by Valerie Morales
With the economy slipping down the rabbit hole and service labor in desperate straits, with ill patients who cannot get tested remaining at home frustrated and scared, the state of Ohio acted precipitously. They went with the let’s penalize women as a creative solution to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Not known for their empathy, political savvy, or intellectualism, the Ohio GOP banned abortion providers from performing non-essential abortions and services, while at the same time healthcare workers in the state are trying to battle a public health hysteria, panic, stay at home orders, sick patients, and a lot of chaos. It was a reminder that the weaponization of abortion continues unabated, even during a pandemic.
The transactional decisions and worries that accompany a country’s shutdown include how I am going to pay my rent and why are hoarders so selfish, plus childcare worries and job worries. This is the new normal.
Coronavirus- or ‘Rona as we call it in the hood- is re-shaping life as we know it. But for the Ohio GOP, empathy for those on the anxious margins matters less than their collective venom towards women who want an abortion and providers who carry it out.
Dave Yost, Ohio’s attorney general, ordered the stoppage of “nonessential” and elective abortions that present no risk to the patient if they are delayed. But here’s where language gets in the way. All abortions are essential. All delayed abortions present risk to the patient because abortions are time sensitive, particularly in states like Ohio that mandate a deadline in which abortions can be performed.
I get so exhausted by men who think a woman deciding to have an abortion is like a woman choosing Rocky Road ice cream at Stone Cold Creamery. A lot of tears and late nights and mulling the consequences goes into an abortion choice. It is not an impulsive act. It is not random.
Problem number one: Those who are trying to deny women their constitutional right to an abortion, and who are using their authority in this national crises of public health to bully vulnerable women, while calling themselves pious, are hypocrites. They are ignoring-because it suits their ideology- what a woman and her doctor, and in many cases her boyfriend or husband, have decided. An abortion is an informed decision from a coalition of family and professionals.
Iris E. Harvey and Kersha Deibel, presidents of CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Planned Parenthood Soutwest Ohio Region, responded that “Planned Parenthood can still continue providing essential procedures, including surgical abortion…Our doors remain open to this care.”
Attorney General Yost rationalizes his order as necessary. But abortion has no impact on spreading the coronavirus. Nevertheless, pro-life men infantilize women by treating women’s bodies as a commodity they can own. They treat grown women as if they are little girls and not ambitious, competent, smart, savvy adults.
It’s contempt, this purist form of male privilege that is embraced by white men whose numbers are descending into an abysmal crater of low population. White men are disappearing. White women are not having babies. Do the math.
Except a few months ago, a federal judge in Ohio temporarily blocked the GOP legislature from their draconian fetal heartbeat law. Abortions would be outlawed if a fetal heartbeat was detected. Women who have abortions would be tried for abortion murder and could face the death penalty.
The ACLU wasn’t going to let Yost’s statement settle, ferment, and expand. “This is an unprecedented time and people’s health and safety must be protected; but the government shouldn’t use this crises as an excuse to target clinics and try to take away the ability of Ohioans to access abortion, which is time-sensitive, essential health care.”
At its core, anti-abortion orders interfere with the doctor patient relationship which is privileged. Targeting Planned Parenthood endangers women of color and women of few resources, on the front end, while on the back end it furthers the lie that the GOP perpetuates compassion. You’ve heard it before. Their claims of loving all life. Sure, embryonic life. Fetal tissue life. But not human life. Extended maternal leave, free formula and baby food, housing assistance, subsidies for postpartum depression are GOP non-sequiters. Once babies are born, the GOP are aggressively negligent towards the population they are forcing to have birth . Women are props in GOP’s patriarchal compulsion to own women’s bodies because they can’t own women’s minds.
The criminalization of abortion is embraced in Ohio. They want on the books something called “abortion murder” and “aggravated abortion assault” in which you would get life in prison and the death penalty for having an abortion. Ohio wants physicians to try to re-implant ectopic pregnancies in the uterus despite the fact that is physically impossible and has never been done. So I suppose my brown face would be on the fast track to lethal injection because I had a late term abortion. But, oh yeah, the baby was already dead.
Women are going to continue to have abortions regardless of politics and sexist men. If a woman doesn’t want a baby, she’s not going to have one. The counseling that abortion clinics are forced to provide to new clients is a lecture. Nothing more.
Men rule without grace and women adjust. Used to pausing and having a reason for an abortion, minds are rarely changed at the clinic.
Receive a migraine med at CVS and the pharmacist will tell you all the side effects before she hands over the medication. We are used to the laundry list of probabilities. So, there’s nothing a counselor is going to say absent your clit is going to fall off that is going to make a woman who wants an abortion not get one. Social media and its cottage industry of hate, instant reaction, racism, sexism has inadvertently hardened us. We ignore the screamers who don’t know jack sh*t about our life decisons.
I want to add this about black women who choose abortions. We come from enslaved people who were tortured. They lacked choices. The plantation owner as well as male slave husbands had legitimacy over women’s bodies. Emancipation meant choosing for ourselves. That choice is sacred. An Ohio attorney general can shake and shiver and despise female empowerment but he won’t change our minds. He can’t slay us.
Women are being singled out by Dave Yost. Does he have such an order for dental surgeries? Or, vasectomies? Or, hairline surgery? Or, rectal resection? Or, gynecomastia (removal of male breast tissue)? Of course not.
Our bodies are used as props to further an agenda that doesn’t include our health and well being, nor our love and empathy, our ownership. Our bodies are used to punish us for someone else’s compass that has a broken needle. Abuse, as someone once said, isn’t always a fist. Sometimes, oftentimes, it is men who want to own things that don’t belong to them.
Women of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds and circumstances and colors have survived their bodies and have survived the men who do violent things to them. Our bodies have one owner. Only one. Us.