“Protective” States? How Anti-Abortion Organizations Patronize and Infantilize Women

As the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that made abortion legal in all 50 states, approaches, both pro-choice and anti-choice groups are unveiling their assessments of the status of abortion rights in America. In comparing the reports it’s easy to see that despite the viewpoint on the constitutional right to an abortion, both sides are in agreement about the most and least accessible states in which to obtain one.

Where they continue to differ, though, is who should be allowed to make medical decisions. Even more so, they differ strongly on whether or a woman is even capable of making an informed decision in the first place.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Americans United for Life all released a variety of “state of the states” reports this week, detailing the most restrictive states in 2013 when it comes to reproductive rights. As you can see by flipping through maps like “Threats to Choice,” “Pro-Choice Policy,” “Bans of Care” and “Targeted Regulations,” as well as AUL’s overall map, both sides of the aisle are pretty close in their determination as to what are accessible and inaccessible states when it comes to abortion regulation, birth control, funding issues and clinic access.

What is very different, and what should strike any person who believes that women, especially adult women, are capable of rational thought and their own decision making, is the different frames used depending on who wrote the report. NARAL’s report is called “Who Decides,” implying that it is up to the pregnant person not a lawmaker, an anti-choice activist, or anyone else to understand and obtain the best medical care to fit her situation.

AUL? They call their report “Ranking the 50 States Based on How Well Women are Protected from Abortion Industry Abuses.”

Protected? Really?

Calling women who terminate pregnancies “mothers” and declaring their bills “protections for both mother and child, the victims of an avaricious abortion industry,” AUL makes it clear that to them, a pregnant person cannot make a decision on her own. If she chooses an abortion, it was because she was taken advantage of, either by a greedy provider, a coercive partner, an overbearing parent or guardian.

That anti-choice activists believe that no woman would ever choose an abortion on her own, and that someone must be behind her decision, leading her astray, has been long established. Often, they point to a study by David Reardon, founder of The Elliot Institute, an anti-abortion advocacy group that works with those who say they regret abortion, to say that over 60 percent of all abortions are coerced.

Some lawmakers go even further, claiming every abortion is procured by a person being pressured to do it. South Dakota lawmaker Roger Hunt stated as much in his 2006 support for a statewide total abortion ban. After justifying his refusal to allow an exception for rape victims because it would allow anyone to just claim she was raped to get an abortion, he then said that if the law was broken, the person getting the abortion would never be charged with anything, because she probably was being influenced by others. “[S]he may be dealing with a lot of pressure, from family, boyfriend, husband. We have a situation in which the woman may be getting so much pressure she’s not thinking clearly,” he told Time Magazine.

Because of course women will change their minds if anyone just applies pressure. She can’t be responsible for her own decisions.

Ranking states based on their “protection of women” by cutting off their access to a legal medical procedure because they must be kept from being harmed or taken advantage of reeks of paternalism. But then again, so does nearly every pre-abortion restriction, from forcing her to view an ultrasound in case she “doesn’t understand it’s a baby,” making her wait anywhere from 24 to 72 hours to “think about what she’s doing,” or reciting (often medically inaccurate) state mandated scripts about suicidal ideation, breast cancer or future premature birth in order to try to convince her not to abort.

Obviously, anti-choice politicians and activists do believe women are malleable, innocent, simple creatures whose minds can be changed by the slightest whim. No wonder they feel they need “protecting” as much as the “babies” do.

The difference between pro-life and anti-choice is still a simple one. Who gets to make a decision about her medical future? The pregnant person? Or the state?

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago


Jim Ven
Jim Ven9 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Ron C.
Ron C4 years ago

There is something I dont understand in this debate..why is the male irrelevant until it is time to provide financial support...it seems to me that freedom of choice has to be accompanied by full and absolute responsibility for the choice. If a man has no say in the choice then he should have no forced responsibility for the outcome of the choice. If a woman is to have full domain over her body then she is also solely responsible for her pregnancy as a result of her freedom to choose to have sex, and responsible to herself to not get pregnant if she does not want a child. Having sex in these times does not equate to trying to make a baby. If a man and woman engage in sex without any shared intent to make a baby, why is the man in any way responsible for the choices a woman makes on her own in that regard...if a woman can abort a child that a man wants (which may in fact be the way it should be..as I cant see it proper that a man could ever force a woman to go through the pregnancy and birth of a child)...then that has to be balanced with hiim not being responsible for the choice the woman makes.

d h
d H4 years ago

The point always missed is every baby has the right to be born to someone who wants that baby. The moral game, I'm better than you... the legal game , I can tell you what to do; the baby loses. I'd choose to have my destiny interrupted at the stage of a spoon full of cells to any pre birth stage than to born to a mother who did not want me. So go play angry birds or west wing, stay out of real life.

Beth Wilkerson
Beth Wilkerson4 years ago

I love the power of words.

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa4 years ago

Thank you for posting

Anita Wisch
Anita Wisch4 years ago

MY body, MY decision!

When will men get out of my UTEROUS?????

Ileana B.
Past Member 4 years ago


Karen R.
Karen Ryan4 years ago

Women are capable of making their own decisions about abortion. No one else should have the right to control them.

Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago

Thanks for the post.