Friday, July 1, 2011

On Waiting Periods

In the wake of a judge overturning a law that would mandate a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions in South Dakota, I thought I'd write a little something about my problem with these waiting periods in general.

The waiting periods are put in place so women have some time to think over their decision before going through with the procedure. Or so these lawmakers say. I don't disagree with the idea of wanting women to think things through, it's an important decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. However, what these rich white men in Congress and state legislatures fail to realize, is that women already DO think long and hard about that decision.

It's safe to say that most sexually active women do have a game plan, or an idea of what they would do if they ever got pregnant. Many of these women discuss that plan with their partners, to make sure there's no conflict, should the situation ever arise. I know that when my period is even an hour or two later than expected, I immediately start thinking about what I would do. It's fair to assume that when a woman goes in for her abortion consult, she has already thought a great deal about her situation and she's made up her mind.

Go to Go on, I'll wait here. Notice how many of the stories mention how hard the decision was, that the women and their partners thought it over, going back and forth. They mention how scary it is go undergo the procedure, and how painful it is. That there were times when they weren't sure they were making the right decision. The sad thing is that many women who get abortions wouldn't do so if they had the means to become mothers, but they knew they couldn't in their situation.

Now, I do think women should make informed decisions as well. The problem is that when the state steps in to make sure they're informed, the information they are mandated to receive is biased, emotionally based propaganda aimed at making sure she "knows" she's about to do something "evil." Most women in the country are misinformed about the procedure, but not in the way the anti-choice movement says they are, claiming that women who get abortions don't know what they're doing. Rather, too many people think all abortions are the horrible, gory procedure associated with late term, emergency abortions; or that what's being aborted is a small infant that can think and feel pain (and talk, sing, and narrate, according to one propaganda video); or that abortion will cause breast cancer and infertility, or that it will lead to depression and suicidal thoughts. If anything, busting those anti-abortion myths and promoting unbiased, science-based information to all women will help women decide what to do with their pregnancies.

Some see waiting periods as a necessary roadblock, out of fear that abortion shouldn't be too easily accessible. This is also a condescending sentiment, thinking women will get abortions without thinking if there's nothing in their way. What waiting periods actually do is make women take a lot of time off work, and force many women in rural areas in middle America to stay in a hotel for 2-3 nights - so while she's losing a chunk of her paycheck, she also has to pay out the ass to put herself up in a hotel, because the nearest clinic still takes hours to reach by car.

If a woman does take getting an abortion lightly, she probably shouldn't be having kids anyway. However, most women who experience unexpected pregnancies do give their decisions a lot of thought without any government intervention. The waiting periods imposed on women in several states are unnecessary and paternalistic.

Now to get really political: it's ludicrous that Republicans claim to want less government, yet try to pass these laws that interfere with women's personal lives. I suppose "less government" only means fewer laws interfering in the lives of rich, white men, but women still need restrictions on their lives, because clearly they can't be trusted.

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