Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ohio state Rep.: You poke it, you bought it

Hey, remember Highlights for Kids -- the magazine in the dentist's office that had the short stories and games in it? Well, sometimes I miss it, so here's a fun exercise: Can you find all the ways in which this attempt at legislation BLOWS? Draw a circle around each instance of misogyny. Draw an "X" through anything whose consequences are not well thought-out. Cut out any parts which seem just plain ignorant, and smear boogers on them. The dental hygienist will see you now!

A bill was introduced by a western Ohio lawmaker last week that would create a requirement to obtain paternal consent before an abortion may be performed in the state of Ohio.
That's PATERNAL, as in the "father" of the embryo or fetus. This country already has a few dozen "parental consent" laws, in which a pregnant minor must get her parent's (or parents') permission for an abortion (see Sparky's latest post), but laws requiring an adult woman to get permission for reproductive decisions have already been struck down as unconstitutional.

Well, encouraging communication about reproductive decisions, that's all well and good, but you can't enforce something like that...Can you?
[House Bill 252] would state that no person should induce or perform an abortion on a pregnant woman without the written informed consent of the fetus' father.

Providing a false biological father would be a first-degree misdemeanor the first time, which means not more than six months and jail, and a maximum $1,000 fine," [Rep. John Adams, R-Sidney, who introduced the bill] said. "And on the second occasion, providing false information would be considered a fifth-degree felony."
When asked what a woman wanting an abortion would do if she could not locate the father, or if she did not know who the father was, if the bill were to become law, Adams said, "She would then not be able to have an abortion."

Actually, Rep. John Adams of Sidney, Ohio, has experience with these things. He introduced an almost-identical bill back in 2007! At that time, he was also saying that a woman seeking an abortion would have to provide "a list of possible fathers" who would be DNA-tested for a match. Sadly, at the time he didn't realize that you cannot do DNA testing of a pregnancy before the tenth week of pregnancy at the very earliest (via chorionic villus sampling at 10-12 weeks, or via amniocentesis at 15-20 weeks), that over sixty percent of abortions take place in the first eight weeks of pregnancy (and another thirty percent between eight and twelve weeks), and that CVS and amniocentesis carry a risk of miscarriage (around 1%) and are actually discouraged unless the potential benefits outweigh that risk.

But I guess someone pointed out to Rep. John Adams of Sidney, Ohio, that making a woman who is 7 weeks pregnant wait three more weeks for a CVS -- or making a woman who is 13 weeks pregnant wait until she is 15 weeks for an amniocentesis! -- when everyone knows that the earlier an abortion is performed, the simpler a procedure it is and the shorter the recovery time, might seem counterproductive or perhaps cruel or maybe even like meddling in her medical care. Or maybe someone pointed out that the state would have to contact any number of men for genetic samples -- if one resisted, would the state have to subpoena him? -- and since men are whole human beings with rights and dignity, it would be unacceptable to routinely invade their privacy in such a way. In any case, Rep. John Adams of Sidney, Ohio, seems to have dropped the paternity-test idea for now, and admits the state might in practice have no other option but to actually take women at their word.

But at least the bill's sponsor is mostly honest about his intent:
"There needs to be responsibility for actions," Adams said. "As someone who is pro-life, this is also an attempt and a hope to keep the two people who have created that child together, and I suppose if you just go back to the simple beginning, there is merit to chastity, and to young men and women waiting until marriage."

Adams added that he simply does not believe abortion is an "avenue that we should pursue, and abortions should be rare," and he said HB 252 is one attempt to make sure they occur less frequently.

Adams said he would like to see HB 252 move through the legislature, and "at least open up the debate to keep young people together."
-Wanting to punish sexuality, because it's not fair for young people to have sex before marriage now that I am old: Check!
-Blatantly assuming that men are not up to the charge of respecting their partners' bodily autonomy, and are only "allowing" abortions to take place because current law says it's not their uterus, and that's why this bill is going to help stop abortions: Check!
-Preferring a miserable couple to an unpossessed woman as a matter of policy: Check!

What Rep. John Adams of Sidney, Ohio, is in fact trying to do is transfer legal ownership of the poked uterus from the pokee to the poker. Once I fuck someone, she is my personal babymaking oven, and it makes no sense for an oven to suddenly grow legs and walk itself to the abortion clinic, now does it? Really, I will always find it hilarious that when a woman's ovum and a man's spermatozoon, and the woman's uterus and the woman's blood and the woman's food and the woman's oxygen, come together to create a zygote>embryo>fetus, the man wants a 50% share (or more!) in all related decision-making. That's not how it works, buddy. You get out of it what you put in, and if all you put in was your penis then it sounds to me like you're trying to have your cake and eat it too. Oh god, mixed metaphors, ice-cream headache.

