Clarence Thomas Isn’t The Only One Ready To Reduce Women To Baby Incubators

If you were disturbed by “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the dystopian story of a totalitarian regime that treats women as property and values them entirely based on their ability to produce babies, you should see what’s going on in Congress right now.

In the past week alone, House Republicans have overwhelmingly voted against a woman’s right to travel for abortion care, to access birth control and to marry someone they love.

Each of these votes was appalling in its own right.

When the House voted last week to ensure that women are able to travel across state lines for an abortion, 205 Republicans voted no. When the House voted Tuesday to codify same-sex marriage, 157 Republicans voted no. On Thursday, when the House voted to protect women’s right to access birth control and other contraception, 195 Republicans voted no.

Taken together, the broader message that Republicans are sending with these votes is even more horrifying: Women should be viewed as little more than baby incubators.

The vast majority of House Republicans just cast votes telling women they don’t have a right to marry someone of the same sex, they can’t have an abortion, they can’t travel to get one and they can’t prevent pregnancies. Under his eye, am I right, Margaret Atwood?

Tom Williams via Getty Images

House Democratic leaders lined up votes on all of these bills in direct response to the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade last month, breaking from 50 years of precedent to deny women a constitutional right to an abortion.

Republicans in Congress argued that none of these bills are necessary because the right to birth control and the right to same-sex marriage are safe.

“In no way, shape or form is access to contraception limited or at risk of being limited,” Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) said during Thursday’s debate on the birth control bill. “The liberal majority is clearly trying to stoke fears and mislead the American people once again because in their minds stoking fear clearly is the only way that they can win.”

But this is the same thing Republicans said about Roe v. Wade. And there’s no reason to think the current crop of conservatives on the Supreme Court ― all of whom are there because of their ties to the very anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ legal organization, the Federalist Society ― won’t try to roll back more of these protections. They’ve said so themselves.

“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a concurring opinion when the court overturned Roe v. Wade. He was referring to the rights recognized in Griswold (contraception), Lawrence (sexual conduct with a member of the same sex) and Obergefell (same-sex marriage).

Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito previously called for revisiting same-sex couples’ constitutional right to marry, too. In October 2020, they said the court’s 2015 decision on marriage equality was “undemocratic” and that “the court has created a problem that only it can fix.”

Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) said Thursday that it’s not hard to connect the dots between what the Supreme Court just did and what Republicans in Congress are making very clear they’d like to do when it comes to legislating what women can and can’t do with their bodies.

“When Clarence Thomas said he wanted to take away a woman’s right to birth control, some told me that is just his opinion,” Kim tweeted. “But now I saw 195 of my Republican colleagues reject protection for contraceptives. This is not just an opinion of one man. This is their plan.”

Even GOP Rep. Nancy Mace (S.C.), who opposes abortion rights and who celebrated when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, said that barring women from having access to birth control is a step too far. She was one of just eight GOP lawmakers who voted for the bill guaranteeing a woman’s access to birth control. That’s out of 211 House Republicans.

During the House vote on that bill, Mace wore a sign on her back that read, “My state is banning EXCEPTIONS. Protect CONTRACEPTION.”

“My state is banning almost all exceptions for women including who’ve been raped & victims of incest. Today I voted to protect access to contraceptives ― to protect every woman in South Carolina,” Mace tweeted. “You can’t ban abortion and then not protect women’s access to contraceptives.”

Despite so many Republicans voting against these bills, they all passed because Democrats hold the majority. But there’s a good chance Republicans will win control of the House in November. That would put Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) ― both of whom just voted against protecting women’s rights to travel, to birth control, to abortion care ― in charge of setting the chamber’s agenda.

Where is the highest-ranked GOP woman in the House, Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), amid all of these votes aimed at protecting women’s rights? She just introduced a bill barring the use of federal dollars for medical transportation for women going across state lines for abortion care.

Of course, even if Republicans win control of the House in the midterms, they’d have to win control of the Senate, too, to control all of Congress. And even in that scenario, Joe Biden will still be in the White House until at least 2024. That means even a GOP-led Congress wouldn’t be able to pass laws rolling back these kinds of protections for women until a willing Republican is in the White House.

But if this week showed anything, it’s that Clarence Thomas is not an isolated case of a conservative ready to strip fundamental protections from women in order to make them more likely to get pregnant, stay pregnant and make babies. It’s virtually everyone in the House Republican conference.



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