Nicaraguan Assembly Recriminalizes All Abortion

Andrea Lynch

Last Thursday, the Nicaraguan National Assembly voted 66-3 to recriminalize therapeutic abortion during an overhaul of the Nicaraguan penal code, again choosing unvarnished political opportunism over accepted medical consensus and concern for women's health.

I left Nicaragua in April of this year, a few weeks after International Women's Day. On that day, thousands of women gathered in front of the Supreme Court and elsewhere in the capital city of Managua to protest the ban on therapeutic abortion (abortion to save a woman's life) that had been passed unanimously by the Nicaraguan National Assembly in a misinformation-drenched political frenzy less than two weeks prior to the November 2006 presidential election, and signed into law by ex-president Enrique Bolaños shortly thereafter on November 17. The mood on International Women's Day was at once somber and hopeful-somber because several pregnant women had already died as a result of the ban, and hopeful because the Supreme Court was set to hear 25 separate challenges to its constitutionality in 2007. Although the highly polarized political climate in Nicaragua made feminists wary of expecting justice to be done, there was reason to be hopeful: the ban, after all, was actively opposed by the Nicaraguan medical community, dozens of community-based organizations and advocacy networks, and thousands of ordinary citizens, and even influential Church leaders and prominent members of the ruling Sandinista party had expressed doubt at the necessity of criminalizing abortion even in cases where a woman's life was at risk.

Sadly, events last week proved their hopes to be in vain. On Thursday, the National Assembly voted 66-3 to recriminalize therapeutic abortion during an overhaul of the Nicaraguan penal code, once again choosing unvarnished political opportunism over accepted medical consensus, not to mention concern for women's health (or, according to the ever-compassionate LifeSiteNews, women's "health") and lives. In the new penal code, which is expected to be approved when the National Assembly goes back into session next week, abortion remains illegal under any circumstances. That includes pregnancies that endanger women's lives, such as ectopic pregnancies, when an egg is fertilized outside a woman's uterus, putting her life in grave danger and leaving her fetus with no chance of survival. A doctor or health professional who performs a therapeutic abortion-even to save a woman's life when she's in the midst of a dangerous miscarriage-faces 1-3 years' imprisonment, and 2-5 years' suspension of his or her license. If a woman induces her own abortion or consents to anyone else doing so, she faces 1-2 years behind bars.

Nicaraguan advocates for women's health reacted to the renewed prohibition on therapeutic abortion with a mixture of consternation and disgust. Feminists felt betrayed by their elected representatives' willingness-yet again-to turn a blind eye to women's right to life in favor of narrow political interests. The alliance forged between the ruling left-wing Sandinista party and the right-wing Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC) in support of the ban was reminiscent of the infamous 1999 pact between the parties that led to Sandinista party leader (and current president) Daniel Ortega being all but immunized against his stepdaughter's accusations of sexual abuse several years ago. The Sandinistas' public discourse emphasizes equality, democracy, women's rights, and the rights of poor people, but, as many feminists have asked, what of the countless poor women whose lives will be lost and whose children will be orphaned as a result of the therapeutic abortion ban?

Representatives from the right-wing PLC claimed to be voting "in defense of life and against a culture of death," but criminalizing abortion in a country where the majority of the population lives in poverty, with little access to quality health services-including contraception and prenatal care-and almost no accurate information about sexual and reproductive health doesn't seem like the most efficient route to a culture of life. A quick review of comments made by representative Freddy Tórrez, who accused feminists of supporting therapeutic abortion because "they have never been mothers because their condition [as feminists, presumably] does not permit them to be mothers," and representative Wilfredo Navarro, who said that any woman who supports therapeutic abortion only does so because she is a lesbian, lays the party's true views bare. This ban is not about life: it's about contempt for women as moral agents, social and political subjects, and sexual decision-makers.

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The National Assembly's decision to reject an amendment that would have permitted therapeutic abortion only in cases where three separate doctors agreed that a woman's life was in danger-an amendment that was supported by Nicaragua's Episcopal Conference-also reveals a dangerous level of contempt for medical consensus. As Dr. Leonel Arguello, president of the Nicaraguan Society of General Medicine (SONIMEG), pointed out in a statement released last week, "The vote was neither the product of consensus nor the product of a serious discussion with Nicaraguan society, especially doctors and scientific associations…By making this decision, [National Assembly members] have once again disrespected the medical profession in our country, and they have put our patients' lives in danger."

