During a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on abortion access and the law, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri attempted to derail the otherwise incredibly important conversation by trying to trip up expert Khiara Bridges. Bridges, a law professor at the University of California-Berkeley, had used inclusive language when referring to people who seek abortions. And Hawley couldn’t handle it.
As I’ve covered previously at Daily Kos, inclusive language is lifesaving when it comes to reproductive health care, and that includes abortion. While (obviously) cisgender women seek abortions, they are not the only people who do so. Trans men and nonbinary people can and do seek abortions. In addition to gender identity nuances, it’s also important to remember that some of those seeking abortions are literal children—referring to all of them as “women” eliminates the terrible reality that some of these patients are actually minors.
With this background in mind, let’s dig into the nuances of this back and forth, and how Bridges handled it so excellently.
RELATED STORY: Trans folks seeking gender-affirming care often have to leave the state to get it—and pay more
In a typical condescending, patronizing, and faux pearl-clutching tone, Hawley launches into a transphobic line of questioning. He tries to get Bridges to say abortion isn’t only about women’s rights in order to twist her words. It’s an effort to distract and confuse people on both sides of the aisle, all the while demonizing trans people who do indeed seek this important health care.
Luckily, Bridges holds her own and makes her point brilliantly and smoothly. She names the anti-trans framing and rhetoric for what it is and rejects the idea that using inclusive language takes anything away from women. Instead, inclusive language protects and acknowledges more people, not less.
Here is the clip going viral on Twitter.
“You’ve used several times a phrase, and I want to understand what you mean by it,” Hawley says. “You’ve referred to people with a capacity for pregnancy. Would that be women?”
“Many women, cis women, have the capacity for pregnancy,” she replies. “Many cis women do not have the capacity for pregnancy. There are also trans men who are capable of pregnancy, as well as nonbinary people who are capable of pregnancy.”
“So this isn’t really a women’s rights issue,” he says. “It’s uh, it’s a what?”
“We can recognize that this impacts women while also recognizing that it impacts other groups. Those things are not mutually exclusive, Senator Hawley.”
“So your view is that the core of this right is about then, what?”
“So I want to recognize that your line of questioning is transphobic. It opens up trans people to violence by not recognizing …”
“Wow,” Hawley says, full of faux surprise. “So you’re saying I’m opening up people to violence by asking whether or not women are the folks who can have pregnancies?”
“I want to note that 1 out 5 transgender persons have attempted suicide. So I think it’s important— ”
“Because of my line of questioning? So we can’t talk about it?”
“Because denying that trans people exist, and pretending not to know they exist---”
“I’m saying trans people can’t exist by asking you if you’re talking about women having pregnancies?”
“Are you? Are you? Are you? Do you believe that men can get pregnant?”
“No,” he admits. “I don’t think men can get pregnant.”
“So you’re denying trans people exist. Thank you.”
“Is this how you run your classroom? Are students allowed to question you? Or are they also treated like this? Told they’re opening up people to violence just by asking questions?”
“You should join. You might learn a lot.”
Zing! Hawley’s attempts at mocking an expert just make him look uneducated and self-satisfied with his own little attempts to stir hate and outrage.
You can watch the full video below.