Last Thursday, after heated debate on the floor (and in the lobby) of the Georgia House of Representatives, HB 954, a bill already approved by the Senate that seeks to criminalize abortions performed after twenty weeks, was passed and now awaits the signature of Governor Nathan Deal.
The decision to pass what pro-life supporters call “the fetal pain bill” is not unique to Georgia. Alabama, Idaho and even Ohio have introduced bills that set a maximum gestational age at which abortion is legal, alleging that fetuses can feel pain after twenty weeks. This despite scientific evidence that fetuses likely cannot feel pain until about twenty nine weeks into the pregnancy.
The issue with this bill is not just that it limits women’s right to safe, legal abortion services under Roe v. Wade and is based on inaccurate information, but also the context in which it was presented. Because while pro-lifers refer to this HB 954 as the “fetal pain bill,” the term used by the feminist Ms. Magazine and other pro-choice supporters is the “women as livestock bill.”
Why call it this? Because the version of this bill that was passed was actually a compromise. The original version that the House passed did not exempt pregnancies where the fetus was stillborn or had no chance of survival once born, meaning that it would force the woman or female-bodied person to carry a fetus that already died to full term. And when Georgia State Rep. Terry England spoke up in support of the bill, he compared women carrying stillborn fetuses to cows and pigs on a farm, saying, “life gives us many experiences … I’ve had the experience of delivering calves, dead and alive. Delivering pigs, dead or alive … it breaks our hearts to see these animals not make it.”
These inappropriate remarks insult women for a variety of reasons. Comparing women and farm animals is disturbing enough, but the underlying sentiment is just as unnerving. England argues that if livestock have to carry deceased fetuses to term, so should human women. By that logic, should women also sleep in barns, have their milk extracted from them to be sold for profit and have their eggs taken for someone to eat for breakfast? Should women be denied all of the medicine and technology that animals cannot access because those too are unnatural?
Perhaps most disturbing about England’s remarks is the lack of acknowledgement that the psychology of a female human being differs from that of livestock. Pregnancy is difficult enough, and forcing a woman to carry a deceased fetus for up to four months while neglecting her or her doctor’s input, or considering harm to her mental health, is simply inhumane.
The danger of dehumanizing and devaluing women in abortion debates cannot be overstated. This past Sunday, a Planned Parenthood office in Wisconsin was firebombed, an unfortunately common occurrence. According to the National Organization for Women, since 1977 over 59,000 violent acts have taken place at abortion clinics, from vandalism to bombings, death threats and murders.
We cannot lose sight of the women and female-bodied people directly affected by these decisions, which would neglect their autonomy, health and right to make decisions about their bodies. Most of all, we cannot deny their rights and inherent value as human beings.