Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry had to call a third special session this summer to deal with the actual business of running the state government, which went neglected during the first two special sessions—sessions that were completely hijacked by anti-choice politicians ramming through a major omnibus abortion bill that will shut down most of the state’s clinics. But any hope Texas might have had that anti-choicers would drop their obsession with passing restrictions and impediments to abortion was quickly dashed when state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville), filed a bill that would require women to take a three-hour webinar on adoption in order to get an abortion. And once again, we are reminded that the anti-choice opinion of women’s intelligence and capabilities is shockingly low.
Anti-choicers just can’t help themselves. They know that they need to fend off (entirely accurate) accusations of misogyny, but their view of women is just so dim that misogyny keeps cropping up anyway. The stereotype of women underlying this legislation is a particular favorite in anti-choice circles, the belief being that women who seek abortions are sexually incontinent morons who are too stupid to understand the realities of their own lives, or even what an abortion actually is.
The notion that women are too stupid to know that adoption is an option is breathtakingly misogynist, but what makes the whole thing even more disturbing is that this patronizing belief that women get abortions because they’re stupid is the anti-choice version of trying not to be misogynist. After all, they routinely claim abortion is murder. If you don’t present women who get abortion as too stupid to tie their shoes, then, as an anti-choicer, the only other alternative is to present them as cold-blooded killers—which, in turn, means arguing that one in three U.S. women deserves to go to jail, a politically toxic idea that the anti-choice movement will do anything to avoid. So they portray women as stupid instead of evil, because those are the only two options if you think abortion is morally wrong.
When your entire political movement is built on the premise that so many women must be stupid or evil, it’s politically wise to change the subject away from your bigotry as much as you can. Indeed, that’s what a lot of politicians have been trying to do. Passing regulations like requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals or requiring clinics to meet ambulatory surgical center standards is a stroke of evil genius, because it exploits a regulatory system that has legitimate uses in setting health and safety standards—though of course these particular health and safety standards are not necessary. While forcing abortion clinics to have wider hallways or doctors to have hospital admitting privileges isn’t a very sexy way to go about restricting access to abortion, it has the benefit of dropping the entire subject of women and why they get abortions. And the less anti-choicers share with the world about how little they think of women, the better they tend to do in the polls.
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So why come up with a bill that might as well be titled the “Abortion Opponents Believe Women Are Stupid Bill”? Frankly, at the end of the day, I think many anti-choicers just can’t help themselves. Their low opinion of women is, in their minds, a glittering jewel that can’t just stay hidden away, but has to be shared with the world, even if the cost of doing so is making it that much harder to do real damage to women’s lives. There’s just something about misogynists that makes it hard for them to keep their opinions to themselves. Anyone who spends time online can attest to that, as the internet is teeming with woman-haters whose desire to issue rape threats or taunt feminists over the most piddly nonsense overwhelms pragmatic concerns such as preserving one’s reputation or future employment opportunities.
Of course, expecting sexists to be logical about how they go about being sexist is kind of a silly thing to expect, if you give it a moment’s thought. After all, being a devoted sexist is an irrational thing to waste your energies on in and of itself. The Texas legislature’s anti-choice faction has demonstrated this beautifully. Passing this massive omnibus bill not only got in the way of doing real business and forced lawmakers to work throughout the summer they thought they’d have off, but it’s going to cost the taxpayers up to $2.4 million just in the legislative costs. The cost of defending the law in the courts after the inevitable lawsuits are filed will likely run into the millions as well. The law runs a very high chance of being struck down by the court for clearly violating Planned Parenthood v. Casey, but even if the anti-choicers get their way and the law goes into effect, things are still going to be sour for anti-choice politicians.
The growth of a black market for abortions, the costs of having to enforce this medically unnecessary law, and the growth of social spending to help women who did not successfully seek an abortion all will be bad for Texas. The rational choice for people who are tasked with running the government is simply to let abortion be legal and available. After all, restrictions like this won’t even stop that many abortions—some, sure, but women are going to seek illegal abortion drugs or travel out of state, and anti-choicers have to know that. So this is all a very, very expensive ploy to make life harder for women. People who put their resentment and loathing of women ahead of basic common sense aren’t really thinking rationally to begin with, so their tendency to shoot themselves in the foot on the PR front all the time is understandable.
Right now, it’s reasonable to believe that Lucio’s bill will die without getting a vote. The mainstream anti-choice movement has very little time right now for antics like this, with the heavy focus being directed more at doctors than women when it comes to abortion restrictions. But as with most things misogyny, I expect that this sort of thing will rear its head again. Condescending women and making life hard for them are two things that are just so personally rewarding to anti-choicers that they’ll be drawn to bills like this, even if part of them knows that, politically, it will only hurt them in the long run.