Feminist Utopia Podcast Transcript for Episode 7

Benita: Welcome to Feminist Utopia, a community dedicated to envisioning and creating a more just society for all.

Debby: Welcome to Feminist Utopia episode 7, “Return to Gilead.” In our feminist utopia today, women would have bodily autonomy. We’re going to discuss the heartbeat bills that have been sweeping red states. They aren’t all exactly the same, but they all base their laws on the idea that a heartbeat makes a person as a reason to dramatically restrict access to safe abortion.

Benita: It would be great if these restrictive bills actually helped women and helped babies. But unfortunately, that is not the case. It comes down to the pregnancies being unwanted. What are we doing to prevent unwanted pregnancies. If our goal is to limit abortions, why aren’t we focusing on the causes of abortions and working on what it is to prevent the pregnancies in the first place. But unfortunately, that isn’t on the agenda today. The agenda is simply controlling women and women’s bodies and let’s take a look at how that’s happening. We’ve all heard most recently about Georgia and Alabama, but there’s also laws in Ohio, Missouri…

Debby: Arkansas… It’s an unfortunately long list. It saddens me. They were empowered by Kavanaugh getting a position on the court. They’re using this as a way to destroy freedoms that have encoded in our country for decades. All in the name of life begins at conception.

Benita: And I definitely want to do on that “life begins at conception,” and we’ll be doing a brief series about this topic. Definitely stay tuned…

Debby: I have to say the research on that has just been stunning in how many different views, religiously, apply to that. That it is a very Christian centered view, and it’s a fairly recent concept in most religions. It’s a fascinating topic. There are a lot of differences between the different states doing their heartbeat bills. They almost all unify around the idea that life begins at conception. They almost all say that because similar organizations have been writing a lot of this legislation. But we’re going to first discuss the really big ones like Ohio and Alabama. Alabama and Georgia have some of the most restrictive ones.

But let’s start with Ohio which bans abortions after a heartbeat can be detected. Mike DeWine their Ohio governor signed it. It says that fertilizing an egg is equal to personhood.

Benita: Which is really interesting for the applications that it has for fertility clinics. We have thousands upon thousands of “personhood” frozen. But you don’t hear controversy about those fertility clinics so…

Debby: It was a, I think a Louisiana state legislator, who said that it didn’t matter about those eggs because they weren’t in women.

Benita: So this isn’t about life, it’s about controlling women!

Debby: Yes. It’s interesting in Ohio there are also additional bills that restrict what insurance companies can and can’t provide in terms of reproductive health care including banning the coverage of abortions and requiring insurance companies to cover the replanting of an ectopic pregnancy into a uterus. That isn’t even a procedure that exists.

Benita: They’ve codified it into law? That bad science?

Debby: Yes, because the legislator who proposed it said well, they may not be able to do it right now, but maybe one day. And we want to make sure insurance companies are going to cover it. Meanwhile there was an interesting post from a doctor in Ohio who had a patient lose an ectopic pregnancy and was devastated and then called hysterical because this patient thought that she had had that option to replant the baby into the uterus. And the doctor had to explain to her…

Benita: How much pain and anguish did that cause that woman… unnecessarily because of his ignorance!?

Debby: Yes, and part of that insurance wackadoo bill also limits certain types of birth control to be “causing abortion.” Some people think IUDs do that because they prevent implantation and the pill… It was purposefully vague. It also does not criminalize the use of birth control, but it does prevent insurance companies from covering it. So even if your employer-based insurance AETNA or whatever says yeah, we’ll cover your Plan B or we’ll cover your monthly birth control pill, this additional law outside the heartbeat law, can prevent that.

Benita: That’s just sick! I mean, let’s take the example of drunk driving. I think we can all agree that driving while intoxicated is a bad thing. So in order to limit that, you give them free rides home to prevent them from getting in their car. But if you put that in context with what they’re doing with abortion, is they are making it harder to prevent that unplanned pregnancy. You know, we don’t lobby to pass laws that ban taxis and Uber from operating at the end of bar time! But that’s exactly what they’re doing when they block access to accessible, affordable birth control! It’s like saying you can’t pick up a drunk person at the bar because…

Debby: … they need to learn their lesson and not drink to excess anymore? That’s effectively it! I’ve never seen anyone who was pro-life that wasn’t also anti- free and easy access to birth control. Because the idea is you need to be punished.

Benita: Exactly. You need to be punished. And these laws that we’re discussing are very punishing. I’m hoping that in Ohio your insurance company has the option to cover birth control or is it illegal for them to offer that?

Debby: It is illegal. Well, under this bill that has not been signed yet. And again, if you’re listening to this later, as of the day of this recording, it has not been signed into law. It would deny insurance companies the ability to choose to insure women for these birth control methods that are deemed by people to be “abortifacients”… I don’t remember the word. Like many Catholic church members think the pill kills life. And IUDs prevent implantation so they kill life.

