The Sadism in Abortion Laws

It's one thing to oppose abortion, though I am not in that camp myself. It's another to regret it - or even discourage it. I do understand that it is not a simple or easy matter to destroy a budding life. But some of the new laws being proposed are truly cruel and sadistic.

Tuesday, the Legislature in Oklahoma mandated that a woman must get an ultrasound before any abortion, and it must be done in such a way so that, "the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims." (See, "Strict Abortion Measures Enacted in Oklahoma."

Friday, the Legislature in Florida passed a bill requiring, "all women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. Even if the women don't want to see the image, the doctor must still describe it to them." The Florida bill is a bit more compassionate than Oklahoma's, as women may be exempted if they can prove that the fetus resulted from rape. (See, "Florida House Sends Abortion Bill to Governor.")

I don't know if the courts will strike down these provisions as unwarranted invasions of privacy, but I do know that they are punitive and sadistic - and psychologically harmful to those they affect.

So why are we doing this? Could it be that there is a resurgence of hatred against women, especially women who cross a line in managing their sexual lives? Is this a new Puritanism? Or could it be part of a larger movement, escalating all political differences into hateful and abusive conflicts?

I suspect the latter. Political figures are being threatened and physically attacked as well. Illegal immigrants are also being assaulted, as well as increasingly targeted by draconian laws. It's not just pregnant women.

Beneath these violent developments, I think, is a growing sense of powerlessness, especially among the less affluent. On the one hand, the rich continue to get richer while the democratic process is obviously hostage to moneyed interests. On the other, unemployment is still rampant, and people's ownership of their homes is threatened, while banks are thriving. The increasing virulence of our politics may reflect an underlying sense among those at most at risk that something - anything -- must be done to stem the drift into helplessness. If you can't get people to change their behavior at least you can make sure they suffer for it.

If this is the underlying explanation for this destructive trend, we can expect that it will not soon abate. It took a long time for us to drift into this condition of greater economic inequality, papered over by the credit bubble, and it will take a long time to recover from it.

About the Author

Ken Eisold, Ph.D.

Ken Eisold, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst and organizational consultant whose book about the unconscious, What You Don't Know You Know, came out in January.

You are reading

Hidden Motives

Why Don't Bankers Learn?

And What Might Force Them

An Epidemic of Suicides

Loneliness, Stress, Failure

The Myth of Welfare Dependency

Why do we believe it?