It’s been four decades since Roe v. Wade was handed down, and that’s how long the anti-abortion movement has been coming up with strategies to reverse it. They’ve been unsuccessful so far. But they’re getting increasingly creative.
“Fetal pain,” based on shaky medical evidence that the fetus can experience pain after 20 weeks, has become the best-known rationale for banning abortion at that threshold. There are others. Mindful of accusations that they don’t care about women, anti-abortion activists have looked for grounds on which to “protect” them. So one of the arguments made in support of Arizona’s 20-week abortion ban by Americans United for Life and anti-abortion doctors, for example, is that women need to be prevented from having later abortions for their own good, because “researchers have also found that women who undergo abortions at 13 weeks or beyond report ‘more disturbing dreams, more frequent reliving of the abortion, and more trouble falling asleep.” (They also point out that such abortions are medically riskier, but that’s in comparison to earlier abortions. If they’re truly concerned about safety, the more relevant statistic is that childbirth is riskier still, 14 times so.)
The Supreme Court has yet to include bad dreams in its abortion jurisprudence–or, for that matter, fetal pain. But the abortion bans rippling across state legislatures are meant to offer as many routes as possible for the Justices to change their minds–or really, just one Justice, Anthony Kennedy.