In the summer of 2013, Texas Senator Wendy Davis became the spokesperson for the pro-choice movement. Without food, water, or bathroom breaks, Davis stood on the senate floor for 11 hours to filibuster an anti-abortion bill.
The legislation called to ban all abortions after 20 weeks, restrict access to abortion-inducing medication, and require doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals. If passed, the bill would close 37 of 42 available clinics in the state.
During the lengthy debate, Davis formulated her concerns on the regulatory laws without digressing. She discussed the anxieties of women nationwide–who worried about the effects of the proposed limitations. Davis summarized their unease in a single question directed at the politicians seated before her:
“What purpose does this bill serve?” Davis asked. “And could it be, might it just be a desire to limit women’s access to safe, healthy, legal, constitutionally-protected abortions in the state of Texas?”
Texas implements strict laws to regulate female reproductive rights. The state demands that women receive an ultrasound prior to an abortion. In addition, legislators instituted the Fetal Heartbeat Bill, which requires women to listen to the unborn child’s heartbeat before completing the procedure.
At a closer glance, the congressmen who vote on these bills become points of contention. Men comprise three-fourths of legislators countrywide. They initiate and vote on reproductive issues that—in no way—affect their bodies. Many pro-choice activists label these legislators as misogynists, and claim that their desire for power trumps the more consequential matters at hand.
In response to the countless laws in place that govern women’s choices over their own bodies, lawmakers have put forward bills that aim to do the same for men. Women senators have presented amendments that, if passed, would regulate men’s access to reproductive health care.
In Ohio, former Senator Nina Turner proposed that men must meet with a sex therapist, undergo a cardiac stress test, and get a notarized affidavit confirming impotency before they receive a prescription for erectile dysfunction drugs. To counter anti-contraception legislation and diminish the double-standard, a similar bill was proposed in Virginia, but died in committee.
Around the same time as Turner, Oklahoma Senator Constance Johnson suggested that it be illegal for men to masturbate. In Georgia, democrats sought to prohibit men from getting vasectomies–claiming that children are deprived life due to the lack of regulations on men.
These strides have all been spearheaded by women. Although most were unsuccessful in advancing beyond the initial propositions, their collective aims have enabled the conversation on reproductive rights to shift.
Despite this, regulating women’s reproductive rights remains at the forefront of politicians’ and dissenters’ agendas. Recently, attacks have been placed on Planned Parenthood in an attempt to forbid procedures, close health care facilities, and limit women’s access to vital health care.
In addition, for the first time in eight years, the Supreme Court met recently to decide on the case Whole Women’s Health v. Cole, which readdresses the issues raised in Texas in 2013.
Should the Supreme Court rule in favor of Texas politicians, everything that Senator Wendy Davis fought for would be expunged, and women’s health would be left at risk.
In the meantime, activists continue the fight to preserve the rights of women, and they hope to see greater gains sooner rather than later.
Feature photo courtesy of Madmanmikey from Creative Commons Flickr.