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The War on Women 2.0: Do They Think We’re Stupid?

Louise Melling,
Deputy Legal Director and Director of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Center for Liberty,
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July 18, 2013

Many state legislatures are packing up for the summer, ending a year of full throttle attacks by extremist politicians on our reproductive health decisions. Reflecting on the last six months, I am left with one big question: Do they think we’re stupid?

Granted, politicians trying to get into our personal business is not news. Last year’s War on Women comes to mind. Who could forget the debates over so-called “legitimate” rape or the efforts to mandate invasive transvaginal ultrasounds? Well, the assault never stopped. 2013 saw the War on Women 2.0. New tactics, but the same goal – keep interfering with our most personal, private decisions by making it ever more difficult to obtain an abortion, all while claiming they’re only acting in our best interest.

Did they think we are too stupid to understand what they are trying to do?

When Texas pushed a bill that may have sounded innocuous – to regulate clinics – did they think we were too stupid to figure out that it would shut down virtually all clinics in the state? Did they think we are too stupid to see it for what it is – a back door ban on abortion? Did they really think we are so stupid as to think they were acting to protect our health, even as the major medical groups opposed the measure? Did they think we are too stupid to register our outcry?

When Wisconsin lawmakers mandated that doctors perform ultrasounds and describe them to us, did they think we are too stupid to know what a pregnancy is?

When North Dakota banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, a time when many women first learn they are pregnant, did they think we were too stupid to realize that this law would ban most abortions in that state?

When Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli bullied the Virginia Board of Health to approve medically unnecessary regulations that require clinics to reconfigure their parking lots, for example, did they think we were stupid enough to think that a bigger parking lot would really save women’s lives?

When South Dakota extended the time a woman must wait between when she sees a doctor about an abortion and the time she is allowed to get the procedure, did they think we were too stupid to know when we are firm in our decisions? To know that our yes means, in fact, yes?

And when Kansas passed a law forcing doctors to provide discredited information about a medically suspect link between breast cancer and abortion, did they think we were too stupid to know they are asking doctors to mislead us?

When more than 40 restrictions on abortion passed in the states this year, with many threatening to close clinics, did they think we are too stupid to see this is part of national campaign to end legal abortion?

When they try to ban abortions, do they think we are too stupid to know what they are saying about women? That the only right thing is for us to stay pregnant? Or that we shouldn’t be having sex?

Well, I’m not stupid, American women aren’t stupid, and the men with whom many of us share our lives aren’t stupid. We know that we are the ones who should be making decisions about whether to have a family. We know that’s not a decision for politicians. We know we should be trusted to know whether we are ready to have a child. We know we should be trusted to make decisions about our lives.

We get the big picture, even if we don’t all know all the details of the more than 300 abortion restrictions lawmakers introduced during this year’s legislative sessions – some of the most restrictive and extreme we’ve seen in years. We get the picture even if don’t know all the details of the restrictions that passed in 2012 or in 2011 or the years before. We know this is a nationwide incremental strategy — with this year’s restrictions layered on top of those from last year, the year before and on and on. We know they add up to a story of fewer clinics, of more obstacles for women, and of us being told that we are too stupid to make our own decisions. We know the purpose — to make the wall of restrictions on abortion so high many of us won’t be able to climb over. It is time for extremist politicians to withdraw their troops from the War on Women. We are not stupid, we are paying attention, and, like Wendy Davis, we will stand up for our rights.

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