On a more serious note, check out the concerned representative of the people, defender of the little guy, standing alongside Rep. John Adams:
Rep. Seth Morgan, R-Huber Heights, a co-sponsor of HB 252, said there are a "good number of fathers" who are left out of the decision-making process that leads to abortion. "I have heard a good number of horror stories when the father is left out of the process," Morgan said.
You want horror stories, Rep. Seth Morgan of Huber Heights? I'll give you a good number of fucking horror stories. Here's one from a friend of mine: "This reminds me of a woman [from Ohio, coincidentally] I talked to, who was going to have her abortion here, but she was in a domestic violence situation and it got really bad, so she finally packed a bag and took off and ended up with her cousin in Massachusetts. So she missed her appointment. Like these fucking assholes, who abuse women to the point where they have to run away, should make them have their kids." Should that woman have to go back to her abuser to ask his permission for an abortion?

And recently I worked with a woman in a very similar situation, except this one was in limbo between Florida and Virginia -- her court date for a divorce from her abusive husband was in one state, and the safe haven of her mother's house was in another. She already had two children as a result of his sexual abuse, and she was desperate to have an abortion before he found out about the third pregnancy. Every woman is singular and unique, but these stories are all too common and familiar. There was also the woman whose boyfriend held her prisoner, I'm not even joking, in their home when he realized she was pregnant. Should he have a say in her decision about starting a family with him?

And then there are the women, even girls, whose partners regularly try to sabotage their efforts at contraception: 26% of a small Boston survey, 51% of a large Chicago survey (PDF link). And there's the woman I counseled who was seeking an abortion because her partner was injuring her in the belly and had already caused one of her twin fetuses to miscarry. The truth is, by and large, decent men already are privy to their partners' reproductive decision-making processes, and I'll say on the record that as long as you're in a good relationship, that's ideal. But men who are not decent already use the threat of unwanted pregnancy and childbearing, as well as violence toward born children and wanted fetuses, as tools to control, possess, and terrify women. A bill writing their ownership of women's bodies into law, giving them the legal trump card over women's fates, is only likely to make it worse.

Don't get me wrong: I don't actually think this bill will pass -- it's ludicrous, unconstitutional, and would embarrass the state of Ohio if it did become law and was taken straight to court -- but there's just so much that this guy either has never even thought about or considers acceptable collateral damage in the war of cultural abstractions he's waging. He says promiscuity and irresponsibility are the enemies, and society's moral fabric is the victim; but his battle plan is to arm some sadists and give them the right to own slaves.

Whew! Sorry to get all pessimistic on you there! I'll just cap things off with another brilliant word from our co-sponsor:
I think it is not a bad idea to have a fully informed group making the decision," Morgan said.
Oh yeah? Here is what my partner had to say about that: "There should be an awesome version of that law, that allows fathers to have a say, but only if they participate in a televised game show where you spin a giant Wheel-of-Fortune-style device with a combination of horrible pregnancy mishaps. Like: sterility, losing life savings, the mom gets to leave you with sole custody of the kid and book it. The kind of amendment you could slip into a bill that people wouldn't notice."

And maybe the game show can have an "Ask The Audience" option, where they poll the fully informed group to make the decision:


  1. Yeah, and let's not forget to mention the men who decide and plan to have babies with their wives, yet then, after a few years, kinda decide that...well...maybe fatherhood isn't really a right fit for them afterall and they just aren't sure who they are. Right. Like they should have a say, too. Cuz' guess who gets to be mum + dad? THE MOTHER. Duh.

  2. Hopefully this still leaves some sort of rape clause intact; what happens when you can't track down Rapey Raperson for consent? What if he says no? Oh, those crazy rapists. Naughty!

    Also, let's talk about how antis think that abortions are "irresponsible". What? How can an abortion be irresponsible? What does that even mean? Having an abortion is objectively a responsibility. In fact, anything important matter that ends up on your To Do is a responsibility.

  3. well, there is an "exception" for rape like the kind where you have to report it to the police right after, and presumably (based on my experience with cases of trying to get medicaid to cover abortion after a rape) a detective has to show up at the clinic to collect the tissue for dna testing. awesome. so that basically rules out the vast majority of rapes that aren't reported -- including, for example, the time my committed monogamous then-partner forced me to have sex. imagine trying to take that through the criminal justice system. anyway, i think i would have died if i'd gotten pregnant from it AND THEN had to get his permission for an abortion too. he grew up to be an anti-abortion asshole!

  4. Can I just say that I am having a laugh out loud here due to the absurdity of antis who are primarily pasty men, the brilliance of this crisp post, the sheer abortioneer honesty that follows and anti-anti's brilliant comment, re:rapists saying no.

    No means yes, right?

  5. Ummm wow I love you all. This made me LOL too, Daughter Of Wands.


This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.