I Am Not a Host Body, and They Are Not Pro-Life
Republicans want to control our bodies by controlling the narrative.
I don’t know how anything can surprise me anymore, but when I heard the Florida Speaker of the House was repeatedly referring to pregnant women as host bodies, I had to see the video to believe it. It’s true: FL House Speaker José Oliva called women host bodies five times in this interview with CBS4 Miami’s Jim DeFede.
“You’d expect to hear this offensive language in the Handmaid’s Tale— not from the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives,” said Florida Democratic Party chair Terrie Rizzo, who called his language “hurtful, dehumanizing, and misogynistic.”
Oliva tweeted a sort of apology about the remarks, including this line:
“I regret my wording has distracted from the issue.”
Did his wording distract from the issue? Or is he — along with other anti-choice Republican politicians — deliberately using this terminology to push the conversation to one that further dehumanizes women and makes the loss of our autonomy more palatable to viewers and voters?
After all, five times is not a random verbal stumble — he didn’t even claim as much. This was a calculated decision. The political Right continues to find success in controlling the narrative, by normalizing backwards euphemisms.
As people, especially the media, repeat Republican doublespeak, the entire conversation shifts to the right.
Just a few examples of the Right’s misleading language:
political correctness — Actually, folks are just asking for basic human respect, but calling it political correctness is a way to mock that.
Make America Great Again — Just call it Great and maybe no one will notice their human rights disappearing?
enhanced interrogation techniques — Because “torture” doesn’t have the same ring to it.
illegals — This one’s actually a dysphemism, an unnecessarily derogatory term. Calling people illegals is designed to dehumanize and ‘other’ them. The AP agrees illegal should only be used to describe an action, not a person.
host bodies — Another dysphemism from the Right. This brings to mind aliens and parasites, and is definitely designed to dehumanize anyone with a uterus.
pro-life — It’s shocking that people keep repeating this term with a straight face, when it’s really a euphemism for telling people with uteruses what to do with their lives.
I refuse to use the term pro-life for the mindset and policy that is essentially anti-life. I prefer the more accurate terms anti-abortion or anti-choice.
“Alabama — I’m looking at you. And your stats.
You rank 50th in public education in the United States. You claim that you care so much for children — but you don’t provide them with a solid education? You don’t give a shit about children.
You rank 46th in healthcare. How are you going to support all of the babies that you’re now forcing women to have? Women have abortions for a variety of reasons — one of them being that they can’t afford the child.”
Anti-choice laws have never been about life.
Progressive ideas —lifelong access to healthcare, free quality education, paid maternity and paternity leave, universal basic income, comprehensive family planning access, environmental protection like the Green New Deal — these progressive policies and priorities emphasize, support, and celebrate life.
Our failure, as a nation, to see this, is a problem of branding and our susceptibility to marketing. By repeating the Right’s euphemisms and dysphemisms, we are normalizing their hate and their restrictive policies.
The term pro-life, as it’s used today, was a direct response to Roe v. Wade. Anti-abortion leaders chose the term specifically to frame themselves positively. Annalisa Merelli writes for Quartz:
“It was a marketing masterstroke: the word ‘life’ has been linked to the opposition of abortion since, and being ‘pro-life’ has come to mean specifically opposing abortion — and not, for instance, opposing war or the death penalty. The success of the label is largely due to its ability to frame the issue not as standing against something (a woman’s choice) but in favor of it (life).”
For too long, we have allowed a subset of the population to claim the moral ownership of the term pro-life.
But you are not pro-life if you support the death penalty, if you’re okay with tearing immigrant children away from their families, or if you expect thoughts and prayers to be enough for victims of mass shootings. You are not pro-life if you’re okay for a second with the country — and the world — being so hideously unequal. And you are not pro-life if you want to criminalize women — and all people — for having the audacity to insist on their own humanity.
My body is my body. I am a woman. I am a person. I am a writer. I am a friend. Do not call me a host body.
I chose birth control pills and condoms, to prevent pregnancy, until I chose to become pregnant. After birthing my very awesome kiddo, I chose a Mirena IUD. I recently chose to have it removed, because my husband chose a vasectomy. Along the way, I accessed Planned Parenthood clinics for my reproductive healthcare, and now my whole family sees a family doctor who supports and prioritizes choice for all.
I was lucky to not become pregnant until I chose to be. Many are not so lucky. If I’d had an unplanned pregnancy, I would have availed myself of the wonderful choice my own mom marched on Washington to secure, back before the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade.
I want every person in this country — this world — to have easy access to reproductive information, to free birth control, and to free abortion — so no one will ever again be forced to feel like a host body.