Georgia Rep's ‘Testicular Bill of Rights’ Challenges Restrictive Abortion Law
|thenorthstar||Mar 19, 2019|
Georgia lawmakers are responding to a recently passed bill which would chip away at the legal protections of Roe v. Wade by offering up their own salvo in the battle over reproductive rights. Democrats, led by state Representative Dar'shun Kendrick, are proposing a bill they're calling the “Testicular Bill of Rights.” Kendrick announced the bill on Twitter, proclaiming, “Ggggooooodddd morning! Introducing my 'testicular bill of rights' legislative package. You want some regulation of bodies and choice? Done!”
The proposal would require men “to obtain permission from their sex partner” before getting a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication such as Viagra, criminalize sex without a condom as aggravated assault, require paternity DNA testing when a woman is “six weeks and one day” into a pregnancy, and make the father pay child support immediately. The bill would also enforce a 24-hour waiting period before any man can purchase a sex toy or pornography in the state. It would also completely ban vasectomies.
“On some level, for over 50 years, we have recognized parity when it comes to women having the right to choose their family plan and decide what to do with their bodies,” Kendrick told The North Star via email. She noted that Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortions nationwide, is still law of the land and should be treated as such.
Kendrick’s Testicular Bill of Rights is a response to House Bill 481, which bans abortions in the state six weeks into a pregnancy — well below the legal limit of 20 weeks set by Roe v. Wade. That six-week mark is, for some women, well before they knew they were pregnant. For other women, being forced to carry babies after the six-week mark could lead to pregnancy complications, and a lack of resources available. “If the question is: how far do we need to go as a country to convince male lawmakers not to take us back to a lack of parity,” she said, “the answer is: apparently, we have quite a way to go as HB 481 and similar bills are being proposed throughout the country in red states.”
She shared a similar view on equality on Twitter this week, writing, “Leave my ovaries alone, I won't mess with your testicles.” https://twitter.com/DarshunKendrick/status/1107023590879346688 While Kendrick's bill may have elicited some chuckles, the message behind it was quite serious. Amanda Marcotte, a journalist at Salon who has covered many bills that have restricted reproductive rights for women, said laughing at the premise of a vasectomy ban is better than ignoring the reality.
“Some folks may not like these kinds of joke bills, but I do,” Marcotte said. “I think they’re a helpful way to highlight the fact that anti-abortion and anti-contraception laws aren’t about ‘life’ or ‘family,’ but about asserting control over women’s bodies and lives."
Stacey Abrams, a rising star in the Democratic Party who challenged Brian Kemp for governor in November, elaborated on the dangers of the Georgia proposal. “A pregnant woman in GA has a higher chance of dying before or after they give birth than a mother in ANY other state,” she tweeted. “Instead of addressing our maternal mortality crisis, GOP legislators are playing politics, pushing draconian bills like #HB481. Enough is enough.#NoAbortionBanGA.”
Planned Parenthood, which offers reproductive health services to women, writes that Roe “allowed people to access abortion legally and prevented people dying from unsafe, illegal abortions.” The organization described what life in an abortion-illegal environment looked like: “In 1965, illegal abortions made up one-sixth of all pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths. A survey conducted in the 1960s found that eight in 10 women with low incomes in New York City who had an abortion attempted a dangerous self-induced procedure.”
There are modern-day horror stories of women who have suffered under abortion bans. Although a 2018 referendum legalized abortion in Ireland, the memory of Savita Halappanavar was fresh in the minds of the Irish. Halappanavar died from an infection in 2012, after she was denied a potentially life-saving procedure because of Ireland's abortion ban. As The New York Times reported in 2018, after the bill passed:
Dr. Halappanavar, a dentist, and her husband, an engineer, were living in Galway in 2012 and preparing for the birth of their first child. That all changed when, 17 weeks pregnant, Dr. Halappanavar went the hospital with back pain on Oct. 21 and doctors said she was having a miscarriage.
Dr. Halappanavar was told that her fetus would not survive — but that she could not be given an abortion, her husband said. Ireland, she was told, is “a Catholic country,” and it would be illegal to terminate the pregnancy while the fetus still had a heartbeat, her husband said.
After being repeatedly refused an abortion, she waited days until the heartbeat stopped. The contents of her womb were removed on Oct. 27. By then she had an infection, and she died of septicemia the following day.
In Argentina, where abortion is illegal, unsafe abortions are “the leading cause of maternal mortality,” according to Human Rights Watch.
Abortion bans are likely to be a big topic from Republicans in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election. President Donald Trump used the State of the Union address to make abortion an issue he would use to hammer Democrats until the next election, but even before that, called Democrats “the party of late term abortion, high taxes, open borders and crime.” He also misrepresented the Democratic position on abortion, claiming that the party doesn't “mind executing babies after birth.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s administration is trying to restrict funding to organizations that will provide abortion referrals — something that Planned Parenthood's president called “unconscionable and unethical.”
HB481 bill passed out of committee Monday on a party-line and gender-line vote. That's something that Kendrick urges all women and allies to consider in the coming years. “Keep fighting and I will keep up the fight with you,” she said, adding that a supermajority of Americans believe that Roe v. Wade should be upheld. “you are not alone by a long shot. “It's OK though,” she added. “Next election, women can help convince them at the ballot box.”
About the Author
Jeremy Binckes is an experienced writer and editor who has reported on news, politics, culture and sports. He was most recently a news editor at Salon, and he has written articles for a number of publications.