The script was set ten days earlier: fresh off the phone with Brett Kavanaugh, Senator Orrin Hatch called Christine Blasey Ford “mistaken” and “mixed up” in her belief that the Supreme Court nominee tried to rape her when they were teenagers. When the hearing came, Kavanaugh looked out at the senators and, though he didn’t go as far as to pin the act on another guy, said, “I am not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time.” It was the pseudo-empathic version of, “Bitch set me up.”
No matter that Ford told the committee she was 100 percent sure it was Kavanaugh who clapped a hand over her mouth, or that she insisted she was no one’s pawn. The Republicans held fast to their mendacious dodge: The poor dear meant well. She was just confused — and the true perps were the Democrats who were using her.
This kind of misdirection, the assumption that women are being tricked into acting in a way inconvenient to the powerful, sounded familiar. Remember when Donald Trump said during the campaign that women who had abortions should be punished, before the anti-abortion movement hastily reminded him that he’d gone off message? Abortion is murder, the antis contend, but women aren’t the killers. They’ve just been duped by a libertine culture and unscrupulous butchers.
The notion that women are intemperate or perplexed by what it means to terminate a pregnancy also undergirds state laws that force abortion patients to wait days to get the procedure, or requires them to get an ultrasound — as if what being pregnant means is going to come as some kind of surprise.
This kind of “reasoning” should sound familiar to Kavanaugh, too. He himself thought a 17-year-old undocumented minor seeking an abortion still didn’t know what she was doing even after she’d been dragged to a crisis pregnancy center, undergone mandatory counseling, and made her case before a judge.
The insult to injury of this position is that it elides its cruelty with infantilizing faux-compassion: It’s okay, little lady, you just don’t know your own mind. Brett knows best.
*A version of this article appears in the October 1, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!