About a month ago, Georgia Representative Terry England made headlines with his controversial and incredibly offensive comparison of women to livestock. He was arguing in defense of HB 954, known as both the “Fetal Pain” bill and the more accurate “Women are Livestock” bill, would have banned any and all abortions after 20 weeks, requiring women to carry even nonviable fetuses to term. According to England, pigs and cows carry nonviable fetuses, so why shouldn’t women?
It seems as though my brain just refused to accept that this fiasco was occurring, because I wrote off England’s comments and the bill’s existence as yet another misguided attempt by Republicans to prevent women from having autonomy over their own bodies, and assumed (naively, apparently) that the bill, while upsetting, would be killed before it made it to the governor’s desk.
I clearly underestimated the Georgia state legislature. On March 31, the State Senate passed the bill, and all it needs now is the governor’s signature.
Granted, the bill contains a few more compromises than its original incarnation – and by compromises, I mean no, actually it’s pretty much just as awful as it was before, but Republicans are able to pat themselves on the back and sleep well at night (presumably in their creaky, dirt-filled coffins). The original bill banned any and all abortions after 20 weeks, whether or not the fetus was going to survive gestation or even survive outside the womb. Women would have to carry, and give birth to, a fetus that was either dead or going to die. Because cows.
The compromise? Now there are exceptions for “medically futile” pregnancies and fetuses that have “profound and irremediable anomalies that would be incompatible with sustaining life after birth.” Ok, so now a woman doesn’t have to carry a dead baby in her for nine months. How very generous, yes? Oh, except instead, if a woman finds out she needs to have an abortion after 20 weeks, the new law requires that the abortion “be done in a way to bring the fetus out alive.” I know a very basic amount about how abortions work, but I do know that the goal is not to have a live fetus after the fact. This law basically requires a doctor to induce labor so the woman gives birth to a fetus that, depending on the time frame, wouldn’t have survived outside the womb even if it was healthy (according to the British Medical Association, a baby’s lungs haven’t developed enough to give it a chance until 24 weeks).
This is where things get fuzzy for me. From what I understand, bringing the fetus out alive means it would have to be killed…or die on its own…in order to meet the requirements of the law. I guess these Republicans think that is the more humane option. Oh, and if doctors don’t follow these horrifying new rules, they can face up to 10 years in prison.
The other compromises are…oh no wait, that’s it. There are no exceptions for rape, incest, or mental health of the mother. A mentally ill woman could be raped by her father, and have to give birth to her baby. Let that sink in for a moment.
The amount of rage coursing through me right now is pretty hard to control. These people, who are elected as representatives of their population, are very clearly stating that they think the rights of a fetus, one that is so small or malformed that it can’t even survive outside of the womb, is far more important than any woman in the state of Georgia. It doesn’t matter to them that a woman would have to go through the heart-wrenching process of carrying something inside her for months that is inevitably going to die. It doesn’t matter that she may have to actually give birth to a baby that can’t survive. It doesn’t matter that she finds out at 21 weeks that her baby has a devastating illness and she can’t afford to deal with it, but whatever illness it is isn’t deemed “medically futile” enough for legislators to allow her to terminate her pregnancy. None of this matters, because a woman is merely a vessel for this clump of cells, and once she gets pregnant, whether through her consent or not, she has no rights to her body.
According to Dan Becker, president of Georgia Right to Life and contender for most evil person on the planet (he’s tied with Doug McKillip, the author of the bill), this legislation “will save roughly 1,500 lives a year.” Never mind all of the children who will be born with devastating deformities and diseases, and will have to suffer their entire lives. Never mind all of the money that is going to have to be spent taking care of these children. Never mind all of the women who are literally being treated like animals, forced to go through an incredibly emotionally destructive process because a bunch of politicians think they know best.
There is no other way to say it. These politicians hate women. They do not care about women. They think women are no better than animals. I am ashamed to be associated with these people in any way, and I can only hope Governor Nathan Deal can muster up some form of humanity and reject this monstrosity. This piece of legislation makes me sicker than anything we have witnessed so far. We have gone so far backwards in such a short amount of time, and this is now what we are faced with.