A US law professor has called out Republican senator Josh Hawley for his “transphobic line of questioning” during a hearing over abortion rights.
A Senate hearing was held on Tuesday (12 July) on the future of abortion rights following the overturning of Roe vs Wade, which previously made abortion a federal right.
Following the ruling, people have used inclusive language such as “people who give birth” instead of “women” to recognise transgender and non-binary people who will also be impacted by the Supreme Court’s harrowing decision.
An exchange between University of California, Berkeley law professor Khiara Bridges, who was a witness, and senator Josh Hawley of Missouri caught the attention of many people as Bridges accused Hawley of excluding transgender people from the conversation of abortion rights.
Hawley stepped into anti-transphobic rhetoric when he asked Bridges why she kept using the term “people with a capacity for pregnancy” when explaining who would be affected by the overturning of Roe vs Wade.
The senator didn’t stop there and said: “Would that be women?” The law professor stated that she was using inclusive language to encompass all people who experienced pregnancy.
“Many cis women have the capacity for pregnancy, many cis women do not have the capacity for pregnancy,” Bridges explained. “There are also trans men who are capable of pregnancy as well as non-binary people who are capable of pregnancy.”
Josh Hawley responded with a myopic question saying that “this isn’t really a women’s rights issue”.
Bridges countered this remark and said: “We can recognise that this impacts women while also recognising that it impacts other groups. Those things are not mutually exclusive.”
Bridges to Hawley: I want to recognize that your line of questioning is transphobic pic.twitter.com/rCeVaB3XJY
— Acyn (@Acyn) July 12, 2022
Bridges then said: “I want to recognise that your line of questioning is transphobic, and it opens up trans people to violence.”
A shocked Josh Hawley then let out a drawn out surprised “wow” and said: “You’re saying that I’m opening up people to violence by asking whether or not women are the only folks who can have pregnancies?”
Bridges applied her teaching skills and this point and schooled Hawley on transphobic rhetoric, referencing that one in five trans people have attempted suicide “because denying that trans people exist and pretending not to know that they exist is dangerous”.
Hawley cut her off and asked: “I’m denying that trans people exist by asking you about women having pregnancies?”
To which Bridges poses the question: “Do you believe that men can get pregnant?”
“No, I don’t think men can get pregnant,” Hawley said.
“So you’re denying that trans people exist,” Bridges replied.
“And that leads to violence?” Hawley said.
The violence transgender people face Bridges touched on was accurate as LGBTQ+ organisation Human Rights Campaign(HRC) reported that, in 2021, at least 57 transgender people were murdered in the US.
The back and forth between Hawley and Bridges brought to light how trans people are often ignored in important matters like abortion rights. The Republican Party has used this kind of discourse to discount trans people from the Roe vs Wade conversation.
Trans athlete and activist Schuyler Bailar explained to PinkNews how trans people will be affected. “Trans people already have a high rate of medical discrimination,” he said.
“So when you add to that the potential not to be able to receive a safe and health abortion, it just further disenfranchises us and hands over the control of our bodies to the government and to people who are not us.”
Discounting trans people in conversations such as these by attacking inclusive language is a stance common amongst the conservative party members as it minimises the number of people their archaic laws are affecting.
In an article for WBUR, Julie Allen wrote: “Transphobia is not an ideology – it is a sound-bite wedge issue being used by opportunistic politicians, fear-mongering to their right-wing base.”