Benita: Okay… that’s kind of more horrific than I had been hearing about. I guess I’ve been focusing on Georgia, and it’s really sad to me that Georgia and Alabama seem a little bit better?

Debby: Well, yes and no. At least… Okay this is how Ohio’s better than Alabama. Ohio allow exemptions for the cases of incest and rape. That’s where the bar is right now. An inch off the ground.

So speaking of getting punished, I think Georgia’s a really interesting conversation to have. In Georgia, abortion is banned when a heartbeat is detected. It declares the personhood of a fertilized egg. It allows for the child support and tax write-offs for the unborn.

Benita: But they’re limited to the medical expenses of the mother. Debby: Okay!

Benita: There’s no child support, per se. They’re just expected to pony up for the medical costs.

Debby: Uh huh… I would love to see that enforced. No I wouldn’t. Who am I kidding? And they do an exemption for rape and incest in Georgia. Again this is where my bar is low. And there’s been a lot of debate on whether or not it criminalizes women who get abortions… but combined with current existing laws regarding criminal abortion, it could in theory be used to charge women with second-degree murder.

Benita: Right, because you have the personhood of the fetus. So you’re taking the life of a person…

Debby: Yes, I haven’t seen a direct correlation. I do not believe the heartbeat bill directly says it’s murder. My understanding is that it does not. It’s combined with this other piece of legislation and that’s the part where if you leave Georgia to get an abortion, to get a criminal abortion which is purposefully vague in the legislation… So, it’s a scary vague area in Georgia.

Benita: Right, and another topic in this series about abortion is going to be the practical effects of trying to enforce these laws and how they’re designed to obviously be challenged, and the goal is to get them to the Supreme Court.

Debby: So speaking of crazy laws, let’s move on to Alabama! It says that performing an abortion is a felony, but women are not criminally liable for the abortion. That has not been spelled out in many other heartbeat laws. The Alabama Human Life Protection Act is a startling acknowledgement of the anti-abortion movement’s determination to show that the fetus is a human life deserving of protection but the woman is not. It does not make exceptions for rape or incest. Alabama is looking to put people in jail for a decade if they perform an abortion! It is also the state that ranks at the bottom in terms of infant mortality, and all these other standards. Their school are crap, there’s underinsured kids, and all this stuff.

Benita: Yeah, we’re studiously avoiding the words pro-life because you cannot describe anything about this Alabama Human Life Protection Act as “pro-life.” Because if they were “pro-life,” they would be doing more to help the human bodies that are suffering in their state now. And they’re just not! They have the worst infant mortality rates!

Debby: And I thought that was Texas! It was surprising to learn that there’s someplace that’s worse.

Benita: And that surprises me, too. Third world countries have better maternal outcomes than we do here in Texas and Alabama.

Debby: I want to state that the governor of Alabama is a white woman who gleefully signed this law. She is what I would call an “Aunt Lydia.” I don’t know how many of you have been listening or reading Handmaid’s Tale, but there’s a woman who is named Aunt Lydia who is there to break the “breeders,” the women that have been enslaved to provide children to the elite. She is so caught up in supporting this theocracy, this patriarchy, that she physically abuses other women so she can maintain her own status. We’re going to talk more about the women who do that, the Aunt Lydias as part of this series as well. Because I think we as white women ourselves have to acknowledge the role that white supremacy also plays in this whole discussion about reproductive rights.

Benita: White supremacy and our involvement in supporting and perpetuating the patriarchy. Religion’s involvement in this blurring of the lines between church and state in all of these laws. Yeah, we definitely need to do a deep dive in that. It’s such a complex issue. When you start talking about abortion, all of these other things crop up. We really felt we needed to do a series rather than just this one episode.

Debby: Next state I want to discuss is Kentucky which was one of the earliest adopters of a heartbeat bill. And the governor signed it. It’s already gone to the first court case. It also bans abortion based on race, gender, and disability… which I have feelings about. But interestingly enough, the first federal judge that heard the first appeal said in their response to the parties involved that this heartbeat bill smacked of defiance of the court. And this is a huge deal! They are actively trying to strike down Roe V. Wade, and it is defiance of the court. Courts don’t like to change their decisions. That is something they really don’t like to do unless there’s new evidence. I think in spite of Kavanaugh, they’re going to have a rough road to hoe getting up to the Supreme Court. But they are pushing it all as quickly as they can. Because they know come 2020, there’s likely to be even further changes. The right wing knows there are likely to be further changes.

