If you need further proof that Congressional Republicans are waging a War on Women, you need look no further than Thursday's congressional committee hearing on H.R. 1797: District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill sponsored by notoriously anti-choice Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ8) that would criminalize abortions after the 20th week. There are currently 98 women serving in the House of Representatives. Not one of them was present on this panel. Not one female representative sat on the committee that will determine whether to make abortion illegal after the 20th week. The committee was comprised entirely of men, overwhelmingly white men. How telling.
This is a decision that reifies patriarchal control of women's bodies, so it makes sense that white men of privilege sit atop their mighty throne, dictating what women can and cannot do with their own bodies. In a patriarchal society, women are expected to cede to men's opinions and mandates, especially around maters of reproduction. H.R. 1797 cloaks itself in the guise protecting the "unborn" by using shoddy science and manipulative rhetoric in order to undermine women's reproductive autonomy and reify patriarchal control of women's bodies. If this weren’t the case, why would the panel be comprised solely of men?
For starters, this bill is blatantly unconstitutional. As stipulated by Roe v. Wade, which, if you need to be reminded, is still the law of the land, the State cannot put the interests of the fetus ahead of the interests of the pregnant woman until the fetus is viable, which is generally agreed to be between the 24th and 28th week. Though fewer than 2% of abortions are done after the 21st week, this bill attempts to frame second-trimester abortions as a selfish choice made by "lazy" and "lascivious" women. To combat this inflammatory false narrative, Democrats called Christy Zink to testify.
Christy Zink, who has previously testified about her experience, underwent an abortion at 21 weeks. Her fetus had no brain function and she and her husband made the painful choice to terminate her pregnancy. She recounted her story and the pain with which she endured. She spoke out against this bill as the fallacy that it is, stating, "its very premise that it prevents pain is a lie" and detailing why pregnant women sometimes need second-trimester abortions.
Most committee members, even the ones who are championing this atrocity of a bill, were supportive and considerate of Christy Zink, whose story was powerful and heartbreaking. But not Louie Gohmert. He scolded Zink for her decision and told her that she should have waited and given birth to an non-viable fetus anyway, regardless of the tragic reality that her child had no chance at a sustainable life.
Yes, Gohmert went straight for the jugular, and I, for one, am thankful. Instead of feigning sympathy for her situation and then casting it as a frivolous outlier, as most anti-choice committee members did, Gohmert made painfully clear that this bill is not about "fetal pain" or protecting fetuses. This bill is about forcing women to give birth, whether we consent to it or not. This bill is meant to ensure that women will not have the ability to determine what is best for their own bodies, for their own reproductive futures, and will instead be at the whim of a select group of male congressmen to determine what they are allowed or not allowed to do. That is patriarchy embodied.
The disingenuous sympathy from Representative Trent Franks and his cohort of anti-choice male panelists is an attempt to frame this bill as compassionate, caring, pro-woman, pro-child legislation, when it is nothing of the sort. Stories like Christy Zink's are not uncommon; they are heartbreaking reminders that pregnancy is not infallible, and that the often-difficult decisions surrounding them should ultimately rest with the pregnant woman. And it makes sense that Franks and other male anti-choicers avoid stories like Zink's, as they directly defy the anti-choice narrative that women who have abortions are selfish murderers. For Gohmert to make such an unabashedly horrific statement actually served to undermine the anti-choice attempts to frame H.R.1797 as pro-woman in any way.
For a man to scold a woman for her personal choice surrounding her pregnancy is horrible enough, but after hearing Zink's powerful testimony about what for her was a tragic loss, for Gohmert to chastise her for not carrying an non-viable fetus to term simply for the sake of giving birth, shows a complete lack of empathy or consideration for women's physical and emotional well-being. Gohmert should be roundly criticized for the complete misogynist that he is, but he should also be thanked for serving as a glaring reminder that the anti-choice war on abortion rights has never been about the well-being of the fetus but has, instead, been a heartless attempt to disenfranchise women and control their reproductive lives.