If my uterus could shoot bullets, it wouldn’t be regulated.
—Sign at an abortion rights rally
“The Big Lie” is about more than a twice-impeached ex-president falsely claiming he won an election he lost. (It wasn’t even close; he was seven million popular votes behind—and 74 votes, 306–232, in the Electoral College.) The Big Lie is also about so-called “personal freedom” when it comes to Covid-19 vaccinations, and control of our individual reproductive health and rights.
There’s perhaps no more hypocritical example of the Big Lie’s double standard than in Texas, where commanders in the nation’s leading handmaid state have essentially denied pregnant residents their (fragilely) protected constitutional right to abortion health care under Roe v. Wade. Texas may be the first state that Margaret Atwood’s fictional (?) Gilead would be proud to do business with; sadly, it would not be the only one.
Whenever we cite “The Big Lie”— the shorthand term to describe Donald’s Delusion Treachery (DDT)—we really should add an “s”: the Big Lies. Consider: How is it possible that Texas can (with the force of law) control a woman’s reproductive life—banning abortion six weeks after conception, before most people are aware they’re pregnant—while declaring individuals, not the state, should decide whether or not to wear a mask, or get vaccinated to protect themselves from contracting Covid-19?
As Gov. Greg Abbott wrote, “Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate Covid-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose.” Texans’ liberty to choose—just not the liberty of pregnant Texans. The state’s near total abortion ban also legalizes medical bounty hunting. Texas will award $10,000 to bounty hunters who successfully sue a person aiding anyone seeking abortion care.
It’s with this backdrop that a male Pennsylvania legislator entered the fray. In what he described as parody legislation, in October Rep. Chris Rabb proposed that all men—within six weeks of having their third child or turning 40—be required to have a vasectomy. In a memo describing the legislation, Rep. Rabb (D-Philadelphia) says it would also authorize a $10,000 reward to private citizens who report violators to authorities. The satirical bill defines “wrongful conception” to include anyone who “demonstrated negligence toward preventing contraception during intercourse.”
Rabb said that while his vasectomy bill is satire, it highlights a double standard. “For far too long, the public debate around abortion, contraception and related reproductive matters has thrust government into the center of restrictions on the bodily autonomy of women and girls,” Rabb said. “Rarely is there a meaningful dialogue around public policy focusing on the personal responsibility of cisgender men.…” In proposing the vasectomy bill, Rabb called on “more men who are either quiet or indifferent about this issue [to] see that this is an injustice that makes our society less safe and less equitable.”
Rep. Rabb said he was inspired by a bill Illinois state legislator Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) wrote, “The EXpanding Abortion Services Act,” the acronym of which spells Texas. Rep. Cassidy’s proposal would give Illinoisans the right to seek at least $10,000 in damages against anyone who causes an unwanted pregnancy by committing sexual assault or abuse, including domestic violence. It makes no exception for pregnancies resulting from consensual sex.
Referring to men in an interview she gave NPR Illinois, Rep. Cassidy said, “If folks are policing the bodies of people who are seeking reproductive healthcare in Texas, well, then maybe we should be policing the bodies of the people who are causing those problems here in Illinois.”
Rep. Rabb tweeted, “As long as legislators continue to restrict the #ReproductiveRights of cis women, trans men & non-binary folx, there should be laws to address the responsibility of the men who impregnate them.”
Exposing the Big Lie—and the Big Lies—is a civic responsibility none of us can shy away from. Whether it’s standing up for reproductive rights, or critical race theory—aka accurate US history—it’s on us to speak up. And for men, it’s way past time we do so. Access to safe, legal abortion is not only a women’s issue. It’s our issue, too.
Rob Okun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.