March 11, 2019; Rolling Stone
Georgia State Representative Dar’shun Kendrick is tired of mostly male lawmakers regulating women’s bodies and reproductive decisions. So, what’s a female lawmaker to do? If you are Kendrick, you introduce new legislation that regulates male bodies and reproductive decisions. And so, with much fanfare, and knowing she was fighting a no-win battle, she instructed her legislative counsel to draft a piece of legislation called the “Testicular Bill of Rights.”
Ggggooooodddd morning! Introducing my “testicular bill of rights” legislative package. You want some regulation of bodies and choice? Done! pic.twitter.com/5E8HBRSc9l
— Dar’shun Kendrick (@DarshunKendrick) March 11, 2019
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The bill contains the following five measures:
- Require men to obtain permission from their sexual partner before obtaining a prescription for Viagra.
- Ban vasectomies in Georgia and criminalize the doctors who perform them.
- Classify sex without a condom as “aggravated assault.”
- Require paternity testing at eight weeks of pregnancy and require expectant fathers to begin paying child support immediately.
- Institute a 24-hour waiting period on any men wishing to purchase any porn or sex toys in the state of Georgia.
Representative Kendrick recognizes that the chances of this bill even seeing the light of day in the Georgia House are slim, but she is not one to miss the value of making a point. And her point is to highlight both the absurdity and the unconstitutionality of HB 481, Georgia’s “heartbeat bill,” which would regulate women’s bodies by outlawing abortions once a doctor can detect a heartbeat—usually around six weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant. The bill has passed the Georgia house and is expected to pass the senate and be signed by the governor.
The flaws in HB 481, beyond its unconstitutionality, also include fiscal dilemmas of counting fetuses as persons. What if there are multiple fetuses, but not all are carried to term? Does one still get tax deductions for all of them? How does one prove this? Kendrick questioned whether the state of Georgia has the infrastructure to handle this dilemma. Then, there is the issue of law and legality. Is a pregnant woman now acting for two? If she is injured, does it double the penalty? Or, if she commits a crime, is she committing child endangerment? As Kendrick asks, does the fetus count when driving in the high-occupancy lanes?
The legislators in Georgia know this law is unconstitutional (abortion cannot be banned prior to viability of the fetus at about 23–25 weeks). But the point is to get the legislation in front of the Supreme Court. “It’s unconstitutional on purpose: This is a test case. It is a case to test Roe v. Wade. They’re hoping that it gets up to the Court of Appeals—the Eleventh Circuit is one of the most conservative court circuits that we have, and they’re hopeful that they will uphold part of it, and then they’ll take it all the way to the Supreme Court,” Kendrick says. “They know exactly what they are doing. This is intentional.”
Kendrick’s Testicular Bill of Rights is intentional as well. Because it has been mostly male lawmakers regulating the rights of women to make personal decisions about their bodies and private health and family decisions, Kendrick aims to shine a light on that absurdity by turning the tables. It has often been said that if men were the ones that conceived, carried, and birthed children, our laws and attitudes toward reproductive rights would be very different. Even if it only raises awareness, perhaps Kendrick is on to something.—Carole Levine