Thanks to Congressman Todd Akin, we’ve all spent a lot of time lately talking about “legitimate rape” and the rape exception for abortion. All but the most conservative of the Republican party have condemned the Senate candidate for suggesting that women can’t get pregnant through rape, because their bodies have magical ways “to shut that whole thing down.” Mitt Romney called the statement “inexcusable,” and called for Akin to drop out of the race. President Barack Obama stated that, “Rape is rape,” and reinforced his support for a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health decisions.
We’ve had a lot of conversations about abortion, rape, and what happens when the two intersect.
But in the rush to denounce to Todd Akin and his backward beliefs about the power of the female uterus, many have overlooked the extreme stance on all reproductive health issues taken by the official platform of the Republican Party. While the media rushed to cover the Congressman from Missouri, the GOP gathered under the leadership of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell to determine the party’s position on all major policy issues for the upcoming years.
While we were focusing on Todd Akin, Republicans approved some positions that everyone should be aware of and that many women should be concerned about. According to CNN, this clause was approved to be part of the Republican’s official party platform.
“Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”
Let’s all be clear, this is the language of Personhood. This is the believe that human life starts at conception. And while many just looked at this and pointed out that it would criminalize all abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest or the life the mother, there are a lot of other ways that Personhood laws affect women. Mainly, it would severely limit birth control and in vitro fertilization.
Personhood would reduce available options for birth control. Hormonal choices, such as The Pill, could become illegal. The fast-growing and popular choice of the IUD would certainly be unavailable. Women and men would be limited to choices like condoms and spermicide if they didn’t want to go the Natural Family Planning route.
Personhood would also have an enormous impact on the practice of in vitro fertilization. Normally, the process of in vitro involves removing and fertilizing multiple eggs at a time. The most viable eggs are chosen and placed back in the female’s uterus. The rest of the fertilized eggs are normally frozen, so that another attempt might be made if the first isn’t successful. Sometimes, the eggs that don’t “take” or look to have abnormalities are discarded, which is the same process a woman’s body goes through every month. Under Personhood laws, couples could not remove and fertilize multiple eggs, some to be stored for possible later use. Each egg fertilized would need to be placed back in the woman, making the procedure exceedingly more expensive and meaning that egg harvesting (the most invasive part of the procedure) would have to be done multiple times.
Not to mention, the entire procedure of IVF could simply be seen as too dangerous for the doctors who perform it. If each fertilized egg is a human being with guaranteed rights, but is also extremely fragile because of it’s very nature, there’s a huge possibility that it will no longer be a in a doctor’s best interest to perform IVF at all. The procedure will be considered too dangerous. The doctors won’t be able to take on that liability.
And then, of course, there’s the lack of language to protect women whose lives are in jeopardy from their pregnancy. As a woman who has experienced an ectopic pregnancy, this oversight is extremely scary. My husband could not believe that a political party would demand his wife possibly die from internal bleeding after a ruptured Fallopian tube to protect the life of a zygote that has no chance of survival.
It’s important to note that entities like the Catholic Church have been against things like IVF and birth control for years. These politicians aren’t the first ones to suggest that human life begins the minute the sperm touches the egg. The problem is that these legislators have the power to force every person in the country to live by their beliefs, while the Catholic Church can only suggest what it’s parishioners should be doing.
We’re all going to spend a lot of time talking about abortion and rape exceptions. That’s where the conversation is at right now. But let’s not forget that one of the two major political parties in our country has made it their goal to drastically reduce the availability of in vitro fertilization for couples who actually want to have children. They’ve supported a measure that would take hormonal birth control from thousands of women who might not even being using it to avoid pregnancy. Plenty of us are aware that birth control can be taken simply to regulate the reproductive system. And then there’s the fact that the “pro-life” agenda wouldn’t be concerned with the life of the mother carrying the unborn child.
We were all horrified at Todd Akin’s ignorant comments. But we should be equally critical of the GOP official platform when it comes to women’s reproductive health. Personhood bills affect so much more than abortion. They make it harder for women are actively trying to get pregnant. And they insert the government in personal decisions that happen between women and their doctors.
Maybe women should start hoping for a magical uterus. Under the Republican party’s platform, we’re going to need one.