Husband Notification

HUSBAND NOTIFICATION….In a post about laws that require women to inform their spouses if they plan to get an abortion, Ampersand makes the following observation:

Until lesbian couples have equal marriage rights, the term is “husband notification.” Calling it “spousal” notification is Orwellian; there will never be an instance in which a male “spouse” needs to sign a form swearing he’s notified a female “spouse” of his medical decisions.

Is that true? In cases of equal consequence where the notification might go either way, do states still insist on it? Garance Franke-Ruta provides the following example, which suggests the answer is no:

It is worth noting that at the same time the state of Pennsylvania was arguing that the state had a legitimate interest in compelling a woman to inform her husband before she obtained an abortion, the state declined to make the conceptually similar demand that an HIV-infected man inform his wife that he carried a potentially deadly infectious disease that could be sexually transmitted.

….The overwhelmingly male legislators of the state of Pennsylvania thought it perfectly appropriate to intervene in a woman’s marriage and deny her the freedom to make reproductive choices without coercion, threats, or worse from her husband. Judge Samuel Alito agreed with those legislators. And yet, should that same husband carry HIV, the state would have left informing his wife of this fact to his discretion, and would require from him no proof or signed affirmation that he had, in fact, informed her.

As I’ve mentioned before, abortion is just one of a constellation of hot button conservative social issues that have at their core a desire to enforce traditional sex and gender roles, and notification laws are yet another example of that. They aren’t about notification, they’re about control. In the case of parental notification, there’s at least a reasonable argument that this kind of one-sided control is appropriate, but in the case of husbands and wives, there isn’t. Not in the 21st century, anyway.

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