Empower Women, Not the State

By Christina Dunigan

Christina Dunigan of Real Choice, a researcher who tracks women’s deaths from abortion, writes about how abortionists can violate informed consent laws and the need for right to redress laws to protect the rights of pregnant women.

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. …

[But] 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:

Anti-choice 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:

Anti-choice 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 anti-choice guilt trip?

None of this should come as any surprise. We know abortionists 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 pro-lifers 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 advantage 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 pro-lifers, who are hell-bent on imposing their values on women.


Christina Dunigan runs the Real Choice blog and the Cemetery of Choice at WikiSpaces, documenting the deaths of women from abortion both pre- and post-Roe.

Learn more: Learn more about right to redress laws and the Elliot Institute’s model legislation here.

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