Rachel alerted us to Senator Henry’s idiotic definition of rape, which she heard about from the Scene, last week. It seems now that the big kids have discovered it (see Feministing and Pandagon) and commenters are contacting the Senator in outrage.
My fellow feminists, I have to beg you, please do not miss the forest for the trees.
Here’s the situation on the ground here in Nashville in short:
The Tennessee State Supreme Court has ruled that the women of Tennessee have more of a right to privacy (and thus more of a right to have an abortion if we want) than guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, which means that, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, Tennessee women would still have the right to have an abortion under our state constitution because of our privacy rights, even if it weren’t federally guaranteed.
The Tennessee Republicans want to amend our state constitution to explicitly state that there’s nothing in the state constitution that protects a woman’s right to an abortion and they want to make this a huge deal so that they can run on it in the Fall.
The Democrats are… well, frankly, I feel like they have mixed motives. What’s clear is that they’re attempting to call the Republicans’ bluff and playing chicken with my privacy rights. They’re attempting to pass legislation that would curtail women’s rights to abortion (even though, clearly, at the moment, those laws couldn’t be enforced because of the State constitutional issues) in order to force the Republicans to vote for it.
The Republicans are trying to run in the Fall on their “We wanted to amend the Constitution to do away with abortion, but those evil Democrats blocked us!” and the Democrats want to say “Hey, if they’re so hell-bent on doing away with abortion, and not just granstanding, why didn’t they vote for all this legislation that we introduced that would do exactly that [both parties leaving unsaid that this would not happen unless Roe v. Wade were overturned]?”
Please see what Henry’s up to in that context. He, a Democrat, is trying to craft legislation that would outlaw abortions in every case except for the life of the mother. He’s saying, in effect, “Listen, we can’t use rape as a reason to have an abortion, because the meaning of rape is not set in stone. We might all think we agree on what rape is now, but in the future, rape might come to mean something that we’re not comfortable ending a pregnancy over.”
In other words, yes, he is putting forth a similar argument to what Bill Napoli put forth, but what’s worse is that he’s putting it forth not because he necessarily believes it, but because he’s attempting to score political points.
It’s a win-win situation for the Democrats. If the Republicans refuse to vote for their draconian legislation, the Democrats can claim that the Republicans don’t actually believe all their own anti-abortion rhetoric. If the Republicans do vote for the legislation, the Democrats can claim that they championed it.
What I’m asking you, fellow feminists, is to not get hung up on whether Henry is some assholish old dottering fool who misses the good old days when a man could rape his wife with impunity. For us, here on the ground in Tennessee, that’s beside the point.
The point is that both sides are willing to play chicken with our basic constitutional rights, as guaranteed in the state constitution, in order to score political points.
It’s not about who Henry thinks it’s okay, hypothetically, to rape. It’s about who he’s actually willing to screw over in order to advance the Democratic cause.
If you’re going to inundate him with emails, inundate him with emails about that.