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The Slippery Slope of "Informed Consent" Abortion Laws

Written by Jessica Mason Pieklo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Abortion restrictions passed asinformed consent laws represent some of the worst cynicism in the anti-choice movement, so it should come as no surprise that in their 2012 party platform Republicans enthusiastically "salute" those states that passed such laws. The salute has no real immediate effect, but the inclusion is telling of the Republican drive to consign women to second place citizens under the law.

It's not just that Republican leadership hopes to inspire copycat bills by applauding the mandatory ultrasound laws in places like Texas and Virginia, or mandatory disclosure law in South Dakota. That much is a given. And it's not even that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's inclusion of it in the platform smacks of narcissistic self-promotion at the expense of women's lives. It's that these laws, in ways unlike other forms of abortion restrictions,  return to the legal understanding of women as an inferior class of persons, in need of both constant monitoring and assistance as well as oversight and regulation. Once re-codified in the law that is a world view that is impossible to contain to the discreet category of abortion restrictions.

That these laws are all passed and under the guise of "empowerment" only underscores the game at hand. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion defends a series of abortion restrictions including forcing doctors to show women materials with graphic pictures of aborted fetuses as part of obtaining a woman's informed consent for an abortion even when those materials have no direction relation to the health of the woman related to the procedure. The reason Justice Kennedy found this kind of practice okay was because it furthered the state's interest in protecting the life of the unborn.

That disconnect--that the government can mandate procedures and disclosures that do not even have to be directly related to the health of the woman--in the context of securing informed consent but in the name of protecting potential life, has all but rendered informed consent all but meaningless.

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