It’s been an explosively successful year for anti-choice legislators, lobbyists, and supporters. It seems every day there’s news of a new abortion (or birth control) restriction being introduced or passed in some state legislature, each story containing painfully ignorant quotations from the legislator who authored the bill. Here are five ways that recently introduced and enacted GOP policies have nothing to do with life, and everything to do with rape culture.
- Most anti-choice activists, lobbying groups, and politicians don’t support exceptions for rape and incest. That means that anyone who happens to be impregnated by the same person who rapes them is out of luck – or rights, more accurately – when it comes to reclaiming their body should they want to do that through not having to carry their pregnancy to term. According to some politicians, bills that exist without rape exceptions need to remain draconian in order to weed out the liars from the truly assaulted. This unfounded claim that victims of rape and incest are likely to lie – as well as the creation of a hierarchy of victims – sure looks like rape culture. But give Indiana Republican Eric Turner a break – he was trying to be careful to not “disparage in any way someone who has gone through the experience of a rape or incest”. He was just voting in favor of a bill that strips them of their right to bodily autonomy. At least he was nice about it!
- The GOP is dehumanizing an entire class of people in the same way rapists do. If there’s one thing anti-choicers are ironically good at, it’s completely dehumanizing a particular class of people – folks capable of becoming pregnant. You might recall the recent comparison of women to livestock, as made by Georgia Republican Terry England – livestock farmer?, legislator, and human rights aficionado – during a debate on a bill that would have restricted abortion access in the state to before 20 weeks gestation. It really breaks Mr. England’s heart to see baby cows and pigs not make it. So why can’t we legislate that human livestock be forced to use their bodies against their will to make sure all human babies make it? This type of comparison is literal dehumanization, and as most folks know, it’s much easier to commit human rights abuses on folks when they’re not considered human. For further examples, Rush Limbaugh’s recent foray into the world of calling young women “sluts” for wanting birth control.
- Anti-choice politicians are completely unconcerned with consent.What’s interesting about anti-choice politicians is that, as much as they like to think of pregnant folks as piggies on the farm about to pop with a new profitable litter, they still like to paint themselves as ultra-concerned with informed consent. This claim is made – ironically – as they continue to push through forced-ultrasound, mandatory waiting periods for obtaining a legal abortion, and fetal pain bills. Apparently, the only consent that matters is that which these (predominantly male and white) legislators deem important.
The basis for these bills aimed at providing “informed consent” to women seeking abortions is not scientifically informed itself. Take, for example, the fetal pain bill fad that’s these wily kids are trying to bring into vogue this season. These bills are passed on the basis that a fetus is capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks, even though medical experts have repeatedly proven that to be false. It seems that the strategy for fetal pain legislation includes the “lying for the Lord” tactic that the religious right has become so fond of.
And speaking of informed consent, where do Republicans stand on allowing doctors to lie to pregnant women about birth defects and genetic disorders their fetus may have? They’re perfectly fine with that – as long as it’s all in the name of preventing abortions.
Transvaginal ultrasounds are another anti-choice flavor of the month. Virginia’s controversial law requires these ultrasounds before any pregnant person can obtain an abortion. Several other states require other forms of ultrasounds before getting an abortion, and Texas has implemented the transvaginal ultrasound requirement for 45 days now. These unnecessary procedures are performed regardless of whether the person in question is a victim of rape or incest. They are another invasion of the patient’s body, and if the patient looks away, they must still be subjected to the spoken description of the fetus whether they want to be or not. All of these attacks are a blatant disrespect for the concept of consent – outrageously under the very guise of “informed consent”!
- Shame and misinformation is central in the GOP’s discussion of sex.Another favorite facet of the anti-choice movement is the spectacular failure that is abstinence-only education. The basis of abstinence only sex ed is that there are zero choices regarding sexuality outside of “NO” and “BABIES”. Incredibly, the same people who are so adamant about saying “no” don’t seem to understand – or perhaps care – that there are other people out there who simply won’t take that response for an answer. Sharing lollipops as a means of demonstrating that people (with an emphasis on girls) who have sex before marriage are used up and covered in spit is also no way of training young people on assertiveness and sexual negotiation.
Not only does abstinence-only education completely erase and forget about people who become pregnant as a result of rape, but they don’t even shed any light on sexual assault as a thing that exists in the real world, or something that can possibly be assuaged by clear, concise, and assertive sexual communication. Essentially, they are helping to create a culture of sexual ignorance – something that is a huge contributor to rape culture. If a person is never taught about sex, consent, and communication beyond “no” or “yes”, they are more likely to commit sexual assault.
- The GOP has no regard for bodily autonomy. Forcing someone to carry a pregnancy against their will is a violation of their right to exist as a self-contained and self-realized entity. It is literally forced organ donation. In the same way that a rapist uses their victim’s body for their own ends, so does the state when it seeks to restrict access to legal abortions. The GOP has an agenda that includes all pregnancies being carried to term. They have devoted the last two years to exert force to achieve that end. When the state can use and violate the bodies of its citizens at will, is there even a question that the legislators in favor of such laws are perpetuating rape culture? Restricting abortion devalues the agency of the pregnancy-capable person and thus fosters a culture in which personal agency is devalued on a macro and micro level.
Unfortunately, rape culture is pervasive and multi-faceted. It can be difficult to tackle all of the aspects of it as a means of eradicating rape and other forms of sexual abuse. However, an easy and instantly beneficial way is to curb the anti-choice enthusiasm that’s been bursting onto the political scene ever since Republicans got voted into office on the promise of job creation. The fight for reproductive rights is not just about abortion and access to it. This is about what our culture is going to look like, what is going to be permissible within it, and how it is going to be structured. As long as attacks on reproductive freedom are a major tenet of the Republican platform, every Republican in office is an emblem of the negative effects anti-choice policies and rhetoric wreak on both US culture at large, and for the individuals made victim to it.