Republican lawmakers across the country have waged a long and sustained war on reproductive rights in the past few years, passing bill after bill to further restrict abortion access. But one GOP lawmaker sparked outrage by taking things a step further with his comments this week. Wisconsin Rep. Scott Allen said banning abortion will increase the labor force, basically admitting that he believes it's totally ok to infringe on women's rights as long as there is an economic incentive to do so.
In a speech on the Wisconsin State Assembly floor, Allen said that "we should in no way shape or form should we provide public funding for abortion," and went on to make the argument that abortion is wrong not for moral, but for economic reasons.
“Labor force shortages are tied to population declines," Allen said. "Labor force shortages are a limiting factor in economic growth. And limited economic growth poses a problem when government tries to pay for public services and infrastructure."
Allen made the comments after the Wisconsin State Assembly had just voted in favor of a bill that would stop health insurance companies for state employees from covering abortions, with exceptions in cases of rape and incest, or when a mother's life is at risk.
If Allen's comments sound familiar, it's probably because his thoughts about forcing women to bear children against their will for the economic benefit of society is pretty eerily similar to the plot of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale, which was recently adapted into an Emmy Award-winning mini-series. In it, women are regarded as property of the state, and are kept solely for reproductive purposes to repopulate society following a period of declining birth rates.
Naturally, Twitter was pretty vocal about the similarities.
"Rep Scott Allen thinks The Handmaid’s Tale is an outline around which he can shape our future society via forced births for the labor market," one Twitter user wrote.
"Every day we slouch one step closer to actually living the Handmaid’s Tale," another user wrote in response to the news.
Clearly, Allen's sentiments are disconcerting for many women across the country who seem to continue seeing their reproductive rights chipped away at by predominantly male politicians. But what is most concerning is how unabashedly Allen is willing to admit that growing the labor force is more important than ensuring the rights and dignity of women.
For the record, Wisconsin's current labor force is reportedly at an all-time high.
Even before the latest Wisconsin anti-abortion bill passed in the state assembly (and before Allen's controversial comments), the state's insurance coverage for abortions was less than stellar.
According to the Capital Times, a local paper in Wisconsin, state employees already only receive insurance coverage for abortions for “medically necessary” procedures, though the language currently on record does not clearly stipulate what "medically necessary" means. The latest bill, however, more clearly defines the instances in which abortion coverage will not be paid for by insurers.
"This is really making sure essentially that state taxpayers are not paying for elective abortions, period," Republican representative André Jacque, who helped author the bill, told reporters on the assembly floor.
The Wisconsin anti-abortion bill is just the latest in a series of bills passed or introduced across the country that have aimed to restrict women's reproductive rights. But Allen's comments on the supposed economic significance of these bills adds another chilling layer of urgency to the fight for equal rights as women continue to struggle to access to quality, safe, affordable health care, in a number of states controlled by Republican lawmakers.