Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Does Gov. Walker think Wisconsin women are dumb?

Scott Walker joins legislative Republicans in belittling the intelligence of women in our state

Last month, I took a swipe at Republicans in the legislature for insisting that women need to be better educated when it comes to abortions. Lawmakers justified the intrusive act of transvaginal ultrasounds prior to the procedure as a means toward “providing information for women” in Wisconsin:
“It’s time for women to know the facts. It’s time for them to know what they’re carrying in their womb and what they’re doing.”
Women who seek abortions, however, aren’t as “in-the-dark” as Wisconsin Republicans make it seem. In fact, our state had some pretty stringent rules already in place, before this law was even introduced, that made sure women were given information they needed to know about abortions.

Among the steps that women have to take:
  • First, they must receive counseling when they come into a clinic
  • Then, they must wait 24 hours before they can actually have the procedure
  • If, after 24 hours have elapsed, and they haven’t changed their minds after counseling, they can return to the clinic and have the procedure performed.
Furthermore, it’s not as if there are “abortion mills” running rampant across the state. If a woman wants to have an abortion in Wisconsin, she better be prepared to travel: only four sites (outside of hospitals or doctors’ offices) actually perform abortion services. 93 percent of Wisconsin counties (of which nearly two-thirds of Wisconsin women reside in) don’t have an abortion provider.

To compare, that’s a higher hurdle than the national numbers, which show 87 percent of U.S. counties (of which only one-third of women reside) don’t have an abortion provider.

The rules described above are mandated by state law -- no woman who enters a health center who is seeking an abortion receives one without knowing what she’s doing. Shining the light on “ignorant women” is not a justification that Republicans can rightly make for passing this law -- doctors were already mandated to grant a patient the choice to have an ultrasound, so if she was unsure, she could opt to have a chance to see images of what was inside her womb.

In other words, women aren’t ignorant when it comes to abortions in Wisconsin -- they’re granted the choice to receive specific information, and mandated to receive general knowledge of what exactly an abortion is and what will happen to their bodies.

I pegged legislative Republicans as believing women were too dumb to understand what the procedure entailed, even after all of this information was given to them. If Republicans believed an ultrasound was required for these women, even after the counseling and the 24-hour waiting period, then it was clear the Wisconsin GOP didn’t think much of the intelligence of women in our state.

Last week, Gov. Scott Walker joined his legislative friends in showing his true colors when it came to his respect for the intelligence of women. Releasing a press release following his closed-doors, over the holiday weekend signing of the bill, the governor’s office noted that: 

This bill improves a woman’s ability to make an informed choice that will protect her physical and mental health now and in the future.
Again, I ask: does the governor really think women are this dumb? After receiving all the mandated information about abortions, after being counseled and waiting 24 hours before they can receive the procedure, are women really lacking the mental capacity to make an informed choice about their bodies at that point?

Does he trust women to make decisions over their own bodies?
In Scott Walker’s mind, and in his Republican colleagues’ minds, the answer is yes -- these women ARE too dumb, at least to make the choice that CONSERVATIVES want them to make. And to make them “smarter,” they’re going to require a transvaginal ultrasound.

Sure, this legislation grants women the “choice” to receive their preferred method of ultrasound -- abdominal or transvaginal. But for certain stages of pregnancy, only a transvaginal ultrasound will do. Why else would the law require clinics to have both forms of ultrasound in them in order to perform an abortion?

It’s clear that Walker’s actions provide little reason to doubt that he finds women to be ignorant fools -- at least, those who disagree with his views on abortion. But the most damning of evidence comes from not just what the governor said, but also in how it was disseminated to begin with.

The announcement that the Walker administration put out after he signed this law was buried in a non-confrontational, apolitical release entitled “Governor Scott Walker Signs Several Bills Into Law.” In it, the release described in short detail a series of 18 laws that Walker signed over the July 4th weekend.

None of the bills were titled in the release with anything more than their legislative numbering. The abortion law, simple called “Senate Bill 206” in the document, was item number 17, the second-to-last bill mentioned in the press release.

Gov. Walker signed a restrictive bill on women’s rights into law on a day when no one would notice, and released it to the public in a document that looked boring and inconsequential on its face. If that’s not insulting to the intelligence of women in Wisconsin, I don’t know what is.

For now, there is an injunction against the law that Walker signed. But the damage is done: the governor put it out there, rather bluntly, that he finds women to be unintelligent when it comes to their own bodies. Let's hope women don't forget come 2014.

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