In the past two weeks, a series of troubling laws restricting reproductive rights (opens in new tab) have passed across the country, and the United States is starting to very closely resemble the fictive Gilead from Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale with its intense crackdown on the civil rights of women. Just two days ago, Republicans in Alabama (opens in new tab) passed a harsh law banning abortion (with no exception for rape or incest), criminalizing those who would seek to have an abortion as well as the doctors who choose to perform the procedure—that sentence could be up to 99 years in prison. Yes, you read correctly. 99 years.
Alabama was not the first state to enact the oppressive legislature; early last week, Georgia's Governor Brian Kemp signed into effect a fetal heartbeat bill (opens in new tab) to the raucous applause of Republicans in the state. The HB 481 bill (opens in new tab) makes it illegal to receive an abortion once a heartbeat is detected in the womb, and that happens as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. There are many obvious problems with this bill, one major issue being the fact that the six-week mark is about two weeks after a person’s first missed period and well before one might even realize that they are pregnant. But that's one crucial detail that these politicians, most of whom have never had a period, much less a uterus, could not care less about.
The anti-abortion bill, interestingly referred to as the "Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act," also amends Georgia state laws to redefine the nature of personhood; under the new legislature, the concept of a "natural person" has been expanded to mean "any human being including an unborn child." These fetuses and embryos will therefore be counted in state population based determinations and will be considered, for tax purposes, dependent minors. It's important to note that there is no mention of any policies to ensure a proper standard of living for these dependents once they are born. Nor are there any plans in place to provide government support for mothers coerced to give birth to said dependents under this law beyond the possibility of ordering fathers of the unborn to pay child support.
When Governor Kemp signed the bill into law, collective protests erupted across the country, furious with the outright oppression and unconstitutional hyper-policing of women's bodies. Inside of the courtroom, however, Georgia Republicans could barely contain their excitement over the major legislative development, evening donning "pro-life" hats to commemorate the occasion. One particularly distasteful celebration occurred when State Senator Bruce Thompson was spotted giving State Representative Ed Setzler a fist bump right before the Governor signed the HB 481 bill. A fist bump.
Horrified? Anxious? Pissed off? Totally understandable—these bills are a blatant violation of constitutional rights. But, before you're swallowed up in cloud of apathy, hopelessness, or despondency, you need to know that this fight is far from over. At this very moment, both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood are already hard at work preparing to take legal action (opens in new tab) against these bills. In the meantime, you can read up on the stances of the 2020 presidential election hopefuls (opens in new tab) on reproductive rights to make sure that your vote will be as informed as possible.
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