by: Lindsey Gavel
Freedom of speech, freedom of religion. If you’re a citizen of the United States of America, these are your constitutional rights. Unless, of course, you have an opinion and one of those things that starts with a “v” and ends in “agina.”
Recently, Rep. Lisa Brown of Michigan’s 39th District was banned from doing her job by the Speaker of the House after she exercised her aforementioned constitutional rights. In voicing her disapproval regarding House Bill 57-11, a piece of sweeping anti-choice legislation that is being widely regarded as the most extreme in the country, Brown chastised Republicans for forcing others to adhere to their religious beliefs regarding abortion. She proceeded to wrap up her argument against the bill with a blunt yet perfectly appropriate biting line: “Finally Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.'” It’s almost comical to imagine the middle-aged conservatives of the penile persuasion nervously tugging at their ties and turning red: “It’s the dreaded v-word! Somebody muzzle her!” When news of Brown’s blasphemy went national, her reckless use of a scientific term was blamed for her subsequent slap on the wrist. Shocking? Yes. Comical? Decidedly so. Completely accurate? The jury is still out on that one.
I do know this much: there probably were some old crusties in the House who were offended by her unapologetic use of a scientific term. The women that bore them (who probably all have, you know, a hoo-ha) must have excused them from Biology class during the reproduction lecture. But I think that the real disgust was born when Brown called them out on their attempts to force religious beliefs on others – and came to an angry head when she equated the conservative War on Women to an act of rape.
It was a shocking, eerily accurate statement that pertains to the legislation being debated all over this dear country of ours, not just in the state of Michigan. The act of forcing oneself on another without consent IS an act of rape – and if forcing themselves on (and into) women’s bodies is what conservative Republicans have been doing, isn’t “rape” an accurate term? I don’t use that term in jest, and I don’t make light of it, but I do wholeheartedly agree with Lisa Brown’s implication.
I’m going to get personal for a minute. I am a cisgendered female: I was born a female, and that’s what I identify as. Growing up as such, it was always implied that as a straight female, I was to get married, bear children, and raise a family.
However, I wasn’t born with normal ladybits, and that’s where my story derails. I’ve always been an overachiever and apparently, have been since I was in utero; I am the proud owner of not one but TWO cervixes and TWO uteri. I had an ultrasound done in March of 2012 to get some answers – answers that the doctor who discovered my unusual condition refused to answer. “We don’t need to worry about anything until you decide to have children,” she said, and sent 16 year old me right back out the door. It was my hope that as a 25 year old, the new doctor would take me seriously and answer all of my questions, regardless of how awkward having a conversation in stirrups can be.
Yet, once again, I was instructed to not worry about a thing until I was ready to have children, despite my many vocalized statements about NOT wanting them. I walked away with a prescription for strong birth control, knowing little more than I knew before: no one knows if I can even have children, but if I were to get pregnant (either by accident or by choice), it’s almost certain that I would have a very difficult pregnancy.
The abortion legislation being debated in this country (some has been enacted, some is being debated, and some will hopefully never make it through) stands to impact me directly. There are some women out there who will never have to worry about it; they will have normal, planned, healthy pregnancies, and won’t ever have to worry about termination options. But as a high-risk case, what if I get pregnant and find out that because of my anatomy, my choices are to save my life or the life of the fetus?
There are states in this country who would force me to have a vaginal ultrasound to view the fetus, force me to listen to the fetal heartbeat, counsel me on adoption options, and make me wait for a particular amount of time before performing the procedure, even if my pregnancy was planned and termination was necessary to save my life. There are states in this country who would allow their doctors to lie to my face about the health of the fetus if they thought I would consider abortion. There is a state in this country that would prohibit terminating my pregnancy after 20 weeks, even if it were a life or death situation for me.
The current bill in Michigan, the very same one that Rep. Lisa Brown spoke out against, is chock-full of unnecessary restrictions aimed at making it harder and harder for a woman to even have abortion as an option. State Rep. Mike Shirkey, a conservative Michigan Republican, has even gone so far as stating, “Until we completely eliminate abortions in Michigan and completely defund Planned Parenthood, we have work to do.”
Take a look at all of the current anti-choice legislation. These bills are, at the core, dictating what a woman can or cannot do with her own body. As women, we are being forced to adhere to guidelines that disrespect personal freedom – many of which have come about because the majority of our legislators don’t “believe” in abortion. If my government is forcing me to sit quietly while they make sweeping decisions about my reproductive system without my consent, then yes, I do believe it is a form of rape. I fully support Lisa Brown’s comments, and am appreciative of the fact that her bold statement has garnered so much discourse.
Lindsey Gavel is an outspoken and opinionated atheist, feminist, and cyclist living in Chicago. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BFA in Acting, so naturally, she has a day job slinging lattes. She “works” around town as an actor, theatre production-er, musician, and writer, and is a huge nerd for anything sci-fi. Disclaimer: She’s a Daywalker.