Missouri Republican Floor Leader Rick Brattin has introduced a bill that would allow a man to stop a woman from getting an abortion by withholding written permission. Brattin is under fire not only over the bill but his description of the condition of confirmation of a “legitimate rape” to secure and exception under the law — a decryption that reminded many of the controversy over the use of the same term by former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.).
The requirement for consent of the male involved in a pregnancy includes an exception in cases of rape or incest. Otherwise, the bill says “No abortion shall be performed or induced unless and until the father of the unborn child provides written, notarized consent to the abortion.”
Brattin insisted that “Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it. So you couldn’t just go and say, ‘Oh yeah, I was raped’ and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape.”
There is only one abortion clinic in the state in St. Louis.
Brattin added to the bizarre aspect of this legislation by saying that, as a father of five, his recent vasectomy was the inspiration for this bill: “When a man goes in for that procedure—at least in the state of Missouri—you have to have a consent form from your spouse in order to have that procedure done. Here I was getting a normal procedure that has nothing to do with another human being’s life, and I needed to get a signed for . . . But on ending a life, you don’t. I think that’s pretty twisted.”
I am not an expect of Missouri law but I would be very surprised if there is any law requiring a man to get consent for a vasectomy.
Putting aside the statements, the bill itself appears facially unconstitutional given cases like Casey v. Planned Parenthood, where the Court struck down a requirement that a woman inform her husband if she haves an abortion. There is also the holding in Eisenstadt v. Baird where the Court ruled that “[i]f the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”
Brattin has previously attracted national attention and criticism over his campaign to compel the teaching of creationism in school.
For those who want to see additional challenges in the area, this bill is ill-conceived for those who want to challenge abortion rights. It is likely to amplify past rulings rather than chip away at current precedent. It will likely push those judges or justices on the margin to rally around the core principles of Roe, as the plurality stated in Casey:
The sum of the precedential enquiry to this point shows Roe’s underpinnings unweakened in any way affecting its central holding. While it has engendered disapproval, it has not been unworkable. An entire generation has come of age free to assume Roe’s concept of liberty in defining the capacity of women to act in society, and to make reproductive decisions; no erosion of principle going to liberty or personal autonomy has left Roe’s central holding a doctrinal remnant. Roe portends no developments at odds with other precedent for the analysis of personal liberty; and no changes of fact have rendered viability more or less appropriate as the point at which the balance of interests tips. Within the bounds of normal stare decisis analysis, then, and subject to the considerations on which it customarily turns, the stronger argument is for affirming Roe’s central holding, with whatever degree of personal reluctance any of us may have, not for overruling it.