GOP War on Women: If You Have Sex, Republicans Want to Pry In Your Private Parts
With a recent surge in unprecedented attacks on reproductive rights---federal assaults on women’s right to use private funding for abortion and the House attempting to defund Planned Parenthood---it certainly seems like it’s high season for misogyny. In the woman-hating clamor, one story has risen to the top: a Georgia state legislator (Republican, of course) has introduced a bill that would treat every miscarriage like a crime scene requiring a police intervention to clear the miscarrying woman of criminal intent, or even of potential negligence.
The bill, which is a variation of Rep. Bobby Franklin’s annual attempt to pass a law banning abortion, grabs attention by distilling so perfectly the panties-sniffing sensibilities of the anti-choice movement. In Franklin’s perfect world, every woman who miscarries or even menstruates forsakes her right not to have law enforcement digging through her private business, just looking for an excuse to throw her in jail. Luckily, Franklin’s miscarriage bill has little chance of passing, but many other state legislatures are considering viable bills that echo the same belief that women forsake the right to basic privacy the second they make the choice to have sex.
Anti-choice legislation proposed in various states reflects this voyeuristic tendency of the anti-choice movement. A movement that focuses on showing up at clinics to gawk at abortion patients takes voyeurism very seriously. They want all the details. If they can concoct a paternalistic rationalization for a law requiring women to describe the position they were in when they conceived, expect to see that start sweeping state legislatures. In many states, conservative legislators are finding creative new pays to invade women’s personal business, feelings and even bodies.
South Dakota made headlines recently when Republicans brought forth a bill that was written in such a way that it could have legalized murdering abortion providers. Legislators pulled the bill after it was met with a wave of negative attention. What’s received less attention is a more viable bill requiring women who want abortions to get "counseling" at crisis pregnancy centers first. In other words, in order to get an abortion, you must first meet with a bunch of religious fanatics who are organized for the purpose of hating female sexuality and answer all their intrusive questions about your sex life. Then and only then will you get to have an abortion.
South Dakota is far from the only state where legislators are thinking primarily of punishing women by forcing them to talk extensively about their private lives to total strangers. In Kansas (PDF), a bill to restrict minors’ access to abortion requires, among other things, that minors seeking judicial bypass go see a mental health professional and share the private consultation with the judge to determine if a teenage girl is mature enough to have an abortion. (It’s interesting that anti-choicers think the ideal situation for a girl too immature to handle this decision herself is to force her to be a mother, and make important daily decisions about a vulnerable child.) The purpose of all these invasions of privacy is not to help teenage girls get out of often violent situations that lead them to ask for judicial bypass. It’s simply to pry into the girl’s information and then pass judgment, often on things she has no control over.
For instance, the bill requires not one, but both parents, to sign off on the abortion before it can take place. Beyond just penalizing girls for the misfortune of being in families that conservatives disapprove of, such as single mother-led or grandparents raising children, a law such as this will drive more girls to have to ask judges for judicial bypass, opening them up to the humiliating process of having to spill enough details to various strangers to get the sign-off. Teenage girls generally aren’t the ones at fault when parents run off or do something so terrible that estrangement was inevitable, but this system would nonetheless punish them for this by forcing them to tell the story to judgmental professionals over and over again, just to avoid forced motherhood.
Beyond concocting new ways to pry into your personal information, many states are still using the old standby for punishing women for abortion by invading their bodies: mandatory ultrasounds. Texas is just the latest in a long list of states where legislators wipe the drool from their mouths while forcing women who want abortions to undergo extra vaginal probing. The excuse is that it’s about giving women full information---as if a pregnant woman asks for an abortion because she thinks she’s growing kittens up there--but the result resembles random strip searches at the behest of a sadistic warden from a women-in-prison exploitation flick.
The latest man abusing his power to force women to undergo rounds of stripping naked and being probed is Governor Rick Perry of Texas, who declared this sadistic voyeurism an “emergency priority.” It’s hard to imagine he’d think this was such a priority if he’d ever had to put his feet in the stirrups and scoot his naked butt to the edge of the table. Maybe if he’d ever had to do that, he’d realize why it’s so cruel to force doctors to do this to women more than is strictly necessary.
Voyeurism was the order of the day in the years prior to Roe v. Wade. In many states, abortion was legal if a woman could convince a panel of medical professionals that she had a mental health need for the abortion. In practice, this usually meant telling lurid tales about one’s personal business to a bunch of leering men in hopes that they would reward your debasement by sparing you the pregnancy. The horror of this is one reason why privacy became the major argument for abortion rights. In the years since, the Peeping Toms of the anti-choice movement have turned “privacy” into a dirty word, at least for women, and have set out to dismantle that right.
Anti-choice activist Lila Rose, a master of appealing to the voyeuristic desires of the anti-choice movement, recently cut to the chase by describing her neo-Puritan desire to have abortions performed in the public square. And let’s not forget former Kansas attorney general Phill Kline, who devoted his power to the lavish and lascivious project of getting the personal names and addresses of the patients of Dr. George Tiller by having his staff follow them in their cars and subpoena their hotel records, as well as share that information with known sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly. While that ultimate goal is far in the distance, state legislators everywhere are continually coming up with creative ways to use abortion as an excuse to inject themselves into the private business of the women of their states.