This week, Georgia became the sixth state to ban abortions after six weeks — so early in pregnancy that many women don’t even realize they’ve missed a period, let alone that they’re pregnant. Laws like these effectively ban all abortions — and that, of course, is the whole point.
Republicans want to ensure that women are forced to carry pregnancies no matter how far along they are, and these so-called heartbeat bills do double duty: They prevent women from legally being able to obtain an abortion, and were written with the hope that they’d be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court to help overturn Roe v. Wade.
But the danger of this law is not just that it will prevent women from getting abortions, but that women who do would be subject to life in prison or the death penalty. Imagine a future where women who have miscarried are interrogated by the police over whether they took an abortion pill. Where mothers of stillborn babies are arrested because they refused to have a C-section. This is the unsaid reality of criminalizing abortion.
Up until recently, the anti-abortion movement would have taken great pains to pretend that women wouldn’t be punished under such a law. That the GOP no longer has the need for such niceties should scare every single one of us.
The truth is that the anti-abortion movement — emboldened by Donald Trump — has made a disturbing return to its extremist roots.
Up until recently, mainstream anti-choicers tried to distance themselves from their most radical proponents. They understood that videos of men screaming “murderer” at women as they walked out of clinics were not a good look, and as such, tried to soften their image. Instead of attacking women, they claimed women “deserved better” than abortion, and created organizations with feminist-sounding names.
Anti-choicers always believed women should be forced into motherhood. But before now, the country and culture necessitated that they shroud their most extreme views.
Those who once fought so hard to seem “woman-friendly” have seemingly given up on their public image problem — embracing the most radical rhetoric. It was less than two weeks ago, for example, that the president of the United States claimed that after a child is born, “they take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully… and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.” No Republicans or anti-abortion leaders stepped up to correct him. It was also just last month that, for the first time in Texas’s history, the state heard public testimony in support of a bill that would punish women who had abortions with the death penalty. And last year, conservatives rallied around a writer who said that women who end their pregnancies should be executed by hanging.
This is not to say that the anti-choice movement has changed in some fundamental way — anti-choicers always believed women should be forced into motherhood, and they always knew that the consequences of such beliefs would put women in jail or worse. But before now, the country and culture necessitated that they shroud their most extreme views.
It does not bode well for the women of America that this is no longer the case.
How long will it be before anti-choicers brag about the prison sentences women who have abortions will get? This not an imaginary future — women have already been prosecuted for ending their pregnancies, and doctors who perform abortions have already been attacked and killed. These laws are just more proof that the anti-choice movement is not afraid to double down on its most extreme and callous beliefs. Beliefs that will put women’s lives and freedom in danger.
The danger of post-Roe America is already here.