A Misogyny Double Feature | Vol. 4 / No. 6.5

I think we’re going to need a bigger sign | Photo: Steven Depolo, CC BY 2.0

Sometimes the clusterf**k that is the world unites stories in such an opportune way that, even while I am mad, I also have to give the world props. So here’s two news stories that dovetail just perfectly into a handcrafted artisanal stinking heap of misogyny.

So on the one hand, you have the new fetal heartbeat bill that is likely to soon become law in Ohio after it is signed by John “I appear sane only because I was standing next to Donald Trump, also you have no idea how much I hate abortion rights” Kasich. The bill would make it illegal to have an abortion after the point that the fetus has a heartbeat, aka around six weeks, aka, before a lot of women even know they are pregnant. So in order to get an abortion in Ohio, you would have to be incredibly lucky at spotting your missed period, taking a pregnancy test that doesn’t have a false negative, getting an appointment in one of the few Ohioan abortion clinics, and praying that you’re timing everything correctly. And since Ohio requires counseling and a waiting period before you can have an abortion, you can basically guarantee that the timing is going to end up incorrect. Oh, and it makes no exceptions for rape or incest! Because why show even the slightest hint of concern for women?  So don’t be confused. This isn’t about abortion restriction. This is about outlawing abortion without saying as much.

In a piece of news that would at first seem to be mostly unrelated, Sofia Vergara is being sued by her ex Nick Loeb—well, technically she is being sued by Nick Loeb “on behalf” of her fertilized embryos, “Emma” and “Isabella.” I didn’t know that you could name clumps of cells and sue on their behalf, but this is apparently a brave new world, in the Aldous Huxley meaning of the phrase. Even though Vergara and Loeb have split up, and even though they agreed in a contract to never use the embryos without the other’s consent, Loeb wants to grab the embryos and implant them in another person and thinks that the fact that under the correct conditions they could someday be people means that he gets to ignore the will of his ex-partner. Oh, and he also claims he was “deprived” of the ability to be a father by former partners who had abortions. The heart bleeds for him. Loeb conveniently shopped the lawsuit in Louisiana, where he probably hoped that a more conservative state and more conservative judicial system would be totally cool with him forcing motherhood on a former lover.

But lawyers are saying that the case has little merit, and explain so using language that is so perfect I want to frame it. And then send it to all of the lawmakers in Ohio. And then pay someone to spray paint it on Kasich’s governor’s mansion.

Said attorney Michael Stutman:

“The Supreme Court long ago decided that to achieve the status of a protected human life an embryo has to be able to survive on its own. With these embryos being unable to do that, they probably have as much legal protection to exist as your sofa.”

They probably have as much legal protection to exist as your sofa.

They probably have as much legal protection to exist as your sofa.

They probably have as much legal right to exist as your sofa.

I want to buy this man flowers. And possibly alcohol. There’s another very important sentence in this statement, and one that goes directly to the heart of that ridiculous Ohio bill: “The Supreme Court long ago decided that to achieve the status of a protected human life an embryo has to be able to survive on its own.” Do you know what an embryo looks like at six weeks? A mix between a tadpole and a naked mole rat. What will at one point be a face is a couple of dark dots. There are minuscule, webbed hands and feet, but no legs or arms exist. It is 1/8th of an inch long. This slightly disturbing website helpfully tells me that this means the embryo is the size of a pomegranate seed.  The same website also helpfully tells me that you don’t even consider the “embryo” to have graduated to “fetus” status until week 9.

So to recap, the Supreme Court has upheld the fact that to even be considered protected life, a fetus has to be able to exist outside of the womb on its own, and at the point that Ohio is outlawing abortion, the “future baby” they are concerned about is a pomegranate seed with no face.

What is possibly more terrifying than anything else about this confluence of events is that both the Ohio lawmakers and Loeb seem to know that what they are doing is unconstitutional on its face. But they are hoping that with a Trump presidency (and probable Supreme Court appointment) and an entirely Republican Congress, the Constitution won’t matter. They are hoping that their conservative interpretation of women’s rights (or their lack of them, apparently) will get a pass just because people that think and act like them are in power. In the case of the Ohio lawmakers, they’re probably hoping that even if the law gets overturned, they will be hailed as heroes who “struck a blow” for the rights of clumps of cells over living, breathing, thinking women. Over actual people. And that enough clinics will be forced to close during the appeal process that abortion will be effectively impossible in Ohio.

I don’t have a witty quip to end with this week. These stories show that people, and especially men, are dedicated to eradicating women’s rights both in interpersonal relationships and their overall reproductive health. And they’re probably going to succeed. There’s nothing I can really say to that, except that I’m going to make sure that I fight them every step of the way.

And just so you know, you can donate to Planned Parenthood here, and the American Civil Liberties Union here.


Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not just gobsmacked at the way this crap keeps happening, she studies gender in popular culture.


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