For U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on abortion access was just another opportunity to score a few political points.
The hearing was supposed to be an important and informative conversation about the future of abortion access in this country, given that reproductive freedom is currently on the line. But Bishop, a Republican from North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, chose to spend his allotted time quizzing witnesses on the definition of a woman.
“I noticed in your written testimony you said that you use ‘she/her’ pronouns. You’re a medical doctor. What’s a woman?” Bishop asked Dr. Yashica Robinson, an OB-GYN who is the medical director of Alabama Women’s Center, one of just three remaining abortion clinics in Alabama.
When Robinson tried to explain the importance of using inclusive language, pointing out that not every pregnant person identifies as a woman, Bishop began to talk over her. This cycle of questioning — and interrupting — continued for several minutes, during which Bishop asked Robinson to provide the definition of a woman at least five more times.
Bishop asked the same question to a different witness, Aimee Arrambide of abortion advocacy group Avow Texas. Then, he asked Arrambide if she believed that men can get pregnant and have abortions. She responded affirmatively. Bishop also asked witnesses if they condemned the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
Bishop’s line of questioning was disingenuous, offensive and wholly unproductive for everyone but himself. But it gave him exactly what he wanted: plenty of soundbites he could use to craft his own narrative.
On Fox News, Bishop smugly declared his efforts helped “expose” Democrats and the so-called “radical folks who are arguing over abortion today.”
“I expected something strange, and she performed,” Bishop said.
It was cheap political grandstanding. The Twitter account for House Judiciary Republicans issued a barrage of tweets, complete with an emoji of a pregnant man, lambasting Democrats for thinking men can get pregnant and have abortions. On his personal and official accounts, Bishop mocked “the party of science” for their beliefs.
Of course, Democrats and abortion rights activists don’t actually believe that cisgender men, who do not have a uterus, can become pregnant. But cisgender women aren’t the only people who can, and when we reduce pregnancy to something that solely affects “women,” we leave a whole lot of people out.
It should go without saying, but a person’s identity as a man or a woman does not boil down to whether they can get pregnant and give birth. That’s not just insulting to LGBTQ+ people, it’s also insulting to cisgender women who, for one reason or another, may be unable to bear children themselves.
Anybody with a uterus can get pregnant. Not everyone with a uterus is a woman. Transgender men, as well as transmasculine, non-binary and intersex people, can, and do, get pregnant. They, too, deserve the right to make their own decisions about if and when to start a family, and they deserve to be included in the abortion rights conversation.
It’s not that Bishop and his Republican colleagues don’t know these things, despite how much they eschew the concept of gender identity and disparage transgender people. It’s that they just don’t care. Bishop asked those questions for a reason — he knew what the answer would be, and he knew he could manipulate it in his favor.
Pretending that Democrats don’t believe in science is far more galvanizing than the truth, particularly in a consequential election year when Republicans would prefer for voters to focus on anything other than their party’s own stance on abortion. They really want to change the subject. We shouldn’t let them.
Paige Masten is an opinion writer and Editorial Board member based in Charlotte.