The best weapon is often a sense of humor. So, Americans are deleting period-tracking apps and detailing their womb lives on Twitter, to the irritation of Republicans.
The June 24 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade, abolished the decades-old legal precedent which held that termination of pregnancy was protected by the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. For many American women and men, it was a deep shock (despite the fact a draft opinion was leaked in May).
As is the case in the European Union, for some U.S. states, the decision did not change much; for others, it was a wake-up call to enact legislation that would prevent a local ban (as Vermont did). But in many places, such as Texas, overturning Roe vs. Wade triggered an anti-abortion law that was previously inactive at the state level. Sometimes, this can be quite drastic.
The Case of a 10-Year-Old Girl from Ohio
One of the most shocking stories of recent weeks was recounted by President Joe Biden himself. In Ohio, a 10-year-old girl became pregnant as a result of rape. The legislation there is so strict that neither age nor the fact that the pregnancy was the result of a crime were sufficient grounds for a child to legally undergo termination of pregnancy. Ohio, where Republicans hold a majority, is one of the states that had “suspended” anti-abortion laws, which were then “put on hold” a few hours after the publication of the Supreme Court’s decision. For several weeks, the state’s 2019 ban on abortion has been restored to prohibit the procedure from the moment a fetal heartbeat is detected. (In practice, therefore, abortion is allowed until about the sixth week of pregnancy; this does not mean that at such an early stage, the embryo has a heart, but the pulsation of energy of embryonic cells is detectable).
The 10-year-old underwent surgery in neighboring Indiana, which was reported by the obstetrician, Dr. Caitlin Bernard. Soon after, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican, accused her of not reporting the issue and threatened criminal prosecution. According to Reuters, Bernard’s lawyers intend to sue him for defamation.
Abortion in Words. ‘Pregnable People’
The NiemanLab, a journalism think tank, analyzed reactions to the story of the 10-year-old girl, including newspaper headlines such as “An Abortion Story Too Good to Confirm” in well-known news sources. Conclusion? The media are completely unprepared for this new reality.
“[E]vents this week make it very clear that if you can’t bear to believe it — even if it seems so impossible that it needs a heartily skeptical fact-checking treatment — it is going to happen. And reporters who want to tell these stories (and the news organizations those reporters work for) may have to abandon some conventional journalism wisdom in order to give the stories the attention they deserve,” NiemanLab concluded. Fortunately, the revision of attitudes toward reality is slowly taking place.
Another issue involves the vocabulary, pronouns, and words that remain, something people struggled with before. In the context of the attack on reproductive rights, appropriate and tactful treatment of those exposed to the effects of the abortion ban has become particularly important. The phrase “pregnable people” is infuriating. It literally means “people who are able to get pregnant,” but “pregnable” most often refers to vulnerability.
Heavy Period on Twitter
Importantly, pro-abortion resistance only occasionally falls into pathos. The best weapon is often a sense of humor. Take the case of a Texas resident, whose state equates abortion with homicide. Brandy Bottone is currently visibly pregnant. She was stopped by traffic police while driving in a high occupancy vehicle lane. Defending herself against the ticket, she emphasized that she was pregnant and that the fetus in her belly should count as any other passenger.
On Twitter, people shared the details of their womb life with more conservative Republicans. By tagging Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott, among others, they describe their “heavy periods” in detail, report that they experience “few contractions” or that they “sneezed in the shower and a red clot ran down the drain.” This may evoke nostalgia among Polish feminists who sent letters to Prime Minister Beata Szydło in 2016 using the hashtag “#Difficult period.”
Period tracking apps have turned out to be a separate issue. After the Supreme Court’s draft opinion was leaked, American women began to delete these apps from their phones in droves. Now, a new level of action has emerged: women are encouraging men to install these apps in a gesture of solidarity and include notes that are as ridiculous as possible.
Abortion, Solidarity, Democracy
Many states have settled the question of abortion one way or another, and some are just planning their move. A constitutional referendum will be held in Kansas on Aug. 2, when residents will decide whether abortion is a regulated matter at the constitutional or local level. A “yes” vote will support the amendment stating that there is no constitutional right to abortion, giving state authorities the final word on the matter. This would overrule the 2019 Hodes & Nauser v. Derek Schmidt decision, in which the Kansas Supreme Court held that the Kansas Bill of Rights protects abortion.
Volunteers are already sending postcards to residents, asking them to vote “no.” They also include mini works of art performed in various ways.
As in Poland, surprisingly, the ban on abortion and the threat to reproductive rights turned out to be a great lesson in democracy and civic involvement. The solidarity of women, or rather people able to get pregnant, clearly extends beyond national and continental borders.
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