Tuesday, hundreds marched on Tennessee’s capitol to protest the recently passed state constitutional Amendment One, which has taken away women’s freedom to make decisions about our own bodies privately and independent of government interference.
Note that here, women are standing outside the building. Despite almost a hundred years of voting, we’re still for the most part outsiders to law making and power. Of course we all should have voted – women and men – when Amendment One was on the ballot. But in November’s election, less than 35% of Tennesseans voted. We’ve almost 4 million registered voters but Amendment One passed with just 729,163 votes. The Tennessean reports that “Tennessee voters by a solid margin backed Amendment 1.” But 53% of 35% of us isn’t a solid margin. It’s a minority. Only 18% of Tennesseans passed a measure to limit women’s equality.
A minority passed Amendment One, and now House Bill 0002 hopes to require all women seeking abortions to view preliminary ultrasounds and listen to heartbeats and counseling before returning another day for another appointment. But not everyone can afford so many medical services, especially services that are not medically necessary. Mandatory ultrasounds, counseling, and waiting periods require capital, confidence, and leisure. Measures like these limit women’s access to safe abortions, especially for women who are poor.
HB 0002 suggests that women cannot even look at our bodies without – again, usually white male – government assistance. Requiring ultrasounds before abortions suggests that on our own women can’t see ourselves correctly. So HB 0002 will have others describe to us, “in a manner understandable to a layperson,” our own bodies. Measures like these would have us outsiders not only to government but to our own bodies, too.
The Feminist Newswire reports that another bill, SB 13, would require – again, usually white male – “doctors to deliver manipulative ‘counseling’ to women electing to choose abortion – including exaggerating the medical severity of the procedure and encouraging her to carry to term and choose adoption.” If knowledge is power, then misinforming women is an attempt to take away our power, here over ourselves and our decisions.
HB 0002 would force women to lift our shirts and skirts for unnecessary, invasive ultrasounds and condescending, politically influenced counseling. The state would have us stripped of power and literally stripped as they check our reproductive health. Here, Tennessee’s measures begin to sound not unlike the so-called virginity tests for female Indonesian police recruits.
It doesn’t make sense that we’re having to battle this kind of regulation here in the American South. Of course we’re in the bible belt so some resistance to abortion isn’t particularly surprising. But the South also boasts a history steeped in moonshine and guns. The South has traditionally positioned itself against government interference in personal matters. Southerners traditionally argue for freedom from the government. Amendment One, however, invites the government quite literally into our privacies. If we won’t stand for government in our gun cabinets, why are we letting government into our bodies?
Tennesseans, keep talking. Ask your legislators to oppose these bills and any others that take away our self governance. You can find and contact your legislators here. If you haven’t already, please join the conversation. And please keep in mind that it’s a conversation about more than when life begins. Amendment One and consequent upcoming bills threaten to set a precedent that the state can regulate our bodies, our intentions, and our futures. Before you dismiss women’s right to choose, you might think about how carefully you choose and how confidently you trust your state legislators. What all will you let them choose for you?