Thursday, November 03, 2005

Spousal Notification

Sam Alito's press coverage has brought this issue back to the spotlight, though it's likely never far from the minds of those focused on reproductive rights more constantly than the average armchair pundit. Since I tend to hover somewhere in the middle of obsessively pro-choice and politically pragmatic, the topic has been gnawing at me in recent days.

I can't think of a more absurd requirement than spousal notification. I tend to bristle over parental notification laws, but am philosophically more sympathetic to them, remembering full well the grand array of things I deliberately kept from my parents as a teenager. We all know that our teen years bring us closer to psychosis than humans really have any right to be, and the choices we make during those tender years are often guided by logic that makes sense only to rabid monkeys and dung beetles.

Still, like any blanket requirement, parental notification laws fail to consider the girls impregnated by their abusive fathers, step-fathers, mothers boyfriends, etc., and ignores those parents that will evict or abuse their daughters for being sexually active, much less pregnant. These cases are the problem with such laws, and until these cases are addressed by legislative proposals, I will continue to oppose them in toto.

Spousal notification is a whole other ball game, and the scathing condescension dripping from these laws disgusts me. Clearly, the underlying logic is this: "We don't trust you loose, irresponsible women to have any kind of rapport with your husbands, and will assume, henceforth, that if you've not notified him of your intent to abort, it's because you're being a very bad girl."

What the fuck?!? As if it can't be imagined that some husbands, much like the parents described above, will reward their wives' disclosure with cuts, bruises and broken bones. As if we're totally unaware that there are Neanderthals alive and well in America, and that they don't give a rusty fuck about what their wives want, since they are, after all, just chattel. As if it's unimaginable that, in the case of questionable paternity, every single husband on the planet is irretrievably beyond rage-inspired murder. A cursory glance at domestic abuse statistics in this country should put paid to such ridiculous assumptions, but apparently this is irrelevant to the holier-than-thou types like Alito and his ideological buddies.

I don't know about you, but if a wife is seeking an abortion without her husband's knowledge, I'm content to trust that she's got a perfectly good reason for doing so. See, I'm not the kind of arrogant prick that second-guesses her judgment at every turn (or at least until she squeezes out the little munchkin, at which point she's on her own). But this evidently is one of those things that relegates me to the "loony left", since I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt to those loose, irresponsible women.

Once again, we see the hypocrisy of conservatives that insist liberals are trying to create a "nanny state", since the right is apparently quite comfortable with regulating conversation between spouses now. I find it morbidly comical that the folks screaming the loudest about the "sanctity of marriage" apparently have no respect for the actual institution. You know, the kind of respect that acknowledges that much of what goes on between a husband and wife is so private and so intimate as to be no one else's business or concern. The kind of respect that concedes that whatever differences they may have between them are between them, and not something that gets discussed around the water cooler like the latest episode of Desperate Housewives.

Alito, Bush, Frist, et al, have already decided, however, to assume the worst and to embed their pessimism into their legislative approach to reproductive rights. What's next? Spousal notification for birth control prescriptions? Or worse, consent? It's one thing to be at an ideological impasse over when life begins, but another thing altogether to be treated like idiot children whose judgment can't be trusted, ever. These boys find it much more preferable to establish draconian laws based in medieval morality, since we are, after all, aiming for the lowest possible common denominator.

I simply cannot respect, or by extension, willingly obey, lawmakers that think I'm a moron that needs to be saved from myself. And when any of us agree to (or fail to oppose) things like spousal notification laws, we're effectively giving our consent to be treated as such.

These incremental restrictions on abortion (or anything else for that matter) need to be framed precisely this way in our rebuttals. We must constantly point out the irony of the relationship between government and the people: At a time when our President is scoring historical lows for "trustworthiness", his GOP buddies are demonstrating that they don't trust the American people well enough to even talk to our own family members, much less appreciate the nuances of domestic and foreign policy. I want to know what, precisely, we did to earn denial of the benefit of the doubt. I want the GOP to explain why, exactly, they feel it's necessary to assume the worst, at every turn, creating ever more repressive policy under the guise of redemption.

But that's just it, isn't it? Plain evidence of the "we're all sinners" mind-set. We're all wicked, corrupted people that need to be Saved. Glory fucking hallelujia.


Lily said...

See thats exactly it- spousal notification is not even remotely the same in my mind as the issue of minors and any medical procedure. I am not even sure where I stand on parental notification but certainly do not think a marriage license gives anyone the right to exert control over an adult.
I am sorry but I just have not heard anything compelling on this one.
On one hand I think its somewhat unfair that a man has little say if it is in fact his child and he wants it- I think that can be a bitter pill for the guys. But we cannot legislate marital trust, communication, and shared decision making any more than we can require a spouse to approve spending money or travelling. Sure, these things impact a marriage. But that is not reason in and of itself to control women.
I have to say that I am a hundred percent with CB here. No freaking way.

RTSO said...

I heart Cantankerous Bitch.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

I see discussions on the right in defense of notification laws, and they invariably include statistics of people that agree "the husband has the right to know". Of course, there's a whole lot of mileage between a husband's "right to know" and a legal mandate of notification. It doesn't surprise me that opinion polls get spun this way, or that push polls exist to begin with, but in this kind of a case it's particularly infuriating.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Thanks RTSO :)

Lily said...

Well I did not say that 'right to know' trumps 'right to do'. I don't feel very strongly about rights to know or delegations of authority based on my status as a married or unmarried woman. The day a man controls me that way is the day I reject marriage outright as an status that relegates me to second class!!!
Rights are best when universal. I have more concerns about the spouse that brings home AIDS in what the other spouse views as a monogamous contract -but can admit there is nothing to be done about that legally. Ditto for abortion.
I also don't think that only the 'right' touch on the issue of paternal rights with respect to termination. The difference is that others tend not to hijack every little thing into a tool for their ultimate agenda which is what the 'right' do with every personal dilemma...I was trying to acknowledge that again, its not a black-white issue and I do feel for the father that wants to keep a baby and cannot do so, but law is not the remedy there. I have also said that I support choice but think it can be done more humanely or more effectively and in less medically intrusive ways. But still, I think choice should be guarded. l I think we can say that men have a seat at the parenting table without giving them legal authority over women's medical decisions.
Consider the man that does not want an overweight wife and this makes him fundamentally unhappy, can we give him authority over that too? By the ruse that this is ultimately beneficial for children? We would all say thats an absurd comparison. But the premise of legislating what might amount to a shitty deal for a man in some cases is not good reason to have spousal notification.
If someone rapes me and I get pregnant, well, technically the rapist has 'paternity" rights in their eyes too based on the way they define the issue. It starts by saying that husbands have leaps to 'men' have rights because a marriage license is discriminatory if we are talking about paternity...a father is after all a father. What follows from that logic is submission of women in general to a male authority in a way that is unnacceptable.
So while we can sure empathize with the men who do not want their mates to abort, I am not sure the answer is to give the keys to my uterus to a man and make a copy for the damned government.