In this week's installment of "maybe male-dominated legislatures aren't the best judges of what a woman should have to do with her body," the Oklahoma state legislature is contemplating passing a law that would force women to get their sexual partner's permission before having an abortion. In laymen's terms, this means men would get to approve or reject all abortions in the state of Oklahoma. This bill was written by Justin Humphrey, who made waves when defending the bill earlier this week. The Oklahoma legislature, of which less than one-fifth is made up of women, according to this list of House of Representative members, advanced the bill on Tuesday.
The Intercept reported Monday that Humphrey said in an interview that his intention with the bill was "to let men have a say." "I understand they feel like that is their body," he said of Oklahoma women, "What I call them is, you're a host."
Of all the ridiculous things male politicians have said about abortion policy — looking at you, Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin — saying that women's bodies literally aren't theirs is among the worst I've heard. So, too, is the bizarre idea of women as "hosts," the same word you'd use for an organism being victimized by a parasite. Anti-choice politicians are sometimes criticized for allegedly treating women as mere incubators; Humphrey, in that interview, seems to explicitly endorse that train of thought. The result, of course, is a ridiculous bill that is riddled with implicit sexism and an unwillingness to consider what the reality of abortion looks like to American women.
UPDATE: Oklahoma House Committee on Public Health advanced measure requiring “father’s consent” before women can obtain safe, legal abortion— CenterforReproRights (@ReproRights) February 14, 2017
The concept of men forcing women to give birth sounds like something out of The Handmaid's Tale, a dystopian novel where women are treated as the "hosts." Humphrey, apparently, already believes they are.
The anti-choice movement is by no means exclusively male, of course, but state reproductive bills like these underscore the problem of having majority-male legislatures create bills about women's health.
If men can force women to carry fetuses to term, for example, shouldn't they be forced to pay for the attendant costs? And if women are just "hosts," why should they be required to foot the bill for it?
In wondering why men are left out of decisions about abortion, Humphrey has unwittingly answered his own question
I'm not talking about child support, either: pregnancy-related healthcare is extremely expensive: prenatal care can cost upwards of $2,000; and birthing costs between $9,800 and $15,800, according to WebMD. Would judges require a prenatal paternity test to determine whether the man in question was actually the father of the child? Will the father be required to take time off of work (unpaid, of course, since paid parental leave is not a reality in the United States) in order to care for the infant child? None of these questions are implicitly addressed by Humphrey's proposal.
Ultimately, the haphazard, foolish bill makes it abundantly clear that Humphrey, in his rush to re-identify women as mere vessels for reproduction, has completely failed to think about the logical consequences of his ridiculous proposition or about the lived experience of either abortion or childbirth for millions of American women. In wondering why men are left out of decisions about abortion, Humphrey has unwittingly answered his own question..