Women Are Not Livestock


Last Thursday, after heated debate on the floor (and in the lobby) of the Georgia House of Representatives, HB 954, a bill already approved by the Senate that seeks to criminalize abortions performed after twenty weeks, was passed and now awaits the signature of Governor Nathan Deal.

The decision to pass what pro-life supporters call “the fetal pain bill” is not unique to Georgia. Alabama, Idaho and even Ohio have introduced bills that set a maximum gestational age at which abortion is legal, alleging that fetuses can feel pain after twenty weeks. This despite  scientific evidence that fetuses likely cannot feel pain until about twenty nine weeks into the pregnancy.

The issue with this bill is not just that it limits women’s right to safe, legal abortion services under Roe v. Wade and is based on inaccurate information, but also the context in which it was presented. Because while pro-lifers refer to this HB 954 as the “fetal pain bill,” the term used by the feminist Ms. Magazine and other pro-choice supporters is the “women as livestock bill.”

Why call it this? Because the version of this bill that was passed was actually a compromise. The original version that the House passed did not exempt pregnancies where the fetus was stillborn or had no chance of survival once born, meaning that it would force the woman or female-bodied person to carry a fetus that already died to full term. And when Georgia State Rep. Terry England spoke up in support of the bill, he compared women carrying stillborn fetuses to cows and pigs on a farm, saying, “life gives us many experiences … I’ve had the experience of delivering calves, dead and alive. Delivering pigs, dead or alive … it breaks our hearts to see these animals not make it.”

These inappropriate remarks insult women for a variety of reasons. Comparing women and farm animals is disturbing enough, but the underlying sentiment is just as unnerving. England argues that if livestock have to carry deceased fetuses to term, so should human women. By that logic, should women also sleep in barns, have their milk extracted from them to be sold for profit and have their eggs taken for someone to eat for breakfast? Should women be denied all of the medicine and technology that animals cannot access because those too are unnatural?

Perhaps most disturbing about England’s remarks is the lack of acknowledgement that the psychology of a female human being differs from that of livestock. Pregnancy is difficult enough, and forcing a woman to carry a deceased fetus for up to four months while neglecting her or her doctor’s input, or considering harm to her mental health, is simply inhumane.

The danger of dehumanizing and devaluing women in abortion debates cannot be overstated. This past Sunday, a Planned Parenthood office in Wisconsin was firebombed, an unfortunately common occurrence. According to the National Organization for Women, since 1977 over 59,000 violent acts have taken place at abortion clinics, from vandalism to bombings, death threats and murders.

We cannot lose sight of the women and female-bodied people directly affected by these decisions, which would neglect their autonomy, health and right to make decisions about their bodies. Most of all, we cannot deny their rights and inherent value as human beings.

5 comments on “Women Are Not Livestock”

  1. “This despite scientific evidence that fetuses likely cannot feel pain until about twenty nine weeks into the pregnancy.”

    Listen, the culture war was not begun by pro-life types. The forces on the left side of that conflict have to share a large part of the blame at least for bringing this debate to such a depressing point, at which we’re hemming and hawing over the literal pain felt by individual fetuses. Bravo, feminists.

    How about the emotional pain and social dislocation that touches everyone in the “free” and open setting of relatively commitment-less sex and loosened family obligations, in which we wander through empty, soulless consumerist landscapes while our parents die in lonely nursing homes?

    There’s real wreckage there and we all see it. Some people feel strongly (and argue convincingly) that we’d solve a lot of problems by taking traditional roles more seriously and, eventually, strengthening and restoring them.

    Either they have an honest point and should be portrayed and listened to honestly, or they’re nothing but a bunch of woman-baiting theocrats who don’t know what’s going on. Hey, if I were scared to debate I’d go with the last one, too.

    I’m enriching TKO dialogue is fun. xoxoxo

  2. @Evan – I don’t think I understand your argument. You’re saying the “hemming and hawing over the literal pain felt by individual fetuses” was directly brought about by the dissolution of traditional gender roles?

    Of course it was.

    There would be no debate over this as women were not allowed to voice their opinions in the political realm in the traditional gender dynamic. The idea of abortions would never have come into public consciousness because women would have no control over their bodies, their money, their personal well-being. All of that would be determined by a man.

    Is that the traditional gender role you’re wishing to return to? The elimination of women’s role in the public sphere?

    1. “@Evan – I don’t think I understand your argument. You’re saying the “hemming and hawing over the literal pain felt by individual fetuses” was directly brought about by the dissolution of traditional gender roles?”

      Maybe partly, but mostly I’m suggesting that the social and political forces that most zealously sought to overturn traditional gender roles certainly did more to cultivate the depressing nature of the present debate, the decayed state of public discourse. In other words, it’s a bad sign when a feminist thinks she’s got the argument made with, “THEY say fetuses feel pain after 20 weeks, but WE have EVIDENCE that it’s not until 29! Aren’t THEY foolish? Amirite or amirite? Women’s rights.”

      Now, if you’re saying we wouldn’t be having such a stupid, braindead debate if we hadn’t promoted womyn in public life as much and in the way that we have, then it turns out you’re preaching the the choir.

      (I know that’s not what you meant, but I hope you appreciate what I did there.)

      1. To be fair, the remark about 59,000 incidents at abortion clinics does raise eyebrows (even while it strikes me ironically–violence at baby-killing clinics, ya don’t say!). I’d be interested in looking at those figures some more, and of course it’s certainly worth policing whatever cultures of ill-behaved conservatives exist.

Share a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s