Today I read about a woman in Texas who nearly died because state law prevented doctors from treating her as long as her doomed 18-week fetus had a heartbeat. She waited at home for days, getting sicker and sicker—but not sick enough for hospital lawyers to consider it a ‘medical emergency.’ As she vomited and passed blood clots, doctors told her to wait until her vaginal discharge was foul-smelling enough to make her retch. When that finally happened, she put a sample of it in a ziplock bag before going to the emergency room—just in case they didn’t believe her.
I read about this woman, her suffering and her fear—and then I watched Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz give a speech where he said pro-choice women are too fat and ugly to get pregnant in the first place, so what are we even worried about? He laughed. Later, Gaetz tweeted out a picture of a 19 year-old activist in an attempt to mock her appearance. I’m sure he laughed then, too.
This is why I don’t believe in ‘civility’, and why I stopped debating people about abortion. We are dying and they are laughing. How the fuck do you have a conversation about that?
The sooner we understand that our anger and despair is funny to conservatives—or at best, meaningless—the sooner we can divest from the fantasy that we’ll ever change their minds.
Because when Gaetz says we’re too ugly for someone to want to impregnate us, he’s not just making a joke—but a value statement: If women aren’t fuckable, we don’t deserve rights. As lawyer Elica Le Bon explained so succinctly here, Gaetz and men like him believe that the rights they are born with and entitled to are privileges that women have to earn. If not by being fuckable, then by some other metric deemed useful to patriarchy.
I’m reminded of what former South Dakota Sen. Bill Napoli said in 2006, when asked under what circumstances he believed an abortion would be allowable:
“A rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated.”
If you believe he wasn’t turned on while ruminating about this, you are a far less jaded person than I am.
Conservatives expect us to pay for our humanity with blood and obedience—and want us to believe that if we’re good enough girls, they’ll deign to give us a right or two.
They never will. Instead, they’ll watch us die and shrug their shoulders, refusing to say aloud what their politics make clear: Women’s lives are collateral damage, acceptable losses in service of the bigger and more important goal of keeping women under men’s thumbs.
And I don’t just mean under the thumbs of politicians. Why do you think Republicans have wanted to require the ‘father’s permission’ before women could end a pregnancy? Or why for so long the most effective argument for abortion rights was that the government shouldn’t interfere in doctors’ decisions (as opposed to women’s)? Republicans know that banning abortion means women will have to bear rapists’ babies, or be forever tied to abusive partners. They don’t care. Because it’s not just the government they want us beholden to—but all men.
That’s why Ohio Senate candidate JD Vance said this week that people in violent relationships should stay together, in service of marriage as a bigger cause. An institution conservatives rely on to keep us subservient is way too important to let a few beaten or killed women stand in the way. It’s the same thing with abortion.
That’s why you can’t fall for calls for civility and politeness in a moment like this one. Conservatives don’t care if you live or die, so long as they get what they want. And they will step over your dead fucking body while explaining how it’s rude to interrupt politicians at restaurants. (By the way, what’s so ‘civil’ about mocking a teenager to your 1.4 million followers? Or encouraging women to stay with men who beat them?)
We are going to hear a lot more experiences like the one out of Texas—and they won’t all end with a woman still standing to tell her story. So while they laugh and watch us suffer, don’t forget: You are fighting for your life. It’s fine to act like it.
It's so important to identify the connections between things as you do, Jessica: all the things in the system that combine to take power from women and give it to men. Who can fight for change when she has to work four jobs to barely manage to support a child she had to drop out of uni to raise, or if she's got several children she didn't want with a man who terrorises them daily? A girl or woman in the US could be in a position where she didn't have access to birth control, a man raped her, she was then forced to bear his child, then further forced legally to parent that child with him because he has parental rights...it's obscene. Giving any and all men (rapists, priests, fathers, husbands, child abusers, all of the above) more rights over girls and women, is what these shitheads are all about.
You are so spot on and have put into words so much of how I feel. Thank you for these updates. It’s so important.