The week of April 8, two bills in Texas and Ohio regulating abortion reached their respective state senate and house. Ohio Senate Bill 23, named the “Human Rights Protection Act,” passed April 10 with 18 “yeas” and 13 “nays.” Texas House Bill 896 was left pending in committee April 9 after public hearings and testimony that began back in January. Both bills are direct attacks on the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which allows women the right to an abortion without state or federal interference. The case decision was historic for the women’s rights movement but has since been the subject of vicious bipartisan discourse, mostly from men who will never personally experience pregnancy.
Texas HB 896 is an amendment on the state’s family and penal code, reconfiguring the rights granted to children to now include unborn fetuses. State penal code Title 5, Chapter 19 has also been rewritten to no longer exclude abortions performed safely by physicians from criminal homicide charges, categorizing it as capital murder or negligent manslaughter. With these changes, women could be subjected to the death penalty or a life sentence without parole just for getting an abortion. The bill, spearheaded by a man and supported mostly by men, also has no exceptions for cases that include rape or incest. HB 896 did not pass after committee, but its appearance itself is a threat to women’s health.
Ohio SB 23 outlaws abortion as early as five weeks into pregnancy. In this scenario, a woman’s period would only be days late, and she would not even know she’s pregnant. The state would strip a woman of her rights before she can consider her options for confronting an unplanned pregnancy. Similar to Texas HB 896, this bill has no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
The idea that men have written bills about women’s bodies, something they have no personal understanding of, is ignorant to the highest degree. Men will never entirely understand the aspects of pregnancy scares that women go through and they will only ever be able to experience pregnancy and birth secondhand. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Texas State Rep. Tony Tinderholt both authors and the faces of these bills, don’t have the female perspective needed for laws that are so intimately tied to women’s health. For Ohio SB 23, 15 out of the 18 “yeas” for the final vote were men and 40 of the 46 bill sponsors were men. Texas HB 896 is no different, five out of the six the bill sponsors are men. Policies that strictly monitor women’s bodies and women’s health choices shouldn’t come from lawmakers who can’t understand these processes themselves.
Personally, women’s health issues became a bigger part of my life once I got to college. Multiple times in these past two years have my friends have talked to me about their struggles with birth control symptoms and how they themselves have gone through pregnancy scares. Birth control and pregnancy scares are tough for everyone, but it’s a much more personal situation for women considering the biological and physical changes pregnancy brings. Getting pregnant unexpectedly, though shocking for both parties involved, is a much bigger disruption on the woman’s social life, often forcing them out of school and certain professions. Both men and women are part of the process, but it’s definitely not an evenly split process. Women truly understand their own bodies and therefore should be the ones to make choices for their health, not the state or federal government.
Aside from this lack of respect for women’s choice, these bills only further the culture of victim blaming. Both bills explicitly deny women who are victims of rape or incest the right to an abortion, prolonging their trauma and burdening them with the responsibility of carrying their rapist’s child. Women who are raped never invited the sexual encounter by its very nature, and therefore certainly did not invite unplanned pregnancy that may come with it.
In an interview with the Texas Observer from 2017 when drafting of this bill began, Rep. Tony Tinderholt advocated for his stance on not protecting the rights of those women who have been raped.
“I don’t think that there should be any exceptions to murder, no matter what. So, if this child was out of the womb, and it was a child that was born out of rape or incest, no one would be OK with killing a child. I look at it like that child is a child in the womb, just like it’s out,” he said.
Someone who has no concept of the trauma associated with being a female rape victim and who will never be put in the position of being pregnant with a child that is a product of rape believes he should have a say in what women should do during possibly the most devastating period of her life. He is forcing women to live with the aftermath of something that was not and will never be their fault, while the rapist walks with no strings attached. According to data from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, for every 1,000 rapes committed, 995 perpetrators will walk free and only 46 reports of those 1,000 cases will lead to arrest. Often, the only control women have in rape cases is the right to terminate a pregnancy that might come with it.
Tinderholt also believes that women use abortion as a throwaway back-up option to have unprotected sex.
“They don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘oh, I can just go get an abortion,’” he said in the same Observer interview.
To think that women treat abortion like taking an Advil or a daily multi-vitamin further demonstrates the profound ignorance to what women go through. Abortion is a surgical procedure that can be physically and mentally scarring , sometimes resulting in infection, uterine complications and adverse mental health obstacles. All of this comes after confronting the emotional whirlwind of finding out they are pregnant and stressing about what the next step should be.
Men who have no understanding of what going through biological pregnancy is like should reconsider imposing destructive regulations or judgment on women who have no choice but to face these issues .