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This US court ruling on abortion goes straight to the core of the issue

Reuters/Toya Sarno Jordan
"Women, like all humans, are intellectual creatures."
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Like many other Republican state governments in the US, Indiana’s has been passing laws with the aim of limiting abortion by adding requirements for women seeking the procedure.

On July 25, a federal appeals court ruled against one. A 1995 law required that all women seeking abortions would have to do a mandatory ultrasound and share information about the development of the fetus, giving the option of seeing images and hearing the the heartbeat. In 2016 (pdf), a further requirement was added that the ultrasound be made at least 18 hours before the procedure.

Through the law, according to the court ruling, “the state hopes that women who read that information and consider it will opt not to have an abortion, and will, instead, choose to carry the pregnancy to term.” But by adding the 18-hour requirement, it makes it impossible for a woman to have the ultrasound and the procedure on the same day—which can be a serious logistic obstacle, especially for working women or women who already have children and would have to arrange for child care or time off work.

According to the trial documents (pdf, p. 48), “[t]he state asserts that its reason for this new eighteen‐hour ultrasound requirement is to persuade women not to have an abortion.” The court agrees that “[t]here is no doubt that this is a legitimate position for a state to take” but adds that the 18-hour rule “appears that its only effect is to place barriers between a woman who wishes to exercise her right to an abortion and her ability to do so.”

Persuasion, the court ruled, is done through rhetoric, not barriers—and nails exactly why resorting to obstacles to stop women from having abortions is not just unfair—it’s disrespectful. Much of the paternalistic argument against choice is based on a fundamental distrust of women’s ability to make decisions for themselves, thinking them voluble and easy to manipulate.

But as judge Illana Rovner eloquently eloquently reminds in her opinion:

Women, like all humans, are intellectual creatures with the ability to reason, consider, ponder, and challenge their own ideas and those of others.

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