This week in the US, the Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp (a man who wrote a letter of endorsement for Brett Kavanaugh, just saying) signed off a new law, HB 481, more commonly known as the Heartbeat Bill. The new law bans abortions from as soon as a heartbeat can be detected, about six weeks in. The current law is twenty four weeks, so this brings it forward by roughly four months. That’s a huge difference.
This new law criminalises abortions after six weeks so anyone who terminates a pregnancy after this could face a murder charge (I’m just putting this out there, convicted criminals aren’t allowed to vote, we’re living out our own dystopian novel, right here). Women who miscarry could also face investigation. It’s worth noting that 10-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Do we really want a woman who has miscarried to go through that at a time when she is already feeling devastated and empty and guilty?
But let’s look at this six week thing.
Most women don’t know they’re pregnant at six weeks. Because it’s impossible to pinpoint when conception actually happens, the medical definition of pregnancy is measured from the date of your last period. This is assuming that a woman’s cycle is four weeks. We all know that women’s bodies don’t really work like that, but let’s say it is four weeks, this means that the first day you miss your period you are already four weeks pregnant. This leaves you with just two weeks.
Six weeks is when a heartbeat can be detected, but this suggests a fully formed heart in a fully formed person. This ‘heartbeat’ is the pulsing of the tissues that will go on to form the heart and there’s a lot of discussion around whether or not this can be called a heartbeat. The language surrounding this is confusing and often emotionally charged.
This new law recognises a six week fetus as a living person, a person with more rights than its mother. This taps into the long-held belief that women aren’t to be trusted, particularly when it comes to their own bodies. Periods are thought of as distasteful and something we should hide away, walking across the office with a tampon stuffed up your sleeve so as not to alert anyone to the fact that you are bleeding, you dirty cow. And as for pregnant women, their bodies become public property as they are far too emotionally unstable to be trusted to make their own decisions. They are shamed for what they eat and drink (and the rules change constantly) in case they damage their baby, they are not allowed to get too upset, in case they damage their baby. The emphasis is on the things that the woman can do to damage her baby, never mind that their bodies are bombarded on a daily basis by environmental toxins and domestic abuse against women increases during pregnancy.
Now this law will face legal challenges in the months ahead, but the fact that it’s got this far is really worrying. What’s the next thing? If women who don’t even know they’re pregnant can be convicted of murder, what about women who use contraception? And presumably men who use condoms can be convicted too? And what about men who masturbate? Aren’t they wasting the beginnings of human life? Because mate, if that’s the case we’re going to need a bigger prison….
There has, understandably, been a lot of outrage about this law and people want to do something, which is great. But what’s the right way to protest?
A lot of actors and production companies are refusing to work in the state until this law is overturned; Georgia offers tax benefits to attract film and TV companies and lots of films and TV series are filmed there. But this also brings employment to the area and is a huge part of the economy so while a boycott is admirable, in the short term the wrong people will be affected.
Some women have also suggested a sex ban, saying that women should withhold sex until this law has been overturned, and this makes me cross. I know, me cross, imagine that. I’m as surprised as you are but hey, what can I do.
A sex ban suggests that sex is something that women do for men, that withholding it is something in our power that would hurt men and not us.
This idea is something we’ve been fighting against for a long time because, here’s the thing. Brace yourselves and please look away if you’re of a delicate disposition:
Women like sex.
There, I said it.
This idea that women only have sex to keep men happy is outdated, damaging and insulting. Women’s bodies are designed to like it, we actually have a body part that is designed purely for pleasure, why wouldn’t we like it, are you mad??
And not all women like sex but here’s another newsflash, not all men do either, and it is not just women who withhold it. Withholding anything in a relationship, whether it’s sex or affection or freedom, or anything that makes the other person feel just a little bit rubbish, is hugely damaging and happens all the time in so-called ‘normal’ relationships. This is not something we should be encouraging. And who are we hurting by withholding it? Mostly ourselves, but also, unless our partners are the kind of men who want to exert their power over our bodies and our reproductive rights (in which case you have far bigger problems) then again, we are hurting the wrong people.
If this doesn’t scare you, why not?
Also, on a lighter note, if you didn’t read the title of this blog post and immediately start singing Ollie Murs, complete with the Rizzle Kicks rap, I don’t want to know you.