This week, Ohio legislators passed the controversial “heartbeat bill”, so called because it would ban abortion once a heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around the six-week mark – before many women have even realised that they’re pregnant.
The bill has been defeated twice before but, with anti-abortion politicians and campaigners emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, pro-choice groups worry that it could become law this time. Anything – even something that would see teenage victims of rape and incest forced to carry and deliver babies – seems possible now.
National Public Radio reports: “Before now, even Ohio Right to Life had warned a six-week ban would surely be found unconstitutional. But supporters in the Statehouse said that may change once President Trump appoints new justices to the Supreme Court. Trump has said he'll appoint people who oppose abortion.”
Jo Ingles, reporting for Ohio Public Radio, said that the debate about the bill was emotional, as many lawmakers shared their experiences of abortion and miscarriage. Republican Rep Jim Buchy stood firm though, arguing that the bill would encourage “personal responsibility”: “What we have here is really the need to give people the incentive to be more responsible, so we reduce unwanted pregnancies, and, by the way, the vast majority of abortions are performed on women who were not raped.”
It’s a strikingly cruel statement, a viewpoint that imagines each life is to be lived so as to provide a sort of skewed morality lesson; a viewpoint clearly coming from the perspective of someone who hasn’t peed on a stick, terrified, because they have no way of dealing with – emotionally, practically, financially – two lines on a pregnancy test.
And, if you were in any doubt that Jim Buchy doesn’t have a clue what he's talking about, there is video evidence that proves it. Talking to Al Jazeera, when anti-abortion politicians were trying to push through the “heartbeat bill” in 2012, Buchy admitted that he had never thought about why a woman would need an abortion.
The reporter asks a straightforward question: “What do you think makes a woman want to have an abortion?”
And Buchy is flummoxed. He pauses for a while, before saying: “Well, there’s probably a lot of reas–… I’m not a woman.” He chuckles heartily, before continuing: “I’m thinking now if I’m a woman why would I want to get… Some of it has to do with economics. A lot of it has to do with economics. I don’t know. It’s a question I’ve never even thought about.”
It’s extraordinary to watch – this man who vehemently opposes abortion admitting that he’s never even really thought about why women need the procedure. He’s never even listened to a woman for long enough to consider why she thinks it’s necessary that free and safe and legal abortion is available beyond the six-week mark.
The newly invigorated fight against abortion rights feels wholly disconnected with conversations about the reality of abortion
To realise that, in the intervening four years, he has done nothing to further his knowledge about why women seek abortions is depressingly predictable and it feels heartbreaking to acknowledge that, given Trump’s win, his position has only been emboldened.
Because, actually, the newly invigorated fight against abortion rights feels wholly disconnected with conversations about the reality of abortion. Instead, it is simply part of the anti-women, anti-feminist agenda espoused by the populist and so-called alt-right movements. As Rebecca Schiller wrote for The Pool this week: “There’s little mainstream appetite for the reality of abortion but, somehow, men talking theoretically about something they have little understanding of are now being given a higher-profile platform courtesy of the global far-right tsunami.” And it’s not just in America – Paul Nuttall, who became leader of UKIP last week, has likened women who have abortions to serial killers.
It’s bizarre how the ideology surrounding abortion has become so separate to the practicalities of the situation but, when you consider how we speak about contraception and abortion, it easy to see how it’s happened. Clicking on the women’s pages of newspapers and websites, I see articles about contraception frequently – it seemed even when the male pill made headlines earlier this year, it was often covered from a women’s interest perspective. Because women are the ones who have the babies, it seems that so often they are the ones who have the practical conversations about how not to have babies. But, as abortion rights become a plaything for politicians like Donald Trump and Paul Nuttall, it has never been more important to let them know how it all works.
When, this week, the governor of Texas passed a rule ordering that women cremate or bury their aborted foetuses, women inundated him with used tampons, so he could check the fertilised status of them. It’s a neat tactic that shows up the complete absurdity of the rule. In Ireland, where abortion is illegal under almost every circumstance, women tweeted the prime minster, Enda Kenny, with their periods to support the #repealthe8th movement.
These actions are brilliantly attention-grabbing but, more than that, they actually show these men – puffed up on ideology, but hopelessly clueless – some of the reality of conception, contraception and abortion.
“I’m not a woman,” Jim Buchy laughs in that video. Well, we are going to have to show him how it works.