Had legislators actually sought to reduce the incidence of abortion in Nicaragua, consulting with the medical community might have been a helpful strategy, since, as Arguello argues,

The criminalization of therapeutic abortion will do absolutely nothing to reduce the incidence of abortion. The only thing it achieves is that it put woman's lives at risk, allowing them to die when they could instead be saved through medical intervention. If the objective of criminalizing therapeutic abortion was indeed to eliminate abortion in this country, the focus should have been on induced abortion or abortion sought for non-medical reasons, and the only way to reduce these kinds of abortions is through reducing unwanted pregnancies, which will only occur if we have sexual and reproductive education taught in schools from an early age, and if we have access to scientific methods of family planning and quality health services, especially adolescent-friendly health services.

Of course, if you bring physicians into the conversation, you might be faced with a reality, like the one described above, that doesn't match your political agenda. Just like if you have a serious, informed national discussion on a vital healthcare issue, you might actually make your constituents feel as though they are living in a democracy. But when it comes to banning abortion, democracy is dangerous. Too much healthy discussion and debate might expose the fact that condemning women to death is not, in fact, a "pro-life" position. And why wrestle with the intrinsic hypocrisies of such a position when it's so much easier to just misrepresent yourself?

Speaking of misrepresentation, if you get your news from LifeSite, you might believe that the new Nicaraguan penal code permits abortion in cases of life-threatening pregnancy. Last week, the site reported that in Nicaragua, "All abortion is punishable by law, although this is not understood as prohibiting medical procedures to save a woman's life that could threaten the life of the fetus." Because hey, when you're supporting an indefensible law, sometimes you just have to lie a little bit!

It's possible, of course, that this is just another example of sloppy reporting on LifeSite's part, but given the site's abiding willingness to bend the truth in its coverage of so-called "life" issues, I wouldn't be surprised if the mistake was less than 100% honest. After all, LifeSite is fond of disseminating baseless accusations: in the same article, the site glibly reported that the Nicaraguan Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (SONIGOB) only opposed the therapeutic abortion ban because the Society had been "purchased by the abortion lobby" (accusations that were leveled by Dr. Rafael Cabrera, president of the Nicaraguan Association for Life, and refuted by in an open letter from SONIGOB member Dr. Oscar Flores inviting Cabrera to review SONIGOB's accounts and pointing out that Cabrera himself had deliberately disseminated false information about abortion in various public forums).

Most damagingly, LifeSite-and other supporters of Nicaragua's abortion ban-continue to promote the myth that therapeutic abortion is nothing more than a "slogan" used by the "pro-abortion lobby" to trick lawmakers into permitting abortion under any circumstances. Let me be clear: I lived in Nicaragua, and there's nothing "alleged" about the need for therapeutic abortion. Yes, many of the same people who support therapeutic abortion in cases where women's health and/or lives are at risk also support the legalization of abortion under wider circumstances, but they are not the same thing. From October 2006, when the National Assembly first banned therapeutic abortion, to April 2007, when I left Nicaragua, several pregnant women who had been rushed to the hospital with dangerous miscarriages died because the attending physicians were afraid that intervening to save their patients' lives would put them in violation of the new law. When therapeutic abortion was legal in Nicaragua, only a handful of women actively sought them each year. The major difference was that before the ban passed, physicians were free to do everything in their power to intervene in emergency situations. They didn't have to choose between upholding the Hippocratic Oath and abiding by the Nicaraguan Penal Code.

So therapeutic abortion is not a political gambit, it's a public health necessity. And next week, it will likely be confirmed as a piece of Nicaraguan history. In its place will remain a "pro-life" law that makes it a crime to save a pregnant woman's life, and a public health policy shaped by politically driven misinformation rather than evidence-based medicine. Opponents of abortion may argue that a natural consequence of allowing abortion in cases where women's lives are at risk is that it might open the door to allowing women to terminate their pregnancies under less extreme circumstances. True enough. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a natural consequence of not allowing abortion in cases where women's lives are at risk is that pregnant women die.

