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Virginia Lawmaker Calls Pregnant Women “Hosts,” and That’s a Good Thing

Virginia Lawmaker Calls Pregnant Women “Hosts,” and That’s a Good Thing

State Senator Steve Martin, a Virginia Republican, created a firestorm when he referred to pregnant women as “hosts” in a Facebook post responding to a Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition’s Valentine’s Day plea for reproductive autonomy. His words, which have been edited as a result of the ensuing media frenzy, were not well-received and, according to some, may have been a real indication of how anti-choice politicians really feel about women. In reality, though, despite his offensive metaphor, the lawmaker also touched on something every reproductive rights advocate should support, but that was overshadowed by his comment about women as vessels.

Martin’s original post was mostly a play off of standard anti-choice, anti-abortion rhetoric at initial glance. “You can count on me to never get in the way of you ‘preventing’ an unintentional pregnancy,” he wrote. “I’m not actually sure what that means, because if it’s ‘unintentional’ you must have been trying to prevent it. And, I don’t expect to be in the room or will I do anything to prevent you from obtaining a contraceptive. However, once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it to remain alive.”

Martin edited the post, changing “the child’s host” to “the bearer of the child.” The metaphor only changed a little, despite it. As Ed Kilgore wrote at the Washington Monthly, “Once a zygote exists, it’s a person and a baby and has rights equal to (if not superior to, because of its ‘innocent’ nature) the mother, or the ‘bearer of the child,’ or the ‘host,’ or however you want to put it. No interest of the woman in terminating the pregnancy (or even preventing it, if that happens after fertilization) other than preservation of her own life can possibly trump that ‘right to life.’”

Ironically, Kilgore actually inadvertently does the same thing that I’m actually praising Martin for bringing to the forefront. Kilgore calls the pregnant person first “the mother.” Martin, as offensive as his comments are, does perhaps inadvertently make an important point when he wrote “some refer to them as mothers.”

A pregnant person is not necessarily a mother.

For those of us who track the pro-life movement, both their legislation and their actions at the clinics, we know that to the anti-choice activists, a pregnant person is immediately and automatically a “mother.” The most ubiquitous example are the so-called “sidewalk counselors” with their signs stating “Abortion doesn’t make you unpregnant, it makes you the mother of a dead baby” or screaming “Mommy, please don’t kill me!” at abortion patients. Other instances are more subtle, such as the numerous anti-abortion bills referring to the “health of the mother” or other examples, codifying that relationship between a pregnant person and the embryo. South Dakota even went as far as to make that “mother and child relationship” a legal reality in one bill, allowing the state to declare every pregnant person a “mother” and have doctors tell her she is.

This insistence that a pregnant person is a mother, and that it is rejecting a woman’s own nature to refuse to be or remain pregnant is one that permeates the anti-choice culture and inspires many of their efforts to end access to safe legal abortion, as well as access to birth control. By turning every female person into either a “mother” or a “future mother” they are able to enforce their own traditional gender roles onto the rest of the country. It’s when we, who believe in bodily autonomy and the right to decide when and if to bear children, fall into the same vernacular that we have a serious problem.

How difficult is it to recognize a pregnant person as simply that: one who is pregnant? Not mother, not host, not bearer of the child. If there is any doubt that granting legal rights to any potential life at absolutely any stage of pregnancy or even pre-pregnancy is about erasing the rights of those who are pregnant, simply check how the word “person” disappears from any description except in reference to the unborn.

Martin actually does say one thing right in his facebook rant: some do call them mothers. They shouldn’t. One does not become a mother simply by being pregnant. It’s something all people who oppose abortion need to be constantly pushed back on, and a trap that those who of us who advocate for reproductive rights need to be careful to avoid as well.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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10:12AM PDT on Apr 18, 2014

Yup Republican.

10:12AM PDT on Apr 18, 2014

Let's see, referring to women as hosts. My bet is the person was a Republican. Let's see.

8:12AM PST on Mar 4, 2014


7:30PM PST on Mar 3, 2014


11:54AM PST on Mar 3, 2014

Charlene R.
“The moral of the story is ~ I hope that man who lost his wife and his child, does not pay the hospital. Most certainly, he has a case.”

you're a sassy Lassie, good for you, and I agree.

7:56AM PST on Mar 3, 2014

Vasu, you say "partial-birth abortion: a procedure which is never medically “necessary"" Would you tell that to a woman whose fetus is already dead inside her? Or whose fetus's brain is growing outside its body?? Partial-birth isn't the correct medical term for the procedure to remove a dead fetus from a woman's body. It was thought up by "pro-lifers" to play on your emotions. That's the same reason something as small as a fertilized egg (which cannot even be seen without a microscope) is called a "baby."

You also say"We see those on the pro-choice side opposing even reasonable restrictions on abortion." Could that be because the restrictions are NOT reasonable?? Many of them especially waiting periods and mandatory ultrasounds which you euphemistically call "women's right to know laws" are only attempts to prevent women from exercising their reproductive rights, NOT to protect women.

9:53AM PST on Mar 1, 2014

Thanks for sharing

11:22PM PST on Feb 28, 2014

What is so wrong with being called a host and for a baby to boot! Are you not hosts when you have people into your home? Are you not a host when you seat people to dine in the restaurant where you work? So stop the insinuations that hosting a baby is so degrading...after all someone hosted you and when you want the baby, believe me, you will be happy to registrar with your favorite store so that people will "Host" your baby shower!

10:31PM PST on Feb 28, 2014

There is no "pro-choice" and there is no "pro-life." There is only "pro-legal abortion" and "pro-illegal abortion." If you want to overturn Roe v. Wade, it doesn't matter what you call yourself. You are pro-illegal abortion.

9:27PM PST on Feb 28, 2014

Suba G.,

The space allotted here is too small for me to properly respond to your questions. If you re-read the original article as well as scroll down and read through the postings, you'll see opponents of abortion referred to as "anti-choice."

The abortion issue is almost always framed in terms of the woman's decision or a woman's "choice" rather than in terms of the possible rights of the unborn.

I'm merely calling for *balance* in the abortion debate! If pro-lifers claim to "cover" or "do unto others..." they must not resort to personal attacks, either!

There ARE non-traditional pro-life groups which make up "The Left Side of the March" on the March on Washington, every January 22nd, in DC: Vegans for Life, Democrats for Life, Feminists for Life, the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (PLAGAL), etc.

Not all of us are rabid right-wingers.

Author William Saletan, who served in the Clinton Administration and writes of a "pro-choice majority" noted in his 2003 book Bearing Right: How (Pro-Choice) Conservatives Won the Abortion War, that the debate over embryonic stem-cell research (humans in their earliest stages of development, existing outside of and apart from women's bodies) proves that pro-lifers really *do* care about the unborn and are not out to "punish" girls and women for having sex outside of marriage.

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