It didn’t take too long after Roe v Wade unravelled for the usual myopic nonsense to rear its ignorant head. It is very clear that the ideology that underpins the abortion bans that swept through a number of US states last week is riddled with the misogynistic notion that women are very stupid.
Babies must be protected from their selfish mothers, and slutty, silly women must be saved from themselves. We knew this was what anti-abortion campaigners thought, even before they wrecked Roe.
The states that had so-called anti-abortion “trigger” laws ready to go, places that had been waiting with diabolical eagerness to destroy reproductive rights, were the same states that had tried their hardest to make the process of accessing an abortion as difficult as possible for women. Mandatory ultrasounds before abortions, inflammatory and often medically inaccurate speeches that doctors are required by law to repeat, even attempts to make women bury the product of a miscarriage induced by an early medical abortion — they’ve tried it all.
And the discount edition of US anti-abortion activists that we have over here, who have been desperately aping their American idols for years, tried unsuccessfully to introduce the same kinds of amendments when our abortion law was finally introduced.
The thinking behind it is clear. Ignorant anti-abortionists are so narrow-minded that they assume that anyone who does not support abortion bans must simply not understand what an abortion is. As if any woman who finds out she’s pregnant doesn’t understand what that means. As if the gravity of the pregnancy or, depending on a woman’s choice, the termination, is simply not understood by the person it will affect the most.
That’s why they try to force women to look at ultrasounds before they can have abortions, and why they try to make doctors read out descriptive anatomical details to women before they can end a pregnancy. Anti-abortionists want to force women to feel maternal, because they incorrectly believe that motherhood neuters a woman’s desire to have any say over her destiny.
One of the many misguided assumptions that the anti-abortion movement makes about women is that once women’s stupid little minds understand what pregnancy really is, once we’ve seen those scans and heard the heartbeat, watched from week to week as a baby grows from a strawberry to a pear to a little melon on our app, we would find the idea that anyone would ever be allowed to interrupt and end this wonderful process utterly unconscionable. Actually, I would bet that being pregnant radicalised a lot more mothers to be a lot more pro-choice than they’d ever been before.
When you want to be pregnant, and are lucky enough to see those glorious blue lines appear on a white plastic test, the fear of losing that baby seizes and shakes every part of you down to your very bones. Later on in the pregnancy, you’ll wake multiple times a night and spend many anguished silent seconds — surely they were hours? — waiting for the signal fire of a small foot or a little elbow twisting and thumping beneath your skin, beating down your worries for one more night.
Despite how women are so often portrayed by those who wish to control us, women are not so basic that we can’t desperately want to be pregnant ourselves while also appreciating that another woman may not want to be.
In fact, while I have always known that anti-abortion bans like the Eighth Amendment are wrong and don’t work — as an alphabet’s worth of tragic cases continued to build up as undeniable evidence that this was the reality — I think it wasn’t until I was pregnant myself that I started to really understand the savagery of trying to make someone who doesn’t want to be pregnant continue with that pregnancy.
Pregnancy consumes your personhood in a way that’s very difficult to articulate, even for those of us who were delighted to be expecting.
What was once your own body is not just creating someone else, it is prioritising their wellbeing utterly above yours. I was more than happy to surrender myself to the marvel of that. Eventually, I felt like little more than an awed witness to this natural phenomenon that my body somehow knew how to build and grow and protect, to the degree that it had started doing it long before I’d ever realised it was happening.
But I truly cannot imagine what it would do to a person to have that kind of force of nature consume you against your consent.
We can only hope that none of these American women, who have had their autonomy totally savaged by toxic ideology, won’t also have endure the excruciating physical pain that can accompany even the most “healthy” pregnancies. That is the reality of carrying a baby. It is gruelling.
Anyone who thinks it’s a process that will stifle a woman’s clear desire to not be pregnant is a fool. What else could you expect?