News Law and Policy

Texas Lawmaker’s ‘Coerced Abortion’ Campaign ‘Wildly Divorced From Reality’

Teddy Wilson

Anti-choice groups and lawmakers in Texas are charging that coerced abortion has reached epidemic levels, citing bogus research published by researchers who oppose legal abortion care.

A Texas GOP lawmaker has teamed up with an anti-choice organization to raise awareness about the supposed prevalence of forced or coerced abortion, which critics say is “wildly divorced from reality.”

Rep. Molly White (R-Belton) during a press conference at the state capitol on July 13 announced an effort to raise awareness among public officials and law enforcement that forced abortion is illegal in Texas.

White said in a statement that she is proud to work alongside The Justice Foundation (TJF), an anti-choice group, in its efforts to tell law enforcement officers about their role in intervening when a pregnant person is being forced to terminate a pregnancy. 

“Because the law against forced abortions in Texas is not well known, The Justice Foundation is offering free training to police departments and child protective service offices throughout the State on the subject of forced abortion,” White said.

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White was joined at the press conference by Allan Parker, the president of The Justice Foundation, a “Christian faith-based organization” that represents clients in lawsuits related to conservative political causes.

Parker told Rewire that by partnering with White and anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), TJF hopes to reach a wider audience.

“We will partner with anyone interested in stopping forced abortions,” Parker said. “That’s why we’re expanding it to police, social workers, and in the fall we’re going to do school counselors.”

White only has a few months remaining in office, after being defeated in a closely contested Republican primary election in March. She leaves office after serving one term in the state GOP-dominated legislature, but her short time there was marked by controversy.

During the Texas Muslim Capitol Day, she directed her staff to “ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.”

Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in an email to Rewire that White’s education initiative overstates the prevalence of coerced abortion. “Molly White’s so-called ‘forced abortion’ campaign is yet another example that shows she is wildly divorced from reality,” Busby said.

There is limited data on the how often people are forced or coerced to end a pregnancy, but Parker alleges that the majority of those who have abortions may be forced or coerced.

‘Extremely common but hidden’

“I would say that they are extremely common but hidden,” Parker said. “I would would say coerced or forced abortion range from 25 percent to 60 percent. But, it’s a little hard be to accurate at this point with our data.”

Parker said that if “a very conservative 10 percent” of the about 60,000 abortions that occur per year in Texas were due to coercion, that would mean there are about 6,000 women per year in the state that are forced to have an abortion. Parker believes that percentage is much higher.

“I believe the number is closer to 50 percent, in my opinion,” Parker said. 

There were 54,902 abortions in Texas in 2014, according to recently released statistics from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). The state does not collect data on the reasons people seek abortion care. 

White and Parker referenced an oft cited study on coerced abortion pushed by the anti-choice movement.

“According to one published study, sixty-four percent of American women who had abortions felt forced or unduly pressured by someone else to have an unwanted abortion,” White said in a statement.

This statistic is found in a 2004 study about abortion and traumatic stress that was co-authored by David Reardon, Vincent Rue, and Priscilla Coleman, all of whom are among the handful of doctors and scientists whose research is often promoted by anti-choice activists.

The study was cited in a report by the Elliot Institute for Social Sciences Research, an anti-choice organization founded by Reardon. 

Other research suggests far fewer pregnant people are coerced into having an abortion.

Less than 2 percent of women surveyed in 1987 and 2004 reported that a partner or parent wanting them to abort was the most important reason they sought the abortion, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute.

That same report found that 24 percent of women surveyed in 1987 and 14 percent surveyed in 2004 listed “husband or partner wants me to have an abortion” as one of the reasons that “contributed to their decision to have an abortion.” Eight percent in 1987 and 6 percent in 2004 listed “parents want me to have an abortion” as a contributing factor.

‘Flawed research’ and ‘misinformation’  

Busby said that White used “flawed research” to lobby for legislation aimed at preventing coerced abortions in Texas.

“Since she filed her bogus coerced abortion bill—which did not pass—last year, she has repeatedly cited flawed research and now is partnering with the Justice Foundation, an organization known to disseminate misinformation and shameful materials to crisis pregnancy centers,” Busby said.  

White sponsored or co-sponsored dozens of bills during the 2015 legislative session, including several anti-choice bills. The bills she sponsored included proposals to increase requirements for abortion clinics, restrict minors’ access to abortion care, and ban health insurance coverage of abortion services.

