Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Forced-Birth Knight In Shining Armor

Sarah Blustain has written an interesting article about the anti-abortion work of Harold Cassidy, the lawyer who defended Mary Beth Whitehead in the 1980s surrogate case:
In 1986, he agreed to represent Mary Beth Whitehead, a working-class surrogate fighting to keep the child she bore for an affluent couple, William and Betsy Stern, from her own egg and his sperm. The Baby M case made global headlines. Feminists were divided; some said women should be free to serve as surrogates and get paid for it if they so chose. Others, including psychologist and radical feminist Phyllis Chesler, sided with Whitehead. With protests and press conferences, they argued that paid surrogacy was a form of coercion, yet another way society encouraged poor women to sell their bodies. Chesler recalls being instantly taken with Cassidy. "He had a priestlike character," she says. "He was self-sacrificing, he was devoted to the principles, he had sympathy—almost like the sympathy of the confessional—to both these mothers."
He later branched out to anti-abortion work, with a focus on how abortion hurts the women who have one. His fingerprints were visible in the abortion ban South Dakota attempted, and possibly even in that famous statement by Justice Anthony Kennedy:
THE ULTIMATE goal of all anti-abortion efforts is a sympathetic hearing from the Supreme Court, and in 2007 that body gave Cassidy's arguments an unexpected and unprecedented boost. In the majority opinon in Gonzales v. Carhart, which addressed Congress' so-called partial-birth abortion ban, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that banning the late-term procedure could be justified by the state's "profound respect for the life within the woman." Kennedy acknowledged that there is "no reliable data" on whether abortion affects women's mental health, but he nonetheless found it "unexceptionable" to conclude that some women who have abortions will suffer "severe depression" and other ills—and that they would suffer further if they underwent a "partial-birth" abortion and only later learned about the procedure's gruesome details. In support of his position, Kennedy cited not a scientific study but rather a brief submitted by Cassidy's allies on behalf of Sandra Cano and 180 other women. (Among other things, their brief argued that the partial-birth ban needn't contain an exception for the woman's health.)
The whole article is worth reading, because it discusses the "pro-woman" strategy of the forced-birth movement and what it really means: That women need a knight in shining armor to save themselves from themselves.