This Abortion Law Aimed at Men Really Makes You Think
It’s called “the Testicular Bill of Rights.”
Georgia State Representative Dar’shun Kendrick was in a bind. House Bill 481, a ban on abortions at six weeks had just passed the Georgia State House. She had already voted against it and now, it was onto the Senate, where it would likely pass and then be signed into law by the Governor. Georgia was heading toward a near total abortion ban — since many women don’t even know they’re pregnant yet at six weeks — and nothing was halting the conversation. What else could she and her Democratic colleagues do?
The answer: shift the focus back to men.
On Monday morning, she tweeted about a new bill, co-sponsored by a group of Georgia state black female lawmakers including Reps. Park Cannon, Renitta Shannon, Sandra Scott, and Donna McLeod. Labeled the “testicular bill of rights,” this new legislative package would restrict men’s sexual and reproductive choices.
The bill would require men to undergo some outlandish requirements in order to access sexual health services. It would require men to obtain permission from their sex partner before they are able to obtain a prescription for any erectile dysfunction medication. It would ban vasectomy procedures in Georgia, and criminalize the doctors who provide them (all that wasted sperm!). It would make it an “aggravated assault” in the state of Georgia for men to have sex without a condom.
Because HB 481 would ban abortions at six weeks, Kendrick’s bill would then require child support payments to kick in when a woman is six weeks and one day pregnant. Mandated DNA testing on that date would determine fatherhood, so the man could begin paying up. And lastly, it would mandate that any man wait 24 hours before purchasing porn or sex toys in the state of Georgia, lest he rush into anything he doesn't fully understand.
The proposed legislation seems absolutely asinine, a complete intrusion on men’s ability to make decisions about their health and their own bodies. And that’s exactly the point. "You want some regulation of bodies and choice? Done!" Rep. Kendrick tweeted.
The bill takes many common abortion restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, which 27 states have in place, and the proposed criminalization of abortion providers, and inverts them to affect men who seem to have escaped decades of anti-choice legislation unscathed. In the process, Rep. Kendrick has revealed just how ridiculous these kinds of intrusions are on people seeking abortion care.
And in Georgia, there are many. Georgia bans the ACA health exchanges from covering abortion care, and does not allow state Medicaid funding for abortion. If a woman is able to pull together the money to have an abortion, she must wait 24 hours after her initial appointment (so that means potentially missing work and having to arrange childcare on more than one day, sometimes just to be given a pill). Once she's being treated, her doctor is required by law to tell her un-scientific, non-evidence-based information to discourage her from having an abortion. She is not allowed to refuse hearing this information.
With HB 481, the restrictive bill Kendrick’s is in response to, access to safe abortion would only become more difficult in Georgia. It would ban abortions before many women even know they’re pregnant. It would criminalize doctors who provide abortions beyond that point — even in cases of rape and incest, and when the health of the mother or fetus are at risk. It would essentially serve as a complete abortion ban for the state.
The fact that this is unconstitutional — i.e. against the rights protected by Roe v. Wade — is exactly the point of extreme “Fetal heartbeat” bans like this. Roe v. Wade blocks states from restricting abortion before the point of “fetal viability,” when a fetus can survive outside of the womb, which is usually around 24 to 28 weeks. A six-week ban is put in place by lawmakers who know it will be challenged, potentially even brough to the Supreme Court, which ultimately gets to decide what is constitutional or not. That’s why a Supreme Court with two new conservative justices makes overturning Roe v. Wade a potential reality.
And Georgia isn't the only state trying this strategy. Ohio’s six-week ban was vetoed by then-Governor John Kasich in December. Both Iowa and North Dakota have signed six-week bans into law, only to be blocked in federal court. As Georgia moves to enact this ban, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee are poised to join with their own. And there’s little that pro-choice legislators can do.
Except pull a wild move like Rep. Kendrick’s bill. What comes next for the Testicular Bill of Rights? She missed the Georgia General Assembly’s deadline for filing legislation for the 2019-2020 session, so it won’t even get a vote this term. Regardless, the bill has helped flip the conversation in a new way.
Too often, restrictions to abortion access are presented at attempts to make the procedure more “safe” — and who wouldn’t want that? (For decades, as long as this data has been collected, a majority of Americans have supported keeping abortion safe and legal.) Some might even say a waiting period gives you time to really consider a weighty decision, without understanding that by the time a woman gets to the clinic, she’s already made up her mind and waiting periods have been proven to have no impact. Rep. Kendrick's ballsy bill not only lays bare the sexist reality on which abortion restrictions are premised — that women don’t have their minds made up, don’t understand what healthcare they need or want, that it’d be in anyone’s best interest to simply strip them of the ability to make choices about these things — but illustrates how intrusive these restrictions truly are. To wit: Can you imagine any man standing for this?