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These Draconian Abortion Laws Have Only Ever Been About One Thing: Policing Our Bodies

Pro-choice activists holding signs at a rally.

It’s been an absolutely relentless week in the war on reproductive rights. First Georgia passed the country’s most restrictive abortion law, criminalizing abortion and banning the procedure after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, at about six weeks into pregnancy, before most women know they’re pregnant. Shortly after, Alabama swooped in to steal that Most Restrictive title for themselves. That legislation allows for doctors who perform abortions to be imprisoned for up to 99 years for doing so, and does not make exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

The Michigan House and Senate also passed a law banning abortion earlier today—although, thankfully, the state’s female Democratic governor has pledged to veto the legislation—and as I write this, the Missouri Senate is debating a similar bill.

All of these states and many more have passed or at least proposed similar bills, some of which have been signed into laws. The ultimate point of these bills is not to ban abortion at 6 or 12 or 20 weeks; it’s to be the state whose bill ends up in front of the now-Trump-stacked Supreme Court. They want to be the state that outlaws abortion for good.

All of these bills and laws have something else in common, as well. None of them are about “protecting life” as they claim to be. They’re only about controlling the bodies of women and others who are able to become pregnant.

If the battle over reproductive autonomy were really about “protecting babies,” those lawmakers leading the charge would have to have some semblance of science-based consistency. We wouldn’t get nonsense like this:

To these anti-choice Republican lawmakers, an embryo is life from the moment of conception … until it isn’t. And it isn’t–shocker!–when there isn’t a human woman surrounding it whom they can vilify and punish as they see fit.

And let there be no mistaking it, this is about punishment. It’s about making sure people feel sufficiently shamed for their choices. Because as everyone knows, criminalizing abortion will not stop abortion, it will only put many lives at risk in the seeking of those services.

The hashtag #YouKnowMe is trending today, started by Busy Phillips to highlight the fact that even though many people don’t think they know someone who has had an abortion, they likely do, as 1 in 4 women have had the procedure, but many don’t share their stories due to stigma.

So like #ShoutYourAbortion and other similar hashtags before, #YouKnowMe is being used by women unapologetically sharing the stories of their abortions. And while every story is worthy of being shared, it’s important to note that the hashtag is heavily dominated by stories of rape, birth control failures, and potentially fatal pregnancy complications.

Again, those stories are nothing but valid, and it’s so brave of people to share them. But we also have to remember that we don’t have to prove ourselves or justify our choices to anyone. Access to safe and legal abortion is a constitutional right, and if there is any moral decision to be made in relation to abortion, it is between the person seeking that abortion and their medical professional.

This #YouKnowMe story is just as valid as any other:

There are too many responses in that hashtag feed, declaring a line between women who “deserve” abortions and those who don’t. But let’s be clear, no one gets to decide whether a person’s reason for seeking an abortion is valid except for that person themselves. Not a senator and sure as hell not some Twitter rando.

(image: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.