“I need a woman who looks like she got punched”: Republicans become more openly pro-abuse

“I need a woman who looks like she got punched.”

So sayeth a recent hire by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Andrew Kloster. As Roger Sollenberger of the Daily Beast (and formerly Salon) reported, this self-proclaimed “raging misogynist” is hardly just some random troll the famously provocative Gaetz picked up off Twitter. Kloster denounced sexual consent as a “pernicious fetish” and argued “Natalie Portman should have stayed 11 years old.” Kloster is also a member of the Federalist Society, the GOP pipeline for their far-right federal court judges. He also worked for the Donald Trump administration and was once a clerk at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. He’s worked with religious right groups like the Heritage Foundation, while also tweeting, “If you don’t defend child pornographers, we are only one step away from naziism.”

Kloster isn’t just some frat buddy of Gaetz’s, he’s a member of the Christian right and Republican Party in good standing.

The sadism that fuels the anti-choice movement is revealing itself more openly.

This should not be surprising. Despite all the self-congratulatory language of Christian conservatives about how they are “pro-life,” the movement is really just about old-fashioned misogyny (and homophobia and racism). It’s why “family values” don’t set back Trump, a thrice-married chronic adulterer who is still in a legal battle over illegal hush money payments paid to a porn star. In the world of Republican politics, a woman who has consensual sex with her husband should be punished by being denied medical care while she bleeds out from a miscarriage. But straight men have no real limits put on their sexual desires, or even on how gross they get about it on Twitter. 

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Kloster may be a little more outspoken about his misogynist attitudes than most Republicans. Still, he’s not really an outlier. It’s not just that Republicans are doubling and tripling down on attacks on reproductive rights. The real goal of the GOP has always been to inflict severe punishment on women who don’t conform to their rigid gender roles. The sadism that fuels the anti-choice movement is revealing itself more openly.

Last week, the Texas Tribune reported on one of the first major tests of the Texas “bounty hunter” abortion ban, which allows ordinary people to sue anyone suspected of “aiding or abetting” an abortion. When the law was first passed, feminists warned that it would be used by abusive men to control and punish their female partners. Sure enough, the plaintiff, in this case, sounds every inch the vindictive ex-husband. He is literally suing his ex-wife’s friends for helping her leave him. To make it worse, his lawyer is Jonathan Mitchell, a Republican operative who used to be the state solicitor general, and who helped write the abortion ban.

Republicans aren’t even pretending anymore. They are openly embracing the way these laws can be used to punish women for saying no to men. 

The text messages being put into evidence tell the heartbreaking story of a woman trying to escape a bad marriage, and of her loyal friends who will move heaven and earth to help her. “I know either way he will use it against me,” the pregnant woman texted. Her friends warned he would “snake his way into your head” and advised, “Delete all conversations from today,” so her husband would not be able to spy on her. 

Republicans aren’t even pretending anymore. They are openly embracing the way these laws can be used to punish women for saying no to men. 

“If I told him before, which I’m not, he would use it as [a way to] try to stay with me. And after the fact, I know he will try to act like he has some right to the decision,” the woman fretted. 

Mind you, it’s Mitchell who submitted these texts into evidence.

Republicans do not see this story as most people would, like that of heroic friends helping someone in need. No, they see this as a tale of disobedient women who need to be punished. 

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Voters hate abortion bans and vote them down at the ballot box even in very red states. Instead of moderating in response, however, many Republican leaders are dialing up the cruel, and frankly violent, stance towards women who seek abortions. In the South Carolina general assembly, Republicans introduced a bill that would allow the death penalty for any woman who aborted her pregnancy. This was not just the brainchild of a single fringe character, either. Twenty-one Republicans co-sponsored the bill. That is nearly a quarter of Republicans in the state’s House of Representatives. 

Most Republicans are a little more subtle about their yearnings to inflict pain and terror on pregnant women. Instead of threatening to kill women directly, the strategy is usually to deny them medical care and let nature do their dirty work for them. We’re already been subject to an overwhelming number of horror stories about miscarrying women being told they have to wait until they’re near death before a doctor can clean up the septic remains of a failed pregnancy. But Republicans in many states are now tightening the laws so that doctors are more afraid than ever of going to prison if they provide standard medical care in the event of a miscarriage. 

In Tennessee,for example, Republicans are finalizing a bill they claim creates an “exception” to their abortion ban for women in medical crisis. But, as Jessica Valenti of the Abortion, Every Day newsletter points out, the bill still bans miscarriage treatment if there’s an embryonic heart pulse. Miscarrying patients will still be denied medical care, even if they are bleeding through the sheets and sepsis is threatening to kill them. 

Regular readers of Valenti’s newsletter know this is a pattern with Republicans. They know that forcing women to get sick because of miscarriages cut against false claims to be “pro-life.” But Republicans also don’t want to amend the laws to allow women to get treatment. After all, the actual purpose of abortion bans is to make women suffer. So Republicans will craft bad faith excuses and misleading legislative language, all so that they can maximize women’s pain while pretending to be “compassionate.” They will even play games blaming women for miscarriages, just for an excuse to arrest them. 

Ultimately, the tapdancing that Republicans do won’t amount to much. Miscarriage management is still banned in anti-choice states, so the drumbeat of horror stories about women being denied care while buckets of blood pour out of their bodies will still keep coming. And most Americans will know who to blame: The Republicans who invite proud sexual assailants like Trump and self-identified “raging misogynists” into the GOP.


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