The GOP’s ‘Pro-Life’ Ghouls Are About to Roll Back 50 Years of Women’s Rights
Texas’ “heartbeat bill” seems like a grim joke since it’s obviously unconstitutional, but there’s nothing funny about it with the Supreme Court taking a case poised to demolish Roe
When Greg Abbott signed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country into Texas law on Wednesday, he commemorated the occasion with a photo-op signing ceremony where seven women beamed in the front row ahead of dozens of grinning men who will never be pregnant celebrating a new law regulating pregnancy.
Even if I hadn’t seen it, I could have drawn it from the many photo ops of other governors signing so-called “heartbeat bills” banning abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat (which in many pregnancies can be as early as six weeks, or before many women know that they’re pregnant):
A white man old enough to qualify for the Denny’s Senior Discount behind a desk flanked by a few sanctimonious church ladies in turn surrounded by lots of other white men.
Ohio, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, it’s the same shit, different state. And the same question runs through my mind: Do these people think pregnancy is easy? Do they think childbirth is no big deal? Do they know that, because pregnancy is measured from a woman’s “last missed period,” a “six-week-old fetus” was actually only conceived four weeks prior, and then spent around 10 days or so floating around as a cluster of undifferentiated cells, and has only been attached to the womb for two or three weeks? Do they know that at six weeks’ gestation, it is the size of a grain of rice and has no bones, arms, or legs?
Do they believe that women should be forced at a moment’s notice to carry a pregnancy and give birth? Since pregnancy is a potential outcome of heterosexual intercourse, do they believe that every heterosexual encounter is implicit consent to give birth? In the case of Texas, where there is no rape exception, do lawmakers believe that simply possessing a uterus and viable eggs is the same thing as consenting to nine months of pregnancy, culminating in childbirth? Does every girl’s first period signify to the state that she is now legally obligated to give birth if she becomes pregnant? Do women get a say?
Could any of these ghouls’ forced-birth cheerleaders label a diagram of the female reproductive system? Have any of these people—man or woman—ever located the clitoris? Aren’t these the same stupid fucks who were yammering about “my body, my choice” when it came to masking and vaccines?
If I were to hand Greg Abbott a blank sheet of paper and ask him to explain the physiological changes the body of a mother undergoes during pregnancy, could he do it? Could he explain any common negative side effects of birth? Governor, in 100 words or less: What is pelvic floor collapse? How many women experience postpartum depression? Like a gatekeeping record store clerk, I want to ask: Oh, you love childbirth? Name three horrible medical complications it can cause.
In a tweet celebrating the achievement of making women’s lives more difficult, Abbott wrote, “This bill ensures the life of every unborn child with a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.”
But Abbott has done nothing to ensure the lives of every born child, or the born child’s parents, are saved from the ravages of the status quo. The pro-life actions of Abbott—and those of all the other governors like him—ends with birth. These anti-choice zealots are as unwilling to fix systemic problems that lead people to seek abortions as they are eager to force women into childbirth.
Republicans don’t advocate for comprehensive sex education so that adolescents can learn how birth control works before they become sexually active. Nor do they agitate for readily available, low-cost contraception to all people of reproductive age—quite the opposite!
The modern Republican party works against making parenthood more appealing or affordable. It works against things like paid family leave for new parents, affordable health care, stronger laws protecting pregnant workers, or stronger laws protecting abuse survivors from their abusers.
Abbott and his abortion-obsessed ilk do not work to make pregnancy, childbirth or childhood safer. I’ve never seen a self-styled pro-life politician speak out against the systemic conditions that lead to Black mothers facing higher maternal mortality rates stateside than mothers in some developing countries.
They actively protect polluters releasing chemicals into the environment that cause birth defects and other poor health outcomes. They advocate for laws that make guns more readily available, even for men with domestic violence records.
Before this week, a grandstanding spectacle like Texas’ would be infuriating, but ultimately easy enough to brush off. A six-week abortion ban is blatantly unconstitutional; it violates Roe v. Wade and other Supreme Court precedent around abortion rights. A law like the one Abbot just signed would not be allowed to go into effect, instead drawing time and resources from a conservative legal apparatus that has fought mostly losing battles for the last 40 years.
But the news from Texas hit different. That’s because on Monday, the Supreme Court announced that it would be hearing the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and the pro-choice Cassandras who have spent the last five years warning us that this would happen get another grim “told you so” moment.
The case directly challenges the precedent set in Roe that established that the government can not legally restrict abortion before the point of fetal viability, or when a fetus could survive outside of the womb—around 24 weeks’ gestation. Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks’ gestation can only be upheld by the court if the court also agrees to overturn Roe.
Now, the three justices that Donald Trump appointed during his single-term presidency—all of them vetted and approved by the Federalist Society, which requires judges be hostile to Roe— will be in a position to boomerang reproductive health care back to the 1960s and undo Roe in full or in part. If the court’s eventual ruling is broad enough, it could enable bans like the one Texas just passed to go into effect.
At this point, the only thing still standing between the freedom American women have had for nearly 50 years and the superstition-driven state subjugation of woman to embryo is time. The grinning know-nothings of the endlessly predictable photo ops will finally get what they wanted all along.