Protesters at the Supreme Court in March 2020, when the justices were hearing arguments in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo. Photo by Robin Bravender | Arizona Mirror
Gov. Doug Ducey and Republican legislators want you to believe they’re defenders of the preborn. They recently bestowed civil rights to fetuses, while criminalizing doctors who terminate pregnancies based on “genetic abnormalities.”
But what about the millions of preborn babies men toss into the trash or flush down the toilet after masturbating? Don’t those potential lives count, too?
Some of you will think this is a ridiculous line of thinking. Sperm is not human. They cannot continue to grow or develop without a woman’s egg or outside the female body. But the same can be said for fetuses.
Without a woman’s body, a fetus in early stages of development cannot survive. And millions of Americans view this fact as reason enough to classify fetuses as “potential humans” much the same way we classify sperm and eggs.
If Republicans are going to punish women and their doctors for a loss of “potential life,” then they should be punishing men, as well, forcing them to cremate or bury their sperm the same way they’re now forcing women to bury or cremate fetuses and tissues after a miscarriage or abortion.
While we’re at it, let’s also outlaw vasectomies. Give sperm a chance to live! Hell, let’s give them the same civil rights we’re now conferring to fetuses!
Of course, we know this will never happen. Men will not lose bodily autonomy because we live in a patriarchal society where men still have more rights than women, where the Equal Rights Amendment — which was passed by Congress almost 50 years ago — is somehow still too controversial for states to ratify.
We know this legislation, known as SB1457, isn’t about “saving lives,” as Ducey — a man willing to ignore the advice of experts and sacrifice tens of thousands of Arizonans to a deadly pandemic — and other Republicans have claimed.
This is about politics, plain and simple. Specifically, it’s about using a wedge issue to energize one group while harming another.
While Ducey and legislators played pretend doctor, real-life doctors — ones with actual medical degrees — opposed this bill. They expressed valid fears that doctors, under threat of criminal liability, would be afraid of having honest, evidence-based conversations with patients.
The bill could even criminalize women who miscarry. Those who’ve experienced miscarriages took to social media after the bill’s passage to express their frustration with the portion of the bill that forces women to pay for a burial or cremation, noting that some miscarriages are marked by heavy bleeding and there is no tissue or fully formed fetus to bury.
My miscarriage happened over 36 hours and I hemorrhaged all over my house, my car, the ER, the ER bathroom, several exam rooms… I’d love to know how the GOP proposes one to collect fetal remains in this instance in order to avoid jail time? https://t.co/3oTzNA2Ixm
— Sarah Richardson (@AZEdMama) April 28, 2021
And what about religious freedom?
Despite what Republicans would have you believe, there is no religious consensus on when life begins, which was noted by a number of Arizona’s faith leaders who testified and wrote letters in opposition to the bill.
‘SB1427 poses an infringement on my constitutional rights, along with those of anyone whose religious beliefs do not consider personhood to begin at conception,’ Sharfman says. ‘Jewish law is clear that life begins at birth and not prior.’
— Maria Polletta🌵 (@mpolletta) February 4, 2021
During debates on this legislation, Democratic legislators accused Republicans of using the disability community as pawns, pointing out that Republicans refused to pass Democratic bills that would have provided additional services and financial support to individuals with spina bifida and prenatal dental care to low-income women.
Such hypocrisy in passing #SB1457 but failing to help families once children are born. 2019 study shows AZ underfunds Developmental Disability services by $150M/yr in state funds, & turns down add’l $300M in federal matching $. Total underfund in aid to families & kids=$450M https://t.co/ywf54opLpE
— Kelli Butler (@KelliButlerAZ) April 28, 2021
This isn’t the first time Republicans have used this tactic. They successfully funneled tax dollars to private schools through voucher schemes, claiming students with disabilities were being shorted an excellent education in district schools while failing to mention the reason these students were being left behind: because Republicans were underfunding special education programs and services.
I believe this is called duplicity, which is now spelled G-O-P.
Republicans’ anti-abortion zeal isn’t about protecting mothers or because of some strongly held belief in life. If that was true, they’d work to prevent unwanted pregnancies and prioritize living, breathing humans who exist outside the womb as much as they prioritize zygotes.
They do neither because they know the people who will pay heavily (financially and otherwise) for this draconian legislation are poor women. And Republicans have a long and ugly history of undermining poor, single mothers.
Wealthy women, including Republican women, will find a way to access safe abortion care the way they always have, while low- and middle-income women will have fewer rights than the fetuses they are forced to carry to term and will be stuck paying for the burial or cremation of miscarriages that may not even contain formed fetuses.
What’s next for Republicans? Burials for tampons? Reproductive Handmaids?
None of that seems dystopian after the passage of SB1457, which is why it’s so critical this legislation is overturned.
No doubt there will be court challenges to the bill, but perhaps it’s time for additional action. Organizations that espouse women’s reproductive rights should consider a voter referendum to overturn the legislation — or, better yet, an initiative to codify abortion protections.
I believe Arizona women are ready to fight for our bodily autonomy. I know I am.
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