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Hosting women

The newest battle over women’s bodies



Justin Humphrey

The snark, as it turns out, wasn’t enough to cover this.

But it’s where we start.

“I understand that they feel like that is their body,” he said of women. “I feel like it is a separate—what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant,” he explained. “So that’s where I’m at. I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it.” 

That, you may remember, was Oklahoma Republican Representative Justin Humphrey, our latest guest on Legislators against the Ladies, reminding the state’s wimmin folk that when it comes to birthing babies, they’re just landlords. 

Pre-know? ‘The hell?

Humphrey, while not certain what the fuss was about, subsequently distanced himself from his own words, saying, “I’ve not continued to use that out of respect to the people who’ve said they don’t like it,” and then added, “When I use the term host, it’s not meant to degrade women.”

Of course not. 

“I thought, ‘If there’s better verbiage out there, I will gladly use better verbiage.’ I just couldn’t find it.”

Better still, stop talking—or at least stop saying the word verbiage.

What’s surprising here is that it’s not surprising. Sadly, there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about an elected Oklahoma official who thinks women are chattel and/or receptacles who can’t be entrusted with dominion over their own bodies. 

What’s troubling is, with each moronic and ignorant statement, with each sip from the well of gooberism and misogyny, the distance between people like Humphrey and Tehran’s Gasht-e Ershad (morality police), who drive around in white Toyota pickups looking for women with exposed napes, decreases. This is about abortion, about sex, about power, but it’s mostly about control—and at this point, it doesn’t matter if the one lording over you is wearing a keffiyeh or a cowboy hat. 

Humphrey is a first time state representative from District 19 (a largely rural area of southeastern Oklahoma with about 78,000 constituents) who believes there should be moral and legislative consequences for women who engage in sex in a way that doesn’t fit within his worldview.

“But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”

He might as well just color-code them like they do in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

A few months back, I interviewed Carol Bush, newly-elected representative from District 70 in Tulsa, who assured me there was a new sanity in the state GOP, a party that would be more concerned with policy than piety, one that would stay away from such birdbrain legislation. Surely, then, party officials would distance themselves from Humphrey’s mind-numbing arrogance and insensitivity, if just for the optics alone, right?

Right?

Not one GOP representative called out Humphrey publicly.

Not one. 

The rationale for not doing so is that legislators like Humphrey are outliers, punchlines even in the GOP caucus (think Josh Cockroft, John Bennett, Josh Brecheen, Ralph Shortey) who, while they may get headlines—and national ones at that—are not serious players in the caucus; so to call attention to them and their doltishness is to embolden them. Unfortunately, they have bum-rushed the dinner party and are now at the adult table, deciding on the menu, smashing the good china, exhibiting the worst manners, scaring the women and children.

They must be taken seriously each time they try to put words together.

To wit:

Around the same time Humphrey was explaining the new female paradigm, his fellow GOP legislators passed two bills out of committee. The first, authored by District 14 Republican George Faught, HB 1549 (Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2017), would make it illegal for a woman to have an abortion if she tells her doctor she’s doing so because her fetus faces genetic abnormalities. 

Let’s stop for a minute and wonder why doctors are even asking such questions, much less archiving the answers.

The bill passed 7-2.

The second bill, written by Humphrey, HB 1441—and why the host discussion even came up—would stop an abortion if the father is opposed to the procedure.

It passed 5-2. 

How many Republicans voted against either?

You have to ask?

“I believe,” said Humphrey, “one of the breakdowns in our society is that we have excluded the man out of all of these types of decisions.”

He didn’t say what the effects on society would be if the father wanted the fetus aborted and the woman didn’t, but somehow I imagine at that point he’d be one of the few feminists in Altus. 

“I’m willing to work with any of y’all to change things, to work with either side, to make a better bill.”

To get in the weeds here, the first vote on Faught’s bill failed to clear committee, deadlocking 4-4, when three moderate Republicans, Mark Lawson, Marcus McEntire and, yes, Carol Bush voted against it, but then days later, after small changes were made to the legislation, Lawson and McEntire switched their votes—caved if you’re scoring at home—while Bush was a no-show, choosing instead to attend another committee hearing on a bill she had co-authored. 

(You can cut Bush some slack here, as Faught’s bill was going to pass with or without her vote, it will probably never make it out of the House (much less signed into law or pass constitutional muster) and that hearing she did attend on House Bill 1468, “The Hidden Predator Act,” which would extend the statute of limitations by which survivors could seek justice, was arguably more important.)

A few years back, I volunteered at Reproductive Services Oklahoma here in Tulsa, the one place in town where abortions are still performed—Planned Parenthood doesn’t do them—and my job, if you can call it that, was simply to escort women, mothers, sisters, daughters, from their cars into the clinic. Why was that necessary? Because across the parking lot, just off property, protestors stood, many with grotesque signs, screaming about damnation, God’s word and the abomination inside (and of those going in to) the building. Those protesting didn’t know the women, obviously, and it wouldn’t have mattered, for the women were metaphors—nameless pregnant sinners. 

While there, I heard the story of a 24-year-old, a worker from a nearby church, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer days after discovering she was pregnant. Doctors told her if she waited till after the baby was born to start chemotherapy, she would likely die. If she started chemo immediately, her newborn would die. You have a sign for that? You have legislation for that? You have sanctimony for that? 

She was pro-life, by the way, already had two children, but now she had to decide between the life of her unborn and her own. That doesn’t suddenly make her pro-choice—it makes her a human being.

For more from Barry, read his article on City Councilor Blake Ewing and the politics of communication.

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