No Pretenses

One of the favorite rhetorical tactics of the anti-choice movement is concern trolling about women’s health. It seems the poor dears need the help of the state to protect them from the consequences–physical psychological–of any actions they take to control their own reproductive systems. If you consider that kind of talk idle, consider that it crept right into the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2007 decision upholding a federal ban on so-called “partial-birth” abortions.

“Regulations” purporting to protect the health of women utilizing abortion services are also a common means of harassing providers and/or the women themselves, and have spread like topsy since the 2010 GOP landslide in state elections. And the latest high-profile example is in Mississippi, where a host of new “medical” regulations are on the very brink of closing down the only abortion clinic in the state.

But on the very eve of the day a temporary federal stay on implementation of the new restrictions was due to expire, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant admitted publicly at a “pastors’ pro-life” luncheon that all the health talk was all a shuck: “My goal of course is to shut it down,” he told the no-doubt-happy patriarchs.

Now nobody was much in doubt of that. Bryant, after all, was a proponent of the 2011 “Personhood Amendment,” rejected by Mississippi voters, that would have enshrined in the state’s constitution the formal subordination of women to zygotes in the hierarchy of rights and legal protections. But it’s a bit of a relief that Bryant abandoned the pretense of giving a damn about women’s health. And a bit more of that kind of candor will also perhaps inhibit judges from taking such pretenses seriously.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.