Friday, November 04, 2005

what's the purpose of spousal notification?

Shakes has posted about Krauthammer's latest bout of asshattery in support of Scalito's stance on requiring a woman to notify her husband prior to obtaining an abortion. The renewed visitation of one of the late Bob Casey's preferred requirements for obtaining an abortion legally begs an obvious question: what's the purpose of this notification when the woman does not have to obtain her husband's permission to obtain the abortion? Yes, it would be ideal if a couple communicated openly about pregnancy and agreed on its disposition, but this is not always the case.

There are reasons why women don't tell their husbands they are pregnant and planning to have an abortion including, but not limited to: the woman knows her husband played no part in the conception (either due to adultery or due to her entering into a relationship with another man prior to finalization of a divorce); the woman knows her husband would not support her decision to terminate; or there is a legitimate reason to suspect that notification would induce or exacerbate spousal abuse.

Another reason a woman may decide not to inform her husband about her pregnancy and decision to terminate is because the husband is in a situation in which the woman thinks this knowledge may be detrimental to her husband's emotional and/or physical health. [When I was 19 & found out I was pregnant, I struggled not only with a decision whether to terminate but also with if/when to tell my ex-boyfriend and parents. My roommate and friends all thought I should tell my ex to get him to pay for the procedure and were adamantly opposed to my telling my parents. As much as I could have used the financial assistance, my ex had just started rehab in a distant state and I really thought that this bit of info could negatively impact his recovery, so I opted not to tell him anything. I did, however, tell my parents because I thought they had a right to know why I'd been so violently ill.]

While I don't think keeping secrets (especially ones of this magnitude) bodes well for a marriage, I don't think legislation forcing communication about one issue between a couple serves any legitimate state purpose or is in the interests of anyone but those who wish to erect an additional barrier to abortion and reinforce the traditional belief that a woman is subordinate to her husband.

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