Home / General / Great Moments in Sexist Conservative Paternalism

Great Moments in Sexist Conservative Paternalism


There seems to be some confusion in comments here about what “putting women on a pedestal” in the pejorative sense means. This, for instance, isn’t that.   For an actual example, we’ll need to turn to Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whose majority opinion in Carhart II was faithful enough to cutting-edge anti-choice rhetoric to be an instant classic of the genre:

Respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in the bond of love the mother has for her child. The Act recognizes this reality as well. Whether to have an abortion requires a difficult and painful moral decision. While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained. Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow. [Emphasis of particularly relevant part mine.]

You see, the state needs to protect irrational women from making choices they might regret. And this can be accomplished through legislation that forces women to use medical procedures that pose greater medical risks without being rationally connected to any legitimate state interest whatsoever.

In summary, “protecting” women by threatening women’s health is paternalism in the bad sense. Citing the physical burdens of pregnancy as a reason to protect women’s reproductive freedom is not. See the difference?

…since we have a claim in comments that bans on D&X abortion are about protecting fetal life, I guess I have to quote John Paul Stevens again:

Although much ink is spilled today describing the gruesome nature of late-term abortion procedures, that rhetoric does not provide me a reason to believe that the procedure Nebraska here claims it seeks to ban is more brutal, more gruesome, or less respectful of “potential life” than the equally gruesome procedure Nebraska claims it still allows. Justice Ginsburg and Judge Posner have, I believe, correctly diagnosed the underlying reason for the enactment of this legislation–a reason that also explains much of the Court’s rhetoric directed at an objective that extends well beyond the narrow issue that this case presents. The rhetoric is almost, but not quite, loud enough to obscure the quiet fact that during the past 27 years, the central holding of Roe v. Wade has been endorsed by all but 4 of the 17 Justices who have addressed the issue. That holding–that the word “liberty” in the Fourteenth Amendment includes a woman’s right to make this difficult and extremely personal decision–makes it impossible for me to understand how a State has any legitimate interest in requiring a doctor to follow any procedure other than the one that he or she reasonably believes will best protect the woman in her exercise of this constitutional liberty. But one need not even approach this view today to conclude that Nebraska’s law must fall. For the notion that either of these two equally gruesome procedures performed at this late stage of gestation is more akin to infanticide than the other, or that the State furthers any legitimate interest by banning one but not the other, is simply irrational. See U.S. Const., Amdt. 14.

I also note that at oral arguments in Carhart II Bush’s Solicitor General conceded that the statute would not protect fetal life.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
It is main inner container footer text