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Another attempt to grant sperm more rights than women

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, February 19, 2009 2:37 EDT
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The sperm-worshipping crowd managed to sneak in a victory almost under the radar yesterday when the state house of North Dakota passed what will probably prove to be a complete ban on abortion, and quite possibly on most female-controlled types of contraception. Because anti-choice nuts can’t fucking breathe without lying, the assholes who did this are denying that’s what they did.

The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, said the legislation did not automatically ban abortion. Ruby has introduced bills in previous sessions of the Legislature to prohibit abortion in North Dakota.

It’s one of those damn “personhood” bills that would define fertilized eggs as persons. Even though eggs are what are mentioned, the reality is that bills like this are about granting sperm more rights than women. It’s about making sure that sperm, once released inside women, are not obstructed from impregnating a woman and maintaining that pregnancy. I say that this about sperm vs. women, because men will still have full legal rights to tell their sperm where to go and what to do. Men will be allowed to shoot sperm in socks or condoms or wherever they wish without running afoul the law. But women will not be allowed to interfere with a sperm’s mission once it’s inside her. She may not use contraceptive pills to keep the sperm from finding an egg. IUDs may not emasculate the sperm by ruining its motility and keeping it from an egg. She may not have an abortion to prevent the sperm from finishing its work once it’s fertilized an egg.

I say this bill is about putting sperm over women, because men often put sperm in women without wishing to impregnate them. Duh. I’m sure your anti-choice nuts think men who have sex with women on hormonal contraception are either emasculated or sleaze or both, but the reality-based community realizes this isn’t true. But while sperm don’t really have intentions in the human sense, they’re perceived as having purpose, and these laws are about making sure women have no way to interfere with the sperm’s purpose once the man has relinquished control. The point of these bills is create this hierarchy of rights-bearing beings in the U.S. as such:

Men
Sperm
Women

Vegetables will still have fewer rights than women, because women need to chop vegetables (and meat!) for men to eat. So take that small comfort.

Personhood amendments are all the rage because some anti-choicer, many years ago, came up with the brilliant idea that if you repeated the lie that hormonal contraception is abortion long enough, people would believe it. And sadly, it’s worked. Even many pro-choicers blithely, if accidentally, repeat the myth that birth control pills work first by suppressing ovulation and then by expelling fertilized eggs if the former doesn’t work. There is no evidence that this is true. None. Zilch. Zip. There’s been some speculation, but it’s probably not wise speculation, because the birth control pill is so successful at suppressing ovulation that there’s no reason to think that a “back-up” method would improve effectiveness. The pill has a 1% failure rate, so that inclines me to think that, on the rare occasion an egg slips off an ovary and gets fertilized, it sticks. More interestingly, there’s an 8% failure rate for actual use, which means women who occasionally skip pills or don’t take them at the same time every day, despite having the same thin uterine lining as the women who take it religiously. But some anti-choicers believe the pill works primarily by casting off fertilized eggs. I believe they believe this out of convenience, and because it symbolizes their fears about how female-controlled contraception is a rejection of male power and mandatory motherhood.

This bit of scientific misinformation is so widespread, we made a video to combat it.


RH Reality Check: Emergency Contraception Vs. Abortion from Stuart Productions on Vimeo.

But we’re not talking about people who respect science in the slightest, so this sort of reality will likely have no effect in their attempts to use this bill, should it become law, to attack abortion and female-controlled contraception. Check out how the bill is worded:

The bill declares that “any organism with the genome of homo sapiens” is a person protected by rights granted by the North Dakota Constitution and state laws.

See, told you this about sperm rights, especially since people tend to think of sperm—which are actually just cells with only 50% of the DNA of most cells, but seem to be little creatures unto themselves. I’m sure there’s giant issues with the very phrasing of this law, and I hope so, because I think that’s what will probably kill it before it’s signed into law. I only wish that the sense that women are human beings with full rights would kill it.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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