As I promised earlier today, I’m going to write a very important blog post. This blog post is about why men who are, like me, supportive of the right of women to make their own reproductive health care decisions, need to speak up in opposition to extreme anti-abortion legislation that has been advanced in multiple states and effectively criminalizes women.
Just to give y’all one example of how barbaric the political agenda of the anti-abortion movement is in this country, Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp recently signed Georgia HB 481, which is one of the most extreme and barbaric anti-abortion measures ever considered in U.S. history, if not one of the most extreme anti-abortion measures in world history. This is how Slate magazine described HB 481:
The primary purpose of HB 481 is to prohibit doctors from terminating any pregnancy after they can detect “embryonic or fetal cardiac activity,” which typically occurs at six weeks’ gestation. But the bill does far more than that. In one sweeping provision, it declares that “unborn children are a class of living, distinct person” that deserves “full legal recognition.” Thus, Georgia law must “recognize unborn children as natural persons”—not just for the purposes of abortion, but as a legal rule.
But the most startling effect of HB 481 may be its criminalization of women who seek out unlawful abortions or terminate their own pregnancies. An earlier Georgia law imposing criminal penalties for illegal abortions does not apply to women who self-terminate; the new measure, by contrast, conspicuously lacks such a limitation. It can, and would, be used to prosecute women. Misoprostol, a drug that treats stomach ulcers but also induces abortions, is extremely easy to obtain on the internet, and American women routinely use it to self-terminate. It is highly effective in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Anti-abortion advocates generally insist that they do not want to punish women who undergo abortions. But HB 481 does exactly that. Once it takes effect, a woman who self-terminates will have, as a matter of law, killed a human—thereby committing murder. The penalty for that crime in Georgia is life imprisonment or capital punishment.
HB 481 would also have consequences for women who get abortions from doctors or miscarry. A woman who seeks out an illegal abortion from a health care provider would be a party to murder, subject to life in prison. And a woman who miscarries because of her own conduct—say, using drugs while pregnant—would be liable for second-degree murder, punishable by 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment. Prosecutors may interrogate women who miscarry to determine whether they can be held responsible; if they find evidence of culpability, they may charge, detain, and try these women for the death of their fetuses.
Even women who seek lawful abortions out of state may not escape punishment. If a Georgia resident plans to travel elsewhere to obtain an abortion, she may be charged with conspiracy to commit murder, punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment. An individual who helps a woman plan her trip to get an out-of-state abortion, or transports her to the clinic, may also be charged with conspiracy. These individuals, after all, are “conspiring” to end of the life of a “person” with “full legal recognition” under Georgia law.Source
In effect, Georgia HB 481 grants fetuses legal recognition as people, legally regards abortion as murder, criminalizes Georgia women who seek to terminate a pregnancy in Georgia or any other jurisdiction, criminalizes Georgia women who miscarry, and provides a maximum sentence of the death penalty for abortion. While HB 481 is in flagrant violation of current U.S. Supreme Court precedent, including Roe v. Wade, HB 481 was enacted with the intent of convincing the current U.S. Supreme Court, which has a 5-4 ultra-conservative majority, of overturning Roe v. Wade, which would allow HB 481 to go into effect, which would have a far-reaching and destructive legal effect in Georgia. According to Aphra Behn, Georgia HB 481 and comparable measures are completely unprecedented in English-speaking North American legal code:
What is even scarier is that Georgia is not the only state where anti-abortion politicians have proposed downright barbaric anti-abortion legislation. In Alabama, the Alabama Senate delayed a final vote on a bill, similar to, although not completely identical to, Georgia’s HB 481, after the bill was amended to make it even worse than it already was by removing exceptions to the provisions of the legislation for rape and incest. The Alabama bill, as amended, would have the legal effect of criminalizing abortion, even if the woman was impregnated as a result of rape or incest. That is wrong. In Ohio, a Republican member of the Ohio House of Representatives proposed legislation that would legally require embryos that implant themselves in the Fallopian tube or in another part of a woman’s body other than the uterus, which results in an ectopic pregnancy, be reimplanted in the woman’s uterus. That is medically impossible, and it is wrong to legally mandate a medical procedure that is medically impossible.
Let me make several very important points inherently clear:
- Abortion is NOT murder, feticide, or infanticide.
- Fetuses are NOT people.
- Life begins at birth.
- Fetuses should NEVER be given the same rights that people enjoy.
- At six weeks pregnant, many women do not realize that they are pregnant.
- Women should ALWAYS have the right to make their own health care decisions, including reproductive health care decisions, such as whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.
- Government should permit and promote good-faith measures designed to reduce the need for abortions, such as ensuring that women have access to birth control, while, at the same time, permitting abortions to be legally obtained by those choosing to have a pregnancy terminated and administered by qualified medical professionals.
Often times, the politicians who support anti-abortion legislation like Georgia’s HB 481 will claim to do so in the name of men. Anti-abortion legislation does not benefit men in any way whatsoever, anti-abortion legislation harms women, and, as a pro-choice man, I find it downright offensive when an anti-abortion politician claims to support anti-abortion policies in the name of men. I am not a physician or a lawyer, but I will NOT stand for politicians supporting anti-abortion legislation in my name or in the name of men, and I believe it is vital that pro-choice men stand with pro-choice women in opposition to disgusting legislation like Georgia’s HB 481 and fully supporting the right of women to make their own reproductive health care decisions.