A bill requiring written permission from male sex partners for abortions was introduced in Oklahoma, shaded in red on the map. / Photo courtesy (cc) 2011 Wikimedia Commons
In the first month of the new year, U.S. state legislators introduced 167 anti-abortion bills—71 percent of which were sponsored by white Republican men. Considering the large volume of bills proposed by men seeking to control women and their bodies, there were bound to be plenty of bills laden with implicit misogyny. But it seems that Justin Humphrey, a member of the Oklahoma state House of Representatives, may take the cake for the most overt sexist and twisted ideals.
Humphrey had the audacity to introduce a bill stating that women should be required to receive written permission from their male sex partner before having an abortion, later calling women “hosts” who have proven they’re “irresponsible” by getting pregnant.
The bill, H.B. 1441, explicitly states: “No abortion shall be performed in this state without the written informed consent of the father of the fetus.” If the man denies being the father, he can demand a paternity test from the women. The bill wouldn’t apply to pregnancies conceived as a result of rape or incest, or if doctors conclude continuing with the pregnancy would be life-threatening for the woman.
H.B. 1441 is horrifying on its own, reducing women to young girls who must receive written permission from men in order to make the choice of whether they want to be mothers. The bill, which is less than two pages long, also fails to outline what would happen if, say, the man refuses to permit the woman to have an abortion. Would the woman be forced to carry the fetus to full-term, birth it—and then what, exactly? Is the woman who didn’t want this child and the man who denied her of her bodily autonomy now going to be one big happy family raising this child together? Or does the woman have to receive permission again from the man to give her baby up for adoption?
Even considering all its flaws, the bill was nowhere near as unbelievable as what came next: Humphrey’s interview with The Intercept, in which he tried to justify his bill by saying that men being excluded from pregnancy decisions is “one of the breakdowns in our society.”
“I understand that they feel like that is their body,” Humphrey said of women. “I feel like it is a separate—what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant…So that’s where I’m at. I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”
Let’s make two things clear: one, women are not ‘hosts’ once they become pregnant and, two, pregnancy is not a punishment for sex.
Women are fully functioning, capable human beings. They do not feel that that is their body, it really is their body. Just because a woman is in a relationship (or not) and becomes unexpectedly pregnant, that does not mean she was irresponsible. It does not mean she has suddenly willingly sacrificed her humanity— or”invited that in”—and now adopted a status as a living incubator.
Here lies the problem with many anti-abortion bills that Humphrey made abundantly clear: some of the (mostly white Republican male) lawmakers crafting the bills truly do not see women as human beings.
Photo courtesy (cc) 2011 Wikimedia commons