The Oklahoma Republican who called women ‘Hosts’ is only saying what all anti-choice lawmakers think
On Monday, The Intercept reported on two Republican-owned anti-abortion bills set for a Tuesday hearing in the Oklahoma state legislature. Both pieces of legislation are cause for concern among women and pro-choice advocates, but the one that stood out as the most preposterous — and was subsequently lambasted by other media outlets that picked up on it — was HB1441, a bill requiring women to obtain written approval from their partner for abortions.
While the contents of HB1441 hearken back to the dizzying madness of the Medieval Ages, the remarks from the lawmaker who introduced the bill, freshman Republican Rep. Justin Humphrey, were even more outrageous. He told The Intercept that his intention was, in essence, to return men to a position of control over women’s bodies.
“I believe one of the breakdowns in our society is that we have excluded the man out of all of these types of decisions,” Humphrey said. He added that he understands women “feel like that is their body,” then promptly explained why he disagreed.
“I feel like it is a separate — what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant,” he said. “So that’s where I’m at. I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”
Humphrey’s language is shocking and unconscionable, and he has been rightly excoriated for it. But behind this idea that women’s bodies are mere hosts to human fetuses is the belief that women’s primary, if not singular role in society is as breeders — a belief that drives every piece of anti-abortion legislation.
Social conservatives’ views on a woman’s place are easily gleaned from the rules they create to exert control over their bodies: either abstain from sex completely or carry a fetus to full term. This attitude is evident in the pervasiveness of abstinence-only sex education, the shaming of women who have multiple sex partners or sex outside of marriage, and the flurry of anti-abortion bills that lawmakers keep introducing to push the envelope. It’s telling, too, that men are often the most virulent champions of denying a women the right to safe and legal abortion.
Citing religious or moral reasons for opposing abortion is also a weak argument. While the decision to terminate a pregnancy is not always absent of internal turmoil and feelings of trauma, it is done for a multitude of reasons. Abortion is a moral dilemma for some people, but one man’s conflicting thoughts on abortion should not be grounds for depriving even one woman the right to choose.
Those sickened by Humphrey’s remarks can take heart that his bill is clearly unconstitutional (as many anti-abortion bills are) and likely will not even make it past the House. But then again, introducing plainly impossible abortion restrictions is part of a strategy to make incremental anti-abortion legislation seem easier to swallow.
Take Ohio, for example. In December, I wrote about the two bills that Republican lawmakers sent to Gov. John Kasich’s desk — one to outlaw abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, and another that would ban abortion at 20 weeks. Kasich predictably vetoed the less politically-viable, more extreme heartbeat abortion bill and signed the 20-week abortion ban into law.
“We believe John Kasich’s plan is to attempt to look moderate by vetoing one abortion ban while signing another,” Gabriel Mann, NARAL Ohio’s communications manager, told me at the time.
By employing this warped, lesser-of-two-evils tactic, anti-abortionists aim to slowly chip away at women’s access to abortion, with the hopes of eventually outlawing abortion entirely.
But pro-choice advocates and women’s groups are wise to this ploy, and even though it seems like anti-abortionists have the upper hand with powerful supporters in Washington D.C. at the moment, a majority of Americans today support women’s right to choose. According to the Pew Research Center, public support for legal abortion is at its highest in two decades at 59 percent, with Democratic women leading the charge.
Still incensed by President Trump’s incriminating video released during the presidential campaign and his administration’s subsequent actions to curb abortion access abroad, an increasing number of women are becoming more politically active. Whether they’re taking to the streets in protest or learning to run for office, women have been on the frontline of the resistance — and soon may be the ones shaping legislation on reproductive rights in ever growing numbers across the country.
By A Plus’ CLARISSA-JAN LIM