would—standards which, Texas claims, are absolutely critical to protect women. So if your argument is right, then New Mexico is not an available way out for Texas, because Texas says: To protect our women, we need these things. But send them off to New Mexico,” to clinics with more lenient standards, “and that’s perfectly all right.” Well, that’s all right for the women in the El Paso area, why isn’t it right for the rest of the women in Texas?
As if this drop-the-mic-worthy moment brought to us by RBG wasn’t enough, Kagan and Sotomayor with a little help from their pragmatist friend Justice Breyer took turns uncovering the lies and poorly constructed argument that made the bill become Texas law, showing that it was not supported by medical or scientific data, unfairly scrutinized a very safe procedure, and directly negatively affected “women’s health” which it claimed to protect. I am going to remain hopeful that one of the more conservative judges will see through the lies of Texas lawmakers and set a precedent meaning other states such as Florida cannot pass similar bills. Just in case lawmakers in Texas or other states are really distraught because their one method of protecting women has been taken from them, here is a short list of causes they can take up in the future that may actually protect someone: providing reasonable access to abortion clinics and medically approved methods like medication and surgical abortions without multiple visits and waiting periods, access to birth control, universal healthcare, removing regressive taxes from women’s health products, equal pay for women, pre- and post-natal care for women and babies, protection from workplace discrimination, access to certified midwives and doulas, prosecution of perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence rather than victim blaming, real and accurate sex education in school, protection and rights for lesbian, transgender, and gender non-conforming individuals, paid leave for new mothers, more resources allocated to older women who can barely afford medication, healthcare, food, and skilled care they deserve, and lastly ASKING WOMEN WHAT AND IF THEY NEED ANYTHING TO PROTECT THEM. Women throughout history have proven our strength and ability to survive in the worst of circumstances and many times the “help” that is thrust upon us harmful and unwanted. I believe the courageous women of the Supreme Court are well aware of this, but it is my hope that eventually these issues will not land in front of them and instead the mighty women of the United States and the world will be trusted to make decisions about what is best for us and our bodies and that we will ask for help when we need it.