Rep. Justin Humphrey, an Oklahoma lawmaker, has introduced a bill that would require a woman to get written permission from her sexual partner before obtaining an abortion. And there’s more.
At first, Humphrey said that the original intention of the bill was to ensure that fathers are involved in supporting a child from conception. “I was wanting fathers to have to pay child support at the beginning,” he said, but that specific language was excised from the bill.
Ultimately, he said, his intent was to let men have a say. “I believe one of the breakdowns in our society is that we have excluded the man out of all of these types of decisions,” he said. “I understand that they feel like that is their body,” he said of women. “I feel like it is a separate — what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant,” he explained. “So that’s where I’m at. I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”
It’s 2017, people! This wasn’t okay in 1950 and it isn’t okay now!
Humphrey went so far as to refer to a pregnant woman as a “host.” I often try to shift individuals who are anti-abortion away from abortion restrictions by arguing that things like effective birth control or maternity leave and childcare subsidies are a far better way to cut the abortion rate than a ban (with its accompanying DIY abortions and elevated women’s health problems). But this? Rhetoric like this makes it hard for me to have a rational conversation.
Let’s look closer at this bit for a moment:
“And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant.”
This is incredibly garbled, but if I’m reading it correctly Humphrey is saying that having unprotected sex is the equivalent of agreeing to be a host and inviting the — zygote? embryo? fetus? — into your body. This idea isn’t actually that fringe in anti-abortion circles, it’s just not usually stated in such a blatantly offensive way.
After all, check out this bit:
“I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”
Interestingly, the people who make this argument are the same ones who are completely behind the “Castle Doctrine,” which allows individuals to lethally shoot people who come into their home uninvited. Based on his statement above, Humphrey would argue that having unprotected sex is the equivalent of “inviting” the parasite (I’ll use that language since Humphrey is) into your body. But at the same time, I doubt Humphrey would see leaving one’s front door unlocked (or even open) as the equivalent of “inviting” strangers into one’s home.
This is veering uncomfortably close to drawing an equivalence between a woman’s body and a piece of property. Let me just leave you with this: Conservatives believe in individuals’ right to protect the sanctity of their homes with lethal force, but not in women’s right to protect the sanctity of their bodies with lethal force.
I’ve been writing about this basic issue for at least half a decade and I’m seriously tired of it. I well remember being pregnant—I’ve done it twice—and I didn’t like feeling inhabited. It did feel like I’d lost control over my body. I tolerated it because my pregnancies were intentional, wanted pregnancies. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to require someone to go through an entire pregnancy against their will.
I could go into all the various arguments at play here. I could point out that the vast, vast majority of abortions occur in the first trimester, and that having an abortion is a form of taking responsibility. I could point out that all birth control methods fail sometimes, and that his party typically opposes giving women affordable access to the most effective forms of contraceptives. I could point out the absurdity of Humphrey introducing a bill that does not actually affect him, given his reproductive anatomy. I could point out the horribly huge problems with treating women as a host, and robbing her of her of her control of her own body.
But today I am just tired.
On the plus side, at least Humphrey is laying bare an argument conservatives have been making for quite some time, and using language so extreme that maybe—just maybe—it’ll jolt some people out of their complacency.
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