Men should not make laws that affect women’s bodies: The racist past of anti-abortion laws

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Men should not be making decisions about women’s bodies. Honestly, that should be the end of the discussion. But, alas, that right has been taken out of the hands of women and put into the hands of this country’s legislative bodies.

Imagine for a moment a woman who’s been raped being forced to carry a baby to full term. Then, imagine a father, already grappling with the helplessness of knowing his daughter has been violated, taking his daughter to get an abortion and having a $10,000 bounty placed on his head.

Picture a married couple struggling to make ends meet and the wife finds out she’s pregnant. They’ve been careful not to conceive, but are now faced with the prospect of bringing a child into the world that they know they can’t afford. Then, picture that husband, after escorting his wife through a throng of anti-abortion fanatics, having to pay $10,000 for their decision.

That’s the fallout of Texas passing this country’s most restrictive abortion bill in history. Senate Bill 8 would ban abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy. It also includes a provision that allows private individuals to file lawsuits enforcing the ban, meaning anyone that assists a woman in getting an abortion is liable. That means a parent, spouse, relative, or even a random stranger could be punished for assisting. Ironically, the bill doesn’t criminalize abortion, it basically just turns every pro-lifer into Dog The Bounty Hunter.

Now, at least six states – North Dakota, South Dakota, Indiana, Florida, Arkansas, and yes, Mississippi – are looking to mirror that same law, even when we’ve actually had equally controversial bills on the books here since 2018. (The “Gestational Age Act” and Fetal Heartbeat Laws).

See, Republicans love to fancy themselves as “God-fearing Christians”, the “religious right”. They claim to be the champions of preserving life and free speech. You know, all of the virtues that this country was supposedly built on. Funny thing is, the same lawmakers who railed at how unconstitutional mask and vaccine mandates, the same crusaders of “personal responsibility” and a smaller, less intrusive government, are the same people who feel comfortable telling women what they can or can’t do with their own bodies. I’ve seen anti-abortionists stand in front of clinics screaming at Black women to “stop the genocide” and, in the same day, comment about “welfare babies” and Black folks living off the government in the comments sections of news articles on social media. So much concern about the unborn child, but so little once those children enter a world that they didn’t ask to enter. No concern when they are going hungry. No concern about their education. No concern about their safety during a pandemic. The hypocrisy is disgusting.

I understand the racist origins of the anti-abortion movement. Because just like slavery, anti-abortionism is rooted in white supremacy. It’s again placing women’s bodies in the service of men. It has never had anything to do with saving women’s lives or protecting children. Even today, a woman is 14 times more likely to die by carrying a pregnancy to term than by having an abortion. So you’ll excuse me if I dismiss lawmakers motives as less than heroic.

It’s important to remember that abortion hasn’t been made “illegal”. It’s the restrictions that make it less accessible to people of color and low-income that make it dangerous. And it’s equally important that we stop leaving out the voices who will be most affected by these bills. This is an issue that should be totally taken out of the hands of legislators. Because, and I can’t stress this enough, men shouldn’t be making decisions that affect women’s bodies.

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Men should not make laws that affect women’s bodies: The racist past of anti-abortion laws

By Brad Franklin
September 17, 2021