The present battle over reproductive rights is an attempted coup by conservatives, who see an opportune moment. Ushered in by the election of Donald Trump as well as the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, some see it as an opportunity to overturn the right to abortion. It is peculiar that such a case could be made under the leadership of Trump, whose own life is a poster-child for careless, wanton, and assaultive attitudes toward sex. It is strange that the move to tighten abortion comes from a party whose leader has led a playboy life, preying on women, paying to silence women, and having all sorts of illicit affairs during and in-between his three marriages. Even if Trump embodies exactly why the option of abortion should be a woman’s choice, it is obvious that Republicans believe that the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court signals an opportunity.
That Kavanaugh, himself accused of sexual assault and other sexual misconduct, should be the vote that turns the tide is even more remarkable. If Trump’s destructive masculinity has so far showed how a man’s carelessness can easily turn into a woman’s pregnancy, Kavanaugh showed a more pernicious side. He has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by different women, which is also a reminder of the most unfortunate ways that pregnancies can occur—through the use of force or the threat of force by a man. That Kavanaugh’s vote may become the lynchpin for abolishing abortion is the ultimate irony, especially were it to force a woman to carry a child that was the product of sexual assault
The different states moving to reverse reproductive rights have Trump and Kavanaugh to thank for helping engineer the movement. The fact that they are the igniters of this movement is like a warped episode of A Handmaid’s Tale. Under such men and the party that supports them, women find themselves under a legal assault. Such an attack triggers the need to devise new political means of reimagining democracy and pushing back. Two future pathways of resistance may be to advocate for same-sex voting and counter-legislation. It might be time to reimagine voting and start pressing for laws that govern a man’s privates as rigidly as the laws that govern a woman’s womb.
Although it may seem politically naïve to suggest it, a person’s reproductive rights might be best determined along sex lines. It is not far-fetched to allot women as the only class of voters allowed to vote on issues that govern reproductive law and their own body. Likewise, it is already taken for granted that a man should be able to decide these issues, whether he wants to have children, when he does, and with whom. None of these should be hoisted upon him by the state. The same should hold true for women, even though their rights are more precarious since they operate against a history of oppression and inequality, where once upon a time they held the status of being property. Today, women still struggle with inequities and far less political power than their counterparts. It is a stark lesson in gender dominance that men should wield such decisionmaking over female bodies, which makes the current democratic model simply a perpetuation of injustice. Same-sex voting would at least take the male thumb off the scales so that women alone could be the arbiters of any policy that pertains to their body, and the pain and suffering that come with it.
Some might scoff at the idea of same-sex voting, but it is not outlandish to think that there are some issues for which women-only should be allowed to vote. An obvious argument in favor of this idea is the fact that women bear unique burdens and pains of being women, including pregnancy and childbirth. So, the very painful issues at stake are completely unknown to men. Despite this gap, as it stands, men are flexing their power to sentence women to pregnancy, which in some cases might be construed as a sentence of torture. Compared to a system that would let women decide on laws that impact their own bodies and the pain and suffering they must endure, current legislative efforts bear an heir of barbarism. To some, same-sex voting might seem undemocratic, but historical circumstances of this country have created glass ceiling after ceiling for women, while current inequalities persist. Same sex voting would be a step toward a more egalitarian political playing field in which women have a genuine say in what happens to their body.
This move would also further democracy in the sense that it would lead to more equitable and acceptable political outcomes for women. For example, even if a majority of women enacted laws similar to the anti-abortion efforts currently underway, it would likely lead to more women accepting the result compared to today’s system, where a man’s opinion carries the heaviest weight. Today, as in years of old, men are the primary creators of these laws and they are still largely the most important voters. Male dominance of American culture and its legal systems gives males the political upper-hand now and in future efforts to regulate women’s bodies. Congress may be starting to open up to women members, but it and other government institutions still live in the shadows of inequality. Hence, when it comes to decisions about the female body or sexual reproduction, allowing same-sex voting would be a push toward expanding the one-size-fits-all model of voting into one that is more tailored to the lived experiences of women. They are the ones who must experience these unique physical realities, from menstruation and childbirth all the way to menopause.
Whether same-sex voting or other such voting possibilities take root, there is no doubt that phallocentric legislation is being used as a counter-strategy by some. On social media there has been robust discussion on this point, including what it would look like if similar laws were passed for men. Memes have ruminated on mandatory male vasectomies, banning vasectomies, and other restrictions, including getting permission from others before being allowed the procedure. Others have pointed out that over a nine-month period, a man can cause a number of pregnancies, whereas a woman can only have a single pregnancy. Taken wholly, the commentary underscores that the greatest threat of unwanted pregnancies necessarily comes from males.
A more concrete illustration comes from the state of Georgia, where one lawmaker responded to a controversial abortion law by drafting a “testicular bill of rights.” The plan would ban vasectomies and require men to seek permission from their partners before getting a Viagra prescription. Unabashed in its attempt to mirror the type of punitive measures laid out in the abortion law, the proposed law would go even further and make the use of a condom an “aggravated assault” under the criminal law, require DNA testing of a fetus when a woman is 6 weeks to determine the father for child support purposes, in addition to a 24-hour waiting period to purchase pornography or sex toys.
Both counter-legislation and same-sex voting may seem like the bud of a joke, yet one might only imagine if such a trend were to arise, perhaps supported by the spirit of the #MeToo movement. What if male and female bodily and reproductive rights were policed equally such that men patrolled their own bodies, and women did the same for themselves? Such a move would result in a true shift of power since men have been the sole legal guardians of the American legal system for most of the country’s existence and have created nearly all the laws that govern women’s sex and reproductive rights. Perhaps it is time to relinquish this power to whom it rightfully belongs.
Making men feel regulative burdens similar to women, in addition to giving women the exclusive vote over women’s issues, will work to infuse more democracy into the system. To be sure, how we vote is not etched in stone, and there is obviously more than one way to vote. To say that there is only one way is itself not very democratic; it also betrays history, since for a long time, there was only one-sex voting, men. But not all men—only wealthy white men were allowed to vote. To say that voting arrangements cannot be reconfigured is disingenuous since American voting and procedures are always a work in progress. The same holds for the notion of phallocentric legislation. It represents a dramatic way to counter the assault on female bodies by demonstrating why the regulation of male bodies is an even more efficient solution to stemming unwanted pregnancies.