January 10, 2006

Shorter Tierney: We Own Those Bitches

From behind the NY Times firewall, John Tierney writes that...

... But there's no reason that it couldn't be a little fairer. As Alito ruled, it's not an undue burden for a wife to notify her husband before an abortion. And it's not unfair, as Goldscheider proposes, for a single woman expecting child support to be required to tell the father as soon as she decides to keep the baby. If men are going to pay to play, they should at least know the score.

And some readers, who might be husbands themselves, think that maybe they'd like to know if their wife was going to have an abortion. Yet just as with parental notification situations, in the vast majority of households, wherever a healthy and open line of communication exists, this is precisely the type of medical decision that most women would probably want to talk about to those closest to them.

But as we know, all households aren't healthy. Some women would face beatings or expulsion from their homes if they were either pregnant or contemplating an abortion. A woman trying to get a divorce might have such a thing held over her head by a vindictive spouse unwilling to let go, or even by a retrograde judge. Even when a judicial bypass option exists, a woman might feel intimidated by the idea of going to court, or even be unable to take the time to appear and so never try. Or she might end up in the court of someone like Priscilla Owen, and just end up screwed. Again.

This is a law that sounds reasonable to middle class to wealthy people with no more than the usual level of family dysfunction. People don't get thrown out of the house in their circles. It would never be a burden to them, so they don't see why it should bother anyone else. It survives through a failure of empathy, with people who don't understand the problem reinforcing the social backing of abusive parents and spouses. A law like this could wind up forcing married women in bad situations to have and continue having children that they didn't want.

Perhaps Tierney has never had a physically larger partner with a bad temper and a jealousy complex watch and question his every move, take control of his money, monitor his calls, vet his friends or leave him somewhat dependent on that partner for transportation. Maybe he's never dealt with the sort of poverty or self-worth issues that leave so many women feeling trapped in abusive partnerships. It could be that he can't concieve of such a relationship dynamic in a situation where the husband was adamantly opposed to contraception. Buy a clue, dude.

Worse, Tierney doesn't get the ownership aspect of this. As a single woman, I don't have to answer to anyone for my medical decisions, but if I got married tomorrow I'd suddenly have to notify my husband of an intention to get an abortion under Alito's proposed system. I would lose rights over my body by signing a marriage certificate, which seems like a poor argument for the desirability of marriage at the very least.

Tierney wants to suggest that this is somehow a fair proposal, equally burdensome, entirely sidestepping the question of physical autonomy in reproductive medicine. Bet you he'd never suggest that a married man should be required by law to notify his wife of a decision to get a vasectomy.

'Reasonable' intellectuals like Tierney, writing from the pages of even-the-liberal-Times provide cover for people, like Judge Alito and his political allies, who surely do understand the ownership issue implicit in ruling that women don't have a right to make their own medical decisions. I guess that would make Tierney ... a tool. Which is a bad rap for tools everywhere.

Posted by natasha at January 10, 2006 06:26 PM | Civil Liberties | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

Yeah, it doesn't sound unreasonable.

Just like it doesn't sound unreasonable that we punish people who commit fraud in court, instead of trying to prevent it through the use of licensing.

But you know, in the real world, it isn't blue sky. Most frauds are never caught, let alone dealt with in court, and the average person doesn't have the money to persue them, let alone those who frauds attempt to prey on.

It's the same thing here - it wouldn't be a burden, unless you're in a situation where you can't or shouldn't notify out of fear for life and limb.

Sure, a woman should tell the father she's pregnant. But requiring this when the father may beat her senseless - hey, that's a way of getting out of having a kid, isn't it?

Why are we forcing the poorest members of our society, who are already preyed upon, into a legal system which really does not care to be involved in their familial matters?

It's really just another way to stick it to the little guy, making them pay for their mistake of being poor.

Posted by: Crissa at January 11, 2006 01:41 AM

Or maybe Tierney needs to actually read Casey v. Planned Parenthood and more information on the leading cause of death for pregnant women: homicide.

Early in 2005, the WashPo ran a 4-part series on the death rate of pregnant women. They gathered information from 22 states for the year 2002 and found out that appx 1200 women had died, while either pregnant or shortly after giving birth, at the hands of their significant other. You have to pay to read the series now though.

Cripes. The information he needs isn't that hard to find.

Posted by: a nut at January 11, 2006 11:01 AM

Um, the pay link didn't work above, but I think it's fixed now.

Posted by: a nut at January 11, 2006 11:03 AM

Right on!! I couldn't agree with you more.

Posted by: The Rambling Taoist at January 11, 2006 12:10 PM

I wonder how many people actually read the laws the bash.
Here is how it is broken down.

If a married woman becomes pregnant, and she wants to have an abortion, she must provide proof that she notified her husband of her intentions before she can have the abortion. The law includes an exception clause that says, in the case that she is afraid of her husband's response or that if her husband is not the father, she can obtain a court order that allows her to get an abortion without notification.

Key points:


Retribution Exception Clause

Not Father Exception Clause

he law does not give husbands a legal say in their wives' reproductive decisions; it only allows them to have knowledge of those decisions, and only under circumstances that are determined partly by the courts and partly by the wives.

This is of course referring to the law that alito supported.

Posted by: Habib at January 12, 2006 11:32 PM

Habib - Yeah, I think I fundamentally get that they're talking about married women. And my response to that is a big, fat, so-frakking-what!? If I'm married, single, divorced, whatever, it isn't anybody else's business. I understand exactly what this law says and don't find it reasonable in the slightest.

Husbands shouldn't get any kind of ownership rights over their wives and such a law could easily reinforce such a dynamic. The only other situation in which an adult without a medical license is given such authority over the healthcare of another adult is when power of attorney or guardianship is exercised in cases of incapacitation. A fully functional adult woman should be treated neither as a piece of property, nor as an invalid with diminished faculties. You think a low income woman in an abusive relationship wouldn't see going to court as a significant obstacle? Hell, I'd see it as a significant obstacle and not only do I own my own car, but I only have a fixed schedule 16 hourse out of every week.

Would you enjoy navigating the court system in order to make a private medical decision? Would you like to discuss your reproductive system with a strange judge? Probably not.

You're not telling me anything new, in fact, you're telling me that there's a long way to go in the world before women are seen as having equal status to men. This law is intended as a deterrent, and as a deterrent in precisely those situations where a deterrent is most damaging. As usual.

Posted by: natasha at January 17, 2006 12:22 AM