GOP Tries to ‘Soften’ 20-Week Abortion Ban by Putting Marsha Blackburn in Charge

Memo to the GOP: Putting a woman in charge of the vote count on a bill that puts women at risk and obliterates their rights to bodily autonomy doesn’t make the bill any more palatable.

The GOP is in a tizzy about its dismal ratings among women, people of color, and young people—otherwise known as the majority of the electorate. But rather than examining why the policies themselves are so deeply problematic and disliked, the party instead tries to paint over them by selecting radicals who “look like” the people whose rights they are determined to gut.

This is exactly what happened last week, when in response to criticism of its dangerous 20-week abortion ban, which passed out of committee by a vote of 20 to 12 (that being 20 male legislators and no female legislators voting in favor), the GOP rushed to place Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in charge of the upcoming floor vote. Blackburn is deeply anti-choice and has used the Kermit Gosnell controversy to argue for defunding Planned Parenthood, although one has nothing to do with the other except that defunding Planned Parenthood would create more business for unscrupulous practitioners.

Is a rose still a rose by any other name Is it still anti-choice if a woman is willing to become the “face” of the bill?

We think yes.

Yes, Abortion Is a Women’s Issue, and Yes, More Male Allies Are Welcome

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Further, sexist assumptions about women’s role in reproduction are at the core of other oppressions women face. Rape culture is intertwined with ideas that men are irresistibly driven to sex, that women are submissive sexual objects to be conquered, that women are either sluts or prudes. Lack of family supports in the workplace, from paid sick days to paid family leave, are tied with exclusionary and outdated middle-class white assumptions that there will be a woman in the home to take care of the family, and discrimination in pay, promotion, and leadership is underpinned by assumptions that men are primary breadwinners. Pretending that social discrimination against women is not linked with sexual discrimination against women, which can therefore be ignored, may feel “less controversial” but it’s not going to get us anywhere.

When men are quoted in the media five times more often than women on the topics of abortion and birth control, we are simply not ready to move abortion into a post-gender framework that declares abortion is “not a women’s issue.” In particular, it seems that society has a great deal of resistance to putting younger women and women of color, not mutually exclusive categories, at the center of reproductive rights conversations.

While we need more men, more LGBTQ people, and more of everyone taking leadership in the reproductive rights movement, those most directly affected by abortion restrictions—younger women and women of color—need more focus, not less. Turn on the television, and it’s not uncommon to see a white man opposing abortion rights and, if a pro-choice woman is included at all, she is often white and past reproductive age.

Within the abortion rights movement, there is some resistance to having the most directly affected lead the message in a way that doesn’t seem to be paralleled in other human rights movements, including LGBTQ movements and civil rights movements. Some take offense when it is suggested that more younger women and women of color should help lead. This is something that I hope men will keep in mind when taking on leadership roles in the movement. It is possible to be a loud ally and also be an ally who works to ensure more young women and women of color are included, and your sisters need the help.

Do we need more men to fight for reproductive and sexual rights on their own terms? Do we welcome more men to fight for abortion as human rights issues, public health issues, and women’s issues? Is it cool if those men want to call themselves “bro-choice”? The answer is an enthusiastic yes.