The XX Factor

Tennessee Anti-Choice Politician Can’t Decide if Women Are Stupid or Cunning

Tennessee voters—pictured here in Chattanooga in 2012—approved a state amendment opening the doors to major abortion restrictions last year.

Photo by Stephane Jourdain/AFP/Getty Images

Back in November, voters in Tennessee passed a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution, making abortion the only medical procedure not protected under the state’s stringent privacy protections. Proponents of the amendment ran a campaign downplaying the severity of the bill, claiming it wasn’t about restricting abortion access but about making the constitution “neutral” on the subject. In a completely unshocking turn, those reassurances that this is no big deal were immediately forgotten, and the Tennessee legislature got right to passing invasive, punitive bills meant to make abortion as miserable and expensive an experience as possible. 

One of the two bills the legislature passed this week requires a 48-hour waiting period to get an abortion, during which time you will be subjected to a government-mandated guilt trip under the guise of “informed consent.” Standard stuff, but the floor debate over this bill, posted at Raw Story, was a master class in the doublespeak and contradictory arguments forwarded by anti-choicers these days. 

It all started when Democratic state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh offered an amendment allowing a mental-health exception to the rule. “We know mental health issues are just as, even more serious sometimes, than physical health issues,” he explained.

Republican state Rep. Sheila Butt was not having it. Butt positioned herself as a good-hearted soul simply trying to protect women from evil abortionists. “Putting this psychological harm bypass into the bill is really a loophole for the abortion industry,” she argued. “It allows someone who is going to profit from abortion to get the waiting period waived.” 

Fitzhugh then tried again, offering an amendment that allowed exceptions for rape and incest victims. Butt, who just moments before was portraying women as hapless and in need of protection from greedy abortionists, immediately switched gears to another favorite anti-choice stereotype: the crafty villainess who cries rape. “This amendment appears political, because we understand in most instances, this”—by which she means rape—“is not verifiable.”

She then pivoted seamlessly right back to the women-are-dummies line: “Let’s make sure that these women have the information and the understanding to act.”

Women: They’re soft-hearted fools who are too dumb to know what “abortion” is without a condescending lecture and they’re cunning liars who cry rape to conceal their wanton ways. Whichever you need to believe right this second in order to keep them from getting abortions.

This isn’t the first time that Butt has grabbed headlines for talking from both sides of her mouth. Back in February, Muslim rights group CAIR denounced Butt for a post on her Facebook page that read, “It is time for a Council on Christian Relations and an NAAWP in this Country.” CAIR noted that NAAWP is a common acronym on white supremacist sites for National Association for the Advancement of White People. Butt protested, saying it actually stands for National Association of Advancement for Western Peoples and complained, “It saddens me that we have come to a place in our society where every comment by a conservative is automatically scrutinized as being racist.”

The bill passed, without any of Fitzhugh’s proposed amendments, and is expected to be signed by Gov. Bill Haslam.