Ohio’s Bill Isn’t An Anomaly—Anti-Choice Politicians Have Always Wanted to Punish Women
Welcome to The Week in Reproductive Justice, a weekly recap of all news related to the hot-button issue of what lawmakers are allowing women to do with their bodies!
In the latest episode of “pro-life” politicians’ hypocrisy, Ohio Republicans are now considering a bill that would make criminalize abortion, which would make receiving or providing the procedure punishable by prison sentences or the death penalty. House Bill 565, which has passed in the Ohio state House, would classify fetuses as “unborn humans,” and abortion as their murder, all while allowing no exceptions for incest, rape, or danger to the pregnant woman’s life.
The bill is obviously jarring in its severity, but unfortunately, it’s hardly an anomaly. Punishing women and abortion providers—and certainly, punishing them with the threat of the death penalty—is hardly a rarity. In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump suggested there must be “some form of punishment” for women who have abortions, while former Idaho state Senator Bob Nonini publicly and proudly called for women who have abortions to be hanged earlier this year.
This ideology of violence and punishing women who seek essential reproductive health care has also been validated by the mainstream, with prominent conservative columnist Kevin Williamson calling for the death penalty, by hanging, of women who have abortions, earning a brief stint at The Atlantic, before going on to write for other major publications.
Anti-choice politicians have never been able to answer the question of what, if abortion is murder, the quarter of all women who have abortions should face as a consequence. While it’s unclear where, exactly, each anti-choice individual stands in their beliefs, there has to be some level of cognizance that a fetus is not a human being in the same way that born, living people are, and rejection of abortion rights is about social control and punishment, rather than saving lives.
Ohio HB 565 is not an anomaly. Reproductive coercion is inherently violent, which is why the suggestion that women who have abortions should be killed is not anywhere near as out-of-left-field as it may initially sound. In consideration of the anti-choice movement’s role in mounting maternal death rates and violence against clinics, it should also be clear that the “pro-life” movement is anything but.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who signed into law a bill banning abortion at 20 weeks, has made it clear he will reject HB 565, just as he rejected a similar bill that passed Ohio’s state legislature in 2016. Even if he did not, similar bills have gone straight to the courts due to their blatant violation of the precedent of Roe v. Wade, but HB 565 is frightening nonetheless in the message it affirms, and the violence that it legitimizes.
We’re thankful for Planned Parenthood and women’s health care clinics
Planned Parenthood had a simple request for its supporters this Thanksgiving week: send thank you notes to its health care center staff for the life-saving support that they provide to their millions of patients. Even though Thanksgiving has come and gone, the quick form is still live and is certainly worth completing, considering how frankly thankless the work of women’s health care providers is.
The past two years have seen a frightening uptick in violence and threats directed at abortion and reproductive health clinics, despite how media has selectively focused instead on protesters who confront Republican politicians. On the state and federal level, Planned Parenthood clinics across the country are consistently threatened with defunding. Clinics offer profoundly important, life-saving, and empowering resources, education, and services, often to the most vulnerable and marginalized patients, and in the most hostile environments.
We owe them our thanks, which we can express (at the very least) via thank you notes, or by inquiring about their volunteering needs during the holiday season, or asking friends and loved ones to consider making donations to Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics, in lieu of gifts.
In either case, if there were any doubt about the terror reproductive health clinics and their staffs are subjected to, recent legislation in states like Ohio and Mississippi should make this reality perfectly clear.
Judge stands up for women in ruling against an anti-choice Mississippi law
On Tuesday, a federal judge issued a scathing decision striking a Mississippi law that banned most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed the Gestational Age Act into law in March, offering exceptions only for severe threats to the pregnant person’s health; there were no exceptions even for pregnancies from rape and incest.
In the sharply worded decision, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that the law “unequivocally” infringes on a woman’s 14th Amendment due process rights and defies Supreme Court precedents such as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
But the ruling did not limit itself to constitutional law, as Reeves also offered sharp criticism of the harrowing realities and threats to the health of pregnant women and infants that anti-choice politicians selectively choose to ignore, writing of the anti-choice movement, “Its leaders are proud to challenge Roe but choose not to lift a finger to address the tragedies lurking on the other side of the delivery room, such as high infant and maternal mortality rates.”
Reeves went on to address the starkly misogynist power dynamics of men taking it upon themselves to decide women’s reproductive rights, calling this a “sad irony,” and recalling a quote from the Jane Roe’s lawyer Roe v. Wade: “A pregnancy to a woman is perhaps one of the most determinative aspects of her life.”
“The fact that men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health is a sad irony not lost on the court,” he wrote. “As a man, who cannot get pregnant or seek an abortion, I can only imagine the anxiety and turmoil a woman might experience when she decides whether to terminate her pregnancy through an abortion. Respecting her autonomy demands that this statute be enjoined.”
Reeve’s decision has been widely praised by reproductive justice advocates across the country, and certainly, while he’s right that it really should not be his place to decide women’s reproductive rights as a man, I couldn’t have expressed the ideas put forward in his decision better myself.
Tune in next week to see what lawmakers will try next in their never-ending mission to derail reproductive justice!
(image: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Kylie Cheung writes about feminism and politics, with a focus on reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kylietcheung, or learn more about her writing at www.kyliecheung.tumblr.com.
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