Laws “Protecting Women” Harm Them, Instead

Too many women die trying to do it themselves.

Too many women die trying to do it themselves.

Laws “protecting” women often end up harming them, instead.

That’s because limiting liberty is the real aim.

In 1905 a laundress sued her employer for making her work more than 10 hours — Oregon’s legal limit for women back then. The case eventually wound up at the Supreme Court, where her employer made this feminist argument:

Limits on women’s work hours discriminate against them.

But the Justices upheld the law, saying that women are like children, both needing special care.

In a related 1933 case, feminist lawyer, Blanche Crozier opined:

If night work is ‘‘against nature,’’ then starvation is even more so.

Emily Bazelon tells these stories in a recent New York Times piece. Where she points out that these sorts of laws aren’t really about protecting women. They are about limiting their liberty.

And in fact, the so-called protections actually end up harming them.

Protecting women from having abortions harms them

Nowadays “pro-lifers” are promoting measures that will 1) lessen women’s liberty and 2) bring more deaths — in the name of “protection.”

Like a case recently heard by the Supreme Court in which the state of Texas requires abortion clinics to:

  • Upgrade to “ambulatory surgical center’’ standards
  • Employ a doctor with admitting privileges to nearby hospitals

Estimated cost: $1.5 to $3 million per clinic.

Yet, Ms. Bazelon points out,

There’s no phrase for men equivalent to ‘‘damsel in distress’’ and no such thing as ‘‘protective’’ legislation for men. ‘‘No one says anything about sending men to surgical centers for colonoscopies,’’ says Kessler-Harris, who submitted a brief in the Texas case, along with 15 other historians. (Colonoscopies have a mortality rate more than 30 times as high as the rate for abortion.)

And, abortion will be no safer.

It will become less safe!

Abortion restrictions don’t stop desperate women

Abortion restrictions do not stop desperate women from getting them.

Instead, women will travel longer distances to find clinics. Some must raise money to do so. Which means they get the procedure at a later stage, when it is more dangerous.

Others will seek out illegal and dangerous back-alley abortionists.

Many will do it themselves.

And too often die.

That’s why doctors, and even some religious leaders, were once at the forefront, working to make abortion safe and legal in the United States.

I hope people eventually “get it.”

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on March 16, 2016, in feminism, reproductive rights, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Amelia de Leon

    If men and women are indeed as different as some people seem determined to believe it still doesn’t make sense for men to make decisions about what is best to protect women. I don’t think we should be surprised that laws framed to look like protection turn out to be controlling and harmful, the base that they were built was wobbly at best from the very beginning. For laws to be effective at making change they have to influence people at a low enough, fundamental enough level that it actually changes a real stone of a part of society. Create a new path for a new way. Sticking tape over the top and saying you can’t go one-way stick causes leaks to spring as people continue to adapt that way. Desperate women will find ways to get abortions until there is a much greater change to society and not just men making it more difficult and insulting them for it standing in their way.

  2. Even though it sounds weird and unreasonable, I agree with the idea of women should not be limited on their workd hours only because they are women. In general, women are always the weak part in the society comparing with men. However, since feminism yells for the equal social status for women, we are suppose to realize women have the same ability as men do. But the question is, is it reasonable that we see women can do as well as men can even when we know they normally do not have the same physic condition as men? To me, it is hard to answer this question with a perfect answer. As a man, the thought I have to women is I respect to their status in society when they want to have the balance wtih men, meanwhile, I will do whatever I can to help when they are in need.

    • The physical differences you’re talking about have no effect on the ability of women to work more hours. In fact, the physical differences in terms of working more hours could favor women — since women have more endurance. But the reality is that the number of hours that either sex can comfortably work are similar. Everyone needs sometime for some R&R. men’s physical superiority’s are in the area of muscular strength — which doesn’t help with endurance. Women’s physical superiority is in the area of survival — and endurance is one of the things that aid women’s survival.

      But I also get the sense that you would like to continue our patriarchal condition. And I’m wondering why?

  3. Abortion should be legal because why force someone to have a pregnancy they don’t wish to have. And not giving a safe option to terminate the pregnancy is/would cost women in America there lives because of backdoor abortion clinics/women killing themselves because of not having better options. I was watching this clip from SNL and if it were the other way around and men could get pregnant they would have an abortion clinic on every corner like starbucks.

  4. Many of these laws that seemingly “protect” women are made by men who have little to no understanding of how these laws affect women. I agree with you in the fact that instead of helping women, they further repress and undermine their liberty, a liberty which is so easily given to men and so easily taken away from their counterparts. It’s difficult to understand that as a society, we put so much emphasis on protecting women because their “fragile” but still have a high rate of harassment and abuse cases every year.

  5. Whether those pro-lifers are indeed in favor of advocating for lives or trying to use it as an excuse to control women becomes a question. To my point of view, sometimes getting an abortion may benefit both the unborn baby and its mother. For example, the family may not be in a good financial situation to raise a child, the baby has a high chance of ending up in Foster Care later or other welfare programs. This not only harm the kid’s psychological health, but also the society — as every Foster Care child result in a cost of around $7500 per year, we could use that funding in other areas. Studies also show that Foster Care children do not always get the best education and it is tougher for them to get a decent job in the future, thus, they are more likely to commit crimes when they grow up. Regardless of all these adverse impact on the baby and the society, limiting women’s rights to get abortions also go against their basic human rights. Every individual should have their own rights to decide what they want to do with their bodies, no law should block women from abortion, instead, the government should fund more on educating women about proper birth control methods.

    • And most importantly, making abortion illegal doesn’t stop it. It drives it underground.

      Antiabortion laws have little effect on the rates because desperate women and girls will find a way to have an abortion whether it is legal or not, and often die trying to get them illegally.

  6. For a society that seems to do a lot of “protecting” of women- there continues to be a lot of harassment and violence and harm to them going around. It strikes me as gas lighting to present such laws under the guise of “protection.”

  7. Roberto Iraheta

    Abortion is a very dangerous and sensitive subject since the life of more than one person is at risk. I’m not going to discuss whether a fetus is a person or not , but what I will discuss is choice. If you take a person choice you take their freedom. freedom to do with her body whatever she pleases once the choice is made a woman will find her ways to do it so in a way it should be a humane and a safe way where she can have the attention needed to go trough with it (abortion) laws needs to be regulated for the benefit of woman and children that have been victims of rape or sexual assault for they did not asked to be pregnant.

    • And laws against rape just make it go underground. It’s much better to have sex education and birth control available and affordable so that young women don’t get in a position where they feel they need an abortion. Unfortunately, the anti-abortion forces are often against the things that prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. The things that best prevent abortion.

  8. I wonder whether people would ‘get it’ ,… :/

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