White also sponsored HB 1648, which would have required a law enforcement officer to notify the Department of Family and Protective Services if they received information indicating that a person has coerced, forced, or attempted to coerce a pregnant minor to have or seek abortion care.

The bill was met by skepticism by both Republican lawmakers and anti-choice activists.

State affairs committee chairman Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) told White during a committee hearing the bill needed to be revised, reported the Texas Tribune.

“This committee has passed out a number of landmark pieces of legislation in this area, and the one thing I think we’ve learned is they have to be extremely well-crafted,” Cook said. “My suggestion is that you get some real legal folks to help engage on this, so if you can keep this moving forward you can potentially have the success others have had.”

‘Very small piece of the puzzle of a much larger problem’

White testified before the state affairs committee that there is a connection between women who are victims of domestic or sexual violence and women who are coerced to have an abortion. “Pregnant women are most frequently victims of domestic violence,” White said. “Their partners often threaten violence and abuse if the woman continues her pregnancy.”

There is research that suggests a connection between coerced abortion and domestic and sexual violence.

Dr. Elizabeth Miller, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, told the American Independent that coerced abortion cannot be removed from the discussion of reproductive coercion.

“Coerced abortion is a very small piece of the puzzle of a much larger problem, which is violence against women and the impact it has on her health,” Miller said. “To focus on the minutia of coerced abortion really takes away from the really broad problem of domestic violence.”

A 2010 study co-authored by Miller surveyed about 1,300 men and found that 33 percent reported having been involved in a pregnancy that ended in abortion; 8 percent reported having at one point sought to prevent a female partner from seeking abortion care; and 4 percent reported having “sought to compel” a female partner to seek an abortion.

Another study co-authored by Miller in 2010 found that among the 1,300 young women surveyed at reproductive health clinics in Northern California, about one in five said they had experienced pregnancy coercion; 15 percent of the survey respondents said they had experienced birth control sabotage.

‘Tactic to intimidate and coerce women into not choosing to have an abortion’

TJF’s so-called Center Against Forced Abortions claims to provide legal resources to pregnant people who are being forced or coerced into terminating a pregnancy. The website includes several documents available as “resources.”

One of the documents, a letter addressed to “father of your child in the womb,” states that that “you may not force, coerce, or unduly pressure the mother of your child in the womb to have an abortion,” and that you could face “criminal charge of fetal homicide.”

The letter states that any attempt to “force, unduly pressure, or coerce” a women to have an abortion could be subject to civil and criminal charges, including prosecution under the Federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

The document cites the 2007 case Lawrence v. State as an example of how one could be prosecuted under Texas law.

“What anti-choice activists are doing here is really egregious,” said Jessica Mason Pieklo, Rewire’s vice president of Law and the Courts. “They are using a case where a man intentionally shot his pregnant girlfriend and was charged with murder for both her death and the death of the fetus as an example of reproductive coercion. That’s not reproductive coercion. That is extreme domestic violence.”

“To use a horrific case of domestic violence that resulted in a woman’s murder as cover for yet another anti-abortion restriction is the very definition of callousness,” Mason Pieklo added.

Among the other resources that TJF provides is a document produced by Life Dynamics, a prominent anti-choice organization based in Denton, Texas.

Parker said a patient might go to a “pregnancy resource center,” fill out the document, and staff will “send that to all the abortionists in the area that they can find out about. Often that will stop an abortion. That’s about 98 percent successful, I would say.”

Reproductive rights advocates contend that the document is intended to mislead pregnant people into believing they have signed away their legal rights to abortion care.

Abortion providers around the country who are familiar with the document said it has been used for years to deceive and intimidate patients and providers by threatening them with legal action should they go through with obtaining or providing an abortion.

Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, previously told Rewire that abortion providers from across the country have reported receiving the forms.

“It’s just another tactic to intimidate and coerce women into not choosing to have an abortion—tricking women into thinking they have signed this and discouraging them from going through with their initial decision and inclination,” Saporta said.

Busby said that the types of tactics used by TFJ and other anti-choice organizations are a form of coercion.

“Everyone deserves to make decisions about abortion free of coercion, including not being coerced by crisis pregnancy centers,” Busby said. “Anyone’s decision to have an abortion should be free of shame and stigma, which crisis pregnancy centers and groups like the Justice Foundation perpetuate.”

“Law enforcement would be well advised to seek their own legal advice, rather than rely on this so-called ‘training,” Busby said.

Analysis Law and Policy

Justice Kennedy’s Silence Speaks Volumes About His Apparent Feelings on Women’s Autonomy

Imani Gandy

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s obsession with human dignity has become a hallmark of his jurisprudence—except where reproductive rights are concerned.

Last week’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was remarkable not just for what it did say—that two provisions in Texas’s omnibus anti-abortion law were unconstitutional—but for what it didn’t say, and who didn’t say it.

In the lead-up to the decision, many court watchers were deeply concerned that Justice Anthony Kennedy would side with the conservative wing of the court, and that his word about targeted restrictions of abortion providers would signal the death knell of reproductive rights. Although Kennedy came down on the winning side, his notable silence on the “dignity” of those affected by the law still speaks volumes about his apparent feelings on women’s autonomy. That’s because Kennedy’s obsession with human dignity, and where along the fault line of that human dignity various rights fall, has become a hallmark of his jurisprudence—except where reproductive rights are concerned.

His opinion on marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges, along with his prior opinions striking down sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, assured us that he recognizes the fundamental human rights and dignity of LGBTQ persons.

On the other hand, as my colleague Jessica Mason Pieklo noted, his concern in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action about the dignity of the state, specifically the ballot initiative process, assured us that he is willing to sweep aside the dignity of those affected by Michigan’s affirmative action ban in favor of the “‘dignity’ of a ballot process steeped in racism.”

Meanwhile, in his majority opinion in June’s Fisher v. University of Texas, Kennedy upheld the constitutionality of the University of Texas’ affirmative action program, noting that it remained a challenge to this country’s education system “to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.”

It is apparent that where Kennedy is concerned, dignity is the alpha and the omega. But when it came to one of the most important reproductive rights cases in decades, he was silent.

This is not entirely surprising: For Kennedy, the dignity granted to pregnant women, as evidenced by his opinions in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzales v. Carhart, has been steeped in gender-normative claptrap about abortion being a unique choice that has grave consequences for women, abortion providers’ souls, and the dignity of the fetus. And in Whole Woman’s Health, when Kennedy was given another chance to demonstrate to us that he does recognize the dignity of women as women, he froze.

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He didn’t write the majority opinion. He didn’t write a concurring opinion. He permitted Justice Stephen Breyer to base the most important articulation of abortion rights in decades on data. There was not so much as a callback to Kennedy’s flowery articulation of dignity in Casey, where he wrote that “personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education” are matters “involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy.” (While Casey was a plurality opinion, various Court historians have pointed out that Kennedy himself wrote the above-quoted language.)

Of course, that dignity outlined in Casey is grounded in gender paternalism: Abortion, Kennedy continued, “is an act fraught with consequences for others: for the woman who must live with the implications of her decision; for the persons who perform and assist in the procedures for the spouse, family, and society which must confront the knowledge that these procedures exist, procedures some deem nothing short of an act of violence against innocent human life; and, depending on one’s beliefs, for the life or potential life that is aborted.” Later, in Gonzales, Kennedy said that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban “expresses respect for the dignity of human life,” with nothing about the dignity of the women affected by the ban.

And this time around, Kennedy’s silence in Whole Woman’s Health may have had to do with the facts of the case: Texas claimed that the provisions advanced public health and safety, and Whole Woman’s Health’s attorneys set about proving that claim to be false. Whole Woman’s Health was the sort of data-driven decision that did not strictly need excessive language about personal dignity and autonomy. As Breyer wrote, it was a simple matter of Texas advancing a reason for passing the restrictions without offering any proof: “We have found nothing in Texas’ record evidence that shows that, compared to prior law, the new law advanced Texas’ legitimate interest in protecting women’s health.”

In Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s two-page concurrence, she succinctly put it, “Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory-surgical-center or hospital admitting-privileges requirements.”

“Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H.B. 2 that ‘do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,’ cannot survive judicial inspection,” she continued, hammering the point home.

So by silently signing on to the majority opinion, Kennedy may simply have been expressing that he wasn’t going to fall for the State of Texas’ efforts to undermine Casey’s undue burden standard through a mixture of half-truths about advancing public health and weak evidence supporting that claim.

Still, Kennedy had a perfect opportunity to complete the circle on his dignity jurisprudence and take it to its logical conclusion: that women, like everyone else, are individuals worthy of their own autonomy and rights. But he didn’t—whether due to his Catholic faith, a deep aversion to abortion in general, or because, as David S. Cohen aptly put it, “[i]n Justice Kennedy’s gendered world, a woman needs … state protection because a true mother—an ideal mother—would not kill her child.”

As I wrote last year in the wake of Kennedy’s majority opinion in Obergefell, “according to [Kennedy’s] perverse simulacrum of dignity, abortion rights usurp the dignity of motherhood (which is the only dignity that matters when it comes to women) insofar as it prevents women from fulfilling their rightful roles as mothers and caregivers. Women have an innate need to nurture, so the argument goes, and abortion undermines that right.”

This version of dignity fits neatly into Kennedy’s “gendered world.” But falls short when compared to jurists internationally,  who have pointed out that dignity plays a central role in reproductive rights jurisprudence.

In Casey itself, for example, retired Justice John Paul Stevens—who, perhaps not coincidentally, attended the announcement of the Whole Woman’s Health decision at the Supreme Court—wrote that whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is a “matter of conscience,” and that “[t]he authority to make such traumatic and yet empowering decisions is an element of basic human dignity.”

And in a 1988 landmark decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Bertha Wilson indicated in her concurring opinion that “respect for human dignity” was key to the discussion of access to abortion because “the right to make fundamental personal decision without interference from the state” was central to human dignity and any reading of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms 1982, which is essentially Canada’s Bill of Rights.

The case was R. v. Morgentaler, in which the Supreme Court of Canada found that a provision in the criminal code that required abortions to be performed only at an accredited hospital with the proper certification of approval from the hospital’s therapeutic abortion committee violated the Canadian Constitution. (Therapeutic abortion committees were almost always comprised of men who would decide whether an abortion fit within the exception to the criminal offense of performing an abortion.)

In other countries, too, “human dignity” has been a key component in discussion about abortion rights. The German Federal Constitutional Court explicitly recognized that access to abortion was required by “the human dignity of the pregnant woman, her… right to life and physical integrity, and her right of personality.” The Supreme Court of Brazil relied on the notion of human dignity to explain that requiring a person to carry an anencephalic fetus to term caused “violence to human dignity.” The Colombian Constitutional Court relied upon concerns about human dignity to strike down abortion prohibition in instances where the pregnancy is the result of rape, involves a nonviable fetus, or a threat to the woman’s life or health.

Certainly, abortion rights are still severely restricted in some of the above-mentioned countries, and elsewhere throughout the world. Nevertheless, there is strong national and international precedent for locating abortion rights in the square of human dignity.

And where else would they be located? If dignity is all about permitting people to make decisions of fundamental personal importance, and it turns out, as it did with Texas, that politicians have thrown “women’s health and safety” smoke pellets to obscure the true purpose of laws like HB 2—to ban abortion entirely—where’s the dignity in that?

Perhaps I’m being too grumpy. Perhaps I should just take the win—and it is an important win that will shape abortion rights for a generation—and shut my trap. But I want more from Kennedy. I want him to demonstrate that he’s not a hopelessly patriarchal figure who has icky feelings when it comes to abortion. I want him to recognize that some women have abortions and it’s not the worst decision they’ve ever made or the worst thing that ever happened to him. I want him to recognize that women are people who deserve dignity irrespective of their choices regarding whether and when to become a mother. And, ultimately, I want him to write about a woman’s right to choose using the same flowery language that he uses to discuss LGBTQ rights and the dignity of LGBTQ people.  He could have done so here.

Forcing the closure of clinics based on empty promises of advancing public health is an affront to the basic dignity of women. Not only do such lies—and they are lies, as evidenced by the myriad anti-choice Texan politicians who have come right out and said that passing HB 2 was about closing clinics and making abortion inaccessible—operate to deprive women of the dignity to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term, they also presume that the American public is too stupid to truly grasp what’s going on.

And that is quintessentially undignified.