Ahem. Before I get started here, I’d like to remind readers that I’m a fierce proponent of reproductive freedom, I think the guidelines set out in Roe v. Wade constitute a smart way to handle a complex problem, and I think the GOP should stop trying to turn this country into Gilead. However, liberals the nation over are rejoicing over one Georgia legislator’s reactionary proposal, dubbed “The Testicular Bill of Rights,” and they really shouldn’t be.
Dar’shun Kendrick, a Georgia Democrat tweeted the following on Monday:
Ggggooooodddd morning! Introducing my “testicular bill of rights” legislative package. You want some regulation of bodies and choice? Done! pic.twitter.com/5E8HBRSc9l
— Dar’shun Kendrick (@DarshunKendrick) March 11, 2019
The tweet included a screenshot of a legislative proposal Rep. Kendrick was making – one that would regulate men’s bodies instead of women’s. The tweet outlined her five-point plan, which included a proposed law that would:
- Require men to get permission from their sex partner before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication.
- Ban vasectomy procedures in Georgia and penalize doctors who perform them.
- Make having sex without a condom an “aggravated assault” crime for men.
- Require men to begin paying child support when the woman is six weeks and one day pregnant per a paternity test required at the same time.
- Create a 24-hour “waiting period” for men who wish to purchase porn or sex toys in the state of Georgia.
Kendrick’s proposal was certainly fun to read in context as a direct answer to HB 481, Georgia’s “heartbeat bill” which, contrary to Constitutionally-mandated limits, would ban abortion in Georgia at about six weeks. Georgia’s law is both obviously unconstitutional and also a full-scale attack on the very notion that women are entitled to any degree of control over their own bodies. Georgia’s legislation is as infuriating as it is illegal; it’s also impossible to consider without realizing that men are never subjected to laws that are similarly invasive.
So I get Kendrick’s goose-and-gander logic. But once the initial thrill of the, “take that, gentlemen!” is over, her proposal seriously pisses me off. Legally speaking, abortion presents a very complex – and unique — set of questions. Making false comparisons to issues that are much simpler and legally inequivalent doesn’t help.
For starters, birth control and abortion are two different things; all the evidence shows that the combo of good sex education and easy access to birth control has a profound effect on the number of unintended pregnancies. Birth control – whether contraceptive or surgical – is something upon which there is tremendous potential for even vehement pro-lifers and pro-choicers to agree. In that regard, Kendrick’s cavalier invocation of vasectomies as equivalent to abortions squanders the opportunity to make a productive point.
Similarly, Kendrick’s proposals that having sex without a condom be criminalized for men, or that erectile dysfunction meds need to be approved by sexual partners are equally silly. Of course, Kendrick’s point is that men would find these measures unacceptably invasive – – but her point is woefully obscured by the lack of sound analogy.
From a legal standpoint, pregnancy is a complex condition in that the relationship between a woman and that which fills her uterus changes over time. Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey sought to take this changing relationship into account, and created a sliding-scale of legal rights that weighed heavily in favor of women’s individual rights at the start of pregnancy, and more heavily in favor of society’s interest in protecting the unborn toward the end. The acknowledgment of and need for that sliding scale is everything. Without it, analogies like Kendrick’s are little more than jokes.
Kendrick’s last proposal, that Georgia require a 24-hour waiting period for men who wish to purchase porn or sex toys, is the worst of the lot. Again, I realize this was all put forth simply to make a point; also again, that point is the wrong one. Many who have advocated for mandatory pre-abortion waiting-periods have generally done so because they hope this hurdle will dissuade some from making a choice they believe is morally wrong; others have agreed with placing these burdens on women simply because they believe abortion is a serious choice warranting limitation on a potentially impulsive decision.
The informed argument opposing such waiting periods takes into account their practical ramifications – that they can serve as insurmountable hurdles, especially to poor, rural, or young women, that effectively force an unwanted pregnancy on a person without resources. A sex toy would be just as effective on Thursday as it would have been on Wednesday; an abortion might not. The two don’t belong in the same legislative universe, even to make a point.
Sure, Kendrick’s bold proposal hits its mark in that it has garnered media attention. But titillating the media will not bring conservatives and liberals together to create useful legislation, nor will it help educate powerful men about the need for a nuanced approach regarding reproductive rights and the law. Kudos to Kendrick for challenging the patriarchy. Next time, though, I hope she uses her platform more wisely.
[Image via Saul Loeb/Getty Images]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.