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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

Republicans Are Grooming Us to Accept Fewer and Fewer Bodily Rights

Who knew I could yearn for the days when I was explaining that a 20-week abortion ban was not an acceptable compromise?

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Photo: Tamir Kalifa (Getty Images)

Every day, a fresh hell awaits as I check to see how a state legislator is trying to one-up the legislature the next region over. For the worst proposals this week, it’s a four-way tie between Missouri’s attempt to stop people from leaving the state for abortions; Texas trying to investigate parents supporting trans children for child abuse; Idaho’s attempt to criminalize providing medically necessary, gender-affirming care to minors; and Oklahoma pushing six anti-abortion bills one step closer to becoming law. This four-way combination managed to unseat Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill which seeks to block discussion of sexual orientation and identity in state classrooms, and caused student-led protests across the state.

Republican and conservative lawmakers packed the 2022 legislative calendar to the brim with proposals aimed at cutting off access to gender affirming and medically necessary healthcare for trans kids and adults. Oh, and outlawing abortion in any possible fashion until the Supreme Court rules in June. We’re approaching the end of many state legislature sessions, meaning the fight to get every bill passed is running at a high clip.

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Conservatives at all power levels are attempting to move the Overton Window—a way of gauging what’s politically possible, created by a conservative think tank—in front of our eyes. The goal is to remove bodily autonomy from as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

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The frenetic pace of introducing one horrendous bill after another, all with the goal to destroy our rights, sets Republican lawmakers up for a supposed moderate victory when they don’t demand the absolute worst proposal. However, don’t be fooled, the so-called moderate legislation that we’re likely to see coming will still be a reactionary and conservative bill.

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Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) was hailed as a moderate voice when he vetoed a 6-week abortion ban in 2018, despite signing a 12-week abortion ban into law. The strategy, while not explicit, allows anti-abortion ideologues to float the cruelest and deranged pieces of legislation. In short, it makes it so that legislation, that is still cruel and harmful, passes by as a compromise.

This strategy isn’t unique to banning abortion. There’s a disgusting trend by right-wing media to bring back the insidious and inaccurate belief that queer people are grooming children by simply being around them. And it’s not just wacky conservative blogs: Fox News, on some its most-watched shows, is buying in. On Wednesday, The Ingraham Angle included this upsetting detail by host Laura Ingraham herself (emphasis mine):

When did our public schools, any schools, become what are essentially grooming centers for gender identity radicals? As a mom, I think it’s appalling, it’s frightening, it’s disgusting, it’s despicable. Florida just passed a bill to keep this type of sexual brainwashing out of schools. Democrats, though, claim the bill is bigoted, branding it as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.” Well, nice try. The real controversy, though, isn’t this bill. It’s that schools are peddling gender ideology when our international rankings in math, science, and reading are down across the board.

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By floating the shameful and hysterical idea that queer people are child predators, it opens up the window for people to say it’s okay to take away trans healthcare, or even same-sex marriage.

This movement about what is and isn’t acceptable among public discourse and political strategy will hurt us all. The first casualties will surely be trans people and anyone else trying to exercise bodily choice. Choice will not only mean something having to do with a medical procedure. It will be about where you choose to live (remember that Missouri amendment) or what kind of job you choose to have (remember Florida’s classroom censorship).

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Bodily autonomy will soon cease to be about our medical choices for our physical bodies. We’re staring down the reality that our choices will no longer be choices. Instead, they will be a series of actions laid out for us by ultra-conservative wingnuts who simply can’t stomach decades of gains made by non-white minorities.

The fact that we’re having to earnestly debate whether or not it’s okay to legally bar someone from leaving their own state for a medical procedure—or whether or not it’s okay to talk about the effects of racism in the classroom—should shake you to your core. You can no longer ignore the S.O.S. signals sent for decades by trans-rights and abortion rights activists. We are all alarmists now.