Benita: Yeah, I also know that I think it’s a given that all of these laws and all of these states are going to be challenged and they’re all going to work themselves through the court system. And at the Supreme Court level, they can kind of bundle them up and rule on these bills as a whole or take parts. They’re not going to take each individual case. They’re going to kind of roll them up into one case that decides…

Debby: ‘Cause again my bar is low here with these heartbeat bills, there are states that are passing heartbeat bills that are… lighter? easier? than the others. I’m going to discuss Utah. And Utah banned abortion after 18 weeks. Not when a heartbeat is detected and so on. And this has to do with the influence of the Mormon church! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ stance on abortion is more fluid than that of the Baptists. The church allows for exemptions in the case of rape, incest, and serious harm to the life or health of the mother!

Benita: Imagine that! You know the… banned abortion after 18 weeks, at least a woman has a fraction of a chance to figure out she’s pregnant by that time. These others at 6 weeks… you don’t even necessarily know that you’re pregnant before 6 weeks! 18 weeks is still ridiculously early, but at least you’ve had a chance to miss a period.

Debby: Well 18 weeks is… you’re moving into different cost point, too for an abortion. Second trimester abortions are far more expensive and there’s an increased need for intense medical care. It’s a different scenario. And so, I’m not thrilled with it. But compared to what else is being proposed. It looks downright humane and reasonable!

Benita: Wow, the bar is low.

Debby: The “Overton Window” is shifting, and I’ll post a link to what the “Overton Window” is. But it’s basically this idea that what is the center of any political movement can shift if one group moves far to one extreme. So if it was leftists it would be like make all of a sudden universal basic income look rational. But right now, the Overton Window has shifted so far to the right that an abortion ban after 18 weeks looks like something that can be worked with. This is where we are.

Benita: But everything that I’ve been exposed in regards to abortion has been focused on these Draconian laws. But it’s not all bad news. Honest! There’s a few states that are examples of more rational… Let’s shift that Overton window back to the left a little bit! And I’m looking at Nevada. They repealed a measure that said that women seeking an abortion had to be told about the physical and emotional implications of the procedure. So they don’t have to add that insult to injury once they’ve made the decision to have an abortion. And it decriminalizes supplying a woman with medication to induce an abortion. So you can get a Plan B pill from a pharmacist instead of a doctor, and the pharmacist doesn’t have to worry about going to jail.

And also previously in Nevada, the physician had to determine a woman’s marital status before performing an abortion. So this measure repeals that requirement as well as repeals a requirement that the age be determined. And the bill has passed. Party line vote. All but one Democrat voted for it, and every Republican voted against it. So, this is another reminder that your vote counts, at the local level.

Debby: All the way up and down the ticket.

Benita: Right, and New York is another state that recently passed a reproductive health act. And it was signed by Andrew Cuomo on January 22nd which is significant because that’s the date of the Roe V. Wade decision. But this goes a little bit further in codifying a woman’s right to access an abortion prior to 24 weeks. And even after 24 weeks, an abortion is an option as long as there’s a determination that the procedure is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health or that there’s the absence of fetal viability. Also they repealed a public health law that required abortions after 12 weeks to be performed in a hospital or having to have 2 physicians present for abortions after 20 weeks. So that’s really positive.

And then we can look at Vermont. They’ve approved a measure to protect abortion rights as well. And there is a Republican governor Phil Scott. We hope that he’ll sign it. As of this recording, he hasn’t. But that bill provides some of the strongest protection for abortion rights in the nation. And it would actually prohibit the government from interfering in any way with the right to have an abortion. And currently there really are no legal limits on when or under what circumstances women can decide to end a pregnancy in Vermont. But they want to put that into the Constitution so it’s protected regardless of what happens in

the future with Roe V. Wade. So it’s kind of a preemptive strike in case something happens at the federal level. They’ll have it codified into their state constitution.

Debby: It’s like getting an abortion vaccination! Washington state’s trying to do something similar to the New York law. It just started in the state leg here. And I’ll be curious to see how that ends up because Washington is divided into the liberal coast and the right-wing inner lands. So we’ll see how that goes.

Benita: Yeah, there’s reason to also be optimistic about Michigan as well. Because there’s been legislation passed by the Republican controlled state senate that bans the most common second trimester abortion procedure but the newly elected Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmir has promised to veto that legislation. So again, your vote matters. Who you vote for matters on such intensely personal issues such as reproductive health.

Wisconsin governor Tony Evers was elected in 2018, and he’s promising that he would veto anti-abortion legislation passed by the Republican controlled assembly if the measures reach his desk. So that is encouraging as well.

Debby: I find it encouraging that people are having this conversation. I think for a long time we just assumed Roe V. Wade would stay regardless. And even Susan Collins when she was advocating, and I’ll use that word in all seriousness, advocating for the appointment of Kavanaugh. She implied that there was no danger to Roe V. Wade. Well, we all know now that it is, and I’m glad that people are mobilizing.

Benita: The interesting statistic is that 1 in 4 women have had an abortion. So there are people that we interact with on a regular basis who have had to confront this head on and make that tough decision. And I know that it was a decision my husband and his first wife made. They chose to terminate a pregnancy because of fetal viability. They had a small chance of the baby surviving to term. And if it did by chance, it may die in the birth process or shortly thereafter. And there was no chance there would have a kind of viability after it was born. So they made the difficult decision to together to terminate that pregnancy. And I cannot imagine the pain that he and his wife at that time would have to suffer if she was forced to carry this unviable child to term and deliver.

Debby: Yes, and when you have these bans on abortion after 18 weeks… the state that I said was reasonable… it puts people like your husband and his former wife at risk. There are few people that choose to have an abortion at 24 weeks just ‘cause. They have to do it for heartbreaking reasons. And demonizing them by saying oh they just don’t care is a vile, vicious, unkind, and I would say unchristian thing to do.

Benita: 60 percent of the women that have abortions are already mothers. And saying that they’re doing it as a form of birth control or because they don’t want the responsibility of being mothers is ignorant of the facts and another way of demonizing women.

Debby: So as every time, we have a call to action. And the first one might sound a little strange. But it is consider using Planned Parenthood for healthcare needs. There are several signs in my area in Seattle saying that you can use Planned Parenthood to have general health checks, breast exams, pap smears, and stuff. And with so many states withdrawing funding for them through their local Medicaid programs, helping Planned Parenthood keep their mission going by going in with your insurance and having your insurance pay Planned Parenthood can help keep Planned Parenthood alive for a lot of women that need it.

Benita: And I would go a step further and encourage you to just donate. Debby: And there’s always donating!

Benita: Yeah, and if you get connected on their mailing list, it’s a great way to stay informed and to learn more about what you can do in your community. They other thing that we’re going to ask you to do is talk about it to your friends and relatives. I had a difficult discussion with my family recently at my mom’s 80th birthday. We try not to talk politics but somehow it always pops up! And just sharing your experiences and listening and having these open discussions can help reduce the stigma around abortion and talking about it.

And I’m not asking you to share your story if that’s not something that you’re willing to do. But if you can share your perspective about how important it is to you to have the right to control your own reproductive health or if someone you know had you know struggling with an abortion decision.

My niece had an ectopic pregnancy and had to have an abortion and it almost cost her life. And my brother was sitting at the table saying how life begins at conception and there shouldn’t be any accommodations for rape or incest because it’s a life… Any my sister is sitting there saying, are you saying that your niece that almost died from an ectopic pregnancy is going to go to hell because she murdered this life!? And all of a sudden, my brother was like oh, that was okay. It was… you know her situation was just fine and I support that decision in that situation… And I’m hoping that maybe he will relax and think that it’s not just his niece, but it’s his neighbor, and the person at the grocery store, and in his doctor’s office and to think more charitably about every woman that has those difficult decisions to face. And if we don’t talk about it, we don’t know what’s going on.

Debby: I find it interesting that a lot of people think of pro-choice women or pro-choice people as “other” until they start to hear some stories. Talk to your friends and relatives if you feel comfortable.

Benita: Right

Debby: The last one is something that I’m increasingly passionate about is that we have to make reproductive rights a non-negotiable for our elected officials. The governor of Louisiana is a Democrat who is about to sign into law their heartbeat bill. His name is John Bel Edwards. And I understand in the South, you think to be electable you have to compromise on your stances. Democrats who want to take away the autonomy of women aren’t worth voting for. I think we have to make reproductive rights a non-negotiable.

Benita: The anti-abortion crowd has been doing that for quite awhile.

Debby: Effectively! We should be doing it, too. It’s not one of those things we can have a different opinion on when you’re my legislator.

Benita: Agreed

Debby: And I’m going to extend this to those of you that are single or poly, who look in the market for new sexual partners. OK Cupid and some other online dating systems, they allow you to set up filters that get rid of the matches that who are not pro-choice. Basically stop fucking people who want to fuck you over. It’s just the easiest way to save yourself a lot of heartache and debate. If you’re already married to someone, you’ve worked it out already. But if you’re just starting out with a new relationship, make some good choices.

Benita: And that ties into you know talking about it, too. Talk about these things before you get too far along into the relationship because it’s important.

Debby: Thank you so much for joining us today at Feminist Utopia. If you like our work, please give us a review on Itunes, Stitcher, or wherever you access our podcast so others can find it as well. You may also become a Feminist Utopia patron at Patreon.com to show your appreciation. Remember, patrons get perks!

Benita: And check out our blog and other resources at our website: FeministUtopia.netEmail us your idea of what a feminist utopia would look like or any questions to:info@feministutopia.net

We appreciate you taking the time to listen and grow with us. Feminist Utopia is created by Debby Williams and Benita Malone.