by Jessica Valenti, posted to Medium, May 15, 2019
Last night, the Alabama Senate voted to make abortion illegal from the moment of conception, punishable by 99 years in prison, with no exceptions for rape or incest. It will be the most extreme anti-abortion law in the nation, voted into effect by men who had trouble articulating the most basic facts about women’s biology, conception, or even how the law itself would function.
When Senator Clyde Chambliss, a Republican, for example, was asked if the law would allow for incest victims to obtain abortions, he responded: “Yes, until she knows she’s pregnant.”
He did not elaborate on how someone would have an abortion before she knows she’s pregnant, outside of claiming, “It takes time for all the chromosomes to come together.”
Women’s bodies, lives, and futures are quite literally in the hands of men who seemingly couldn’t pass a high school health class. That’s part of what’s so hard about watching these debates: It’s not just that women’s rights and autonomy are being legislated away, but that it’s being done by complete morons.
This lack of remedial understanding of women’s bodies is not limited to Alabama. Representative John Becker of Ohio, a Republican, for example, sponsored a bill to limit insurance coverage for abortions, but claimed that it would have an exception for ectopic pregnancies, when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. “That treatment would be removing the embryo from the fallopian tube and reinserting it in the uterus,” he said, explaining a procedure that doesn’t exist and isn’t medically possible.
The politicians passing these arcane laws seem to have zero understanding of how the implementation of their legislation will impact real-life women.
There is also Texas state Representative Dan Flynn, a Republican, who believes abortion requires cutting into a woman’s uterus, or Vito Barbieri, the Idaho state Representative, a Republican, who thought you could give a woman a remote gynecological exam by having her swallow a tiny camera. And who among us can forget former Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, who once claimed that women can’t get pregnant if they’ve been raped because “the female body has ways to shut the whole thing down.” (Akin was not the only Republican congressman who believed this: In 1995, North Carolina’s former state Representative Henry Aldridge, claimed that when women are raped, “the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work, and they don’t get pregnant.”)
We cannot ask women to follow laws written by men who believe our bodies work like a game of Marble Run.
It’s not just that their science is so woefully wrong. The politicians passing these arcane laws seem to have zero understanding of how the implementation of their legislation will impact real-life women.
When asked how the state would treat women who have had miscarriages — how would they be able to prove they didn’t end the pregnancy? — Chambliss, the Alabama Senator, responded that the burden of proof would be on the prosecution. Does that mean that all miscarriages will be investigated? (If you think that’s out of the realm of possibility, consider that a Virginia lawmaker once tried to pass a bill that would require women to report their miscarriages to the police within 24 hours.)
Sometimes, though, lawmakers’ absolute ignorance over the laws they are passing provides necessary ammunition to American women. When Alabama Senator Bobby Singleton, a Democrat, pointed out that Alabama’s new law could punish those who dispose of fertilized eggs at an IVF clinic, Chambliss responded, “The egg in the lab doesn’t apply. It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.”
So much for “life begins at conception.” Chambliss proved what feminists have been saying all along — this isn’t about protecting fertilized eggs. It never has been. These laws are about men controlling women’s bodies. Even if they don’t know the first thing about how they work.
Jessica Valenti: A weekly column on feminism, politics, and culture from the New York Times best-selling author.