"Did you hear about New Mexico?" I asked my husband Tim. "A republican state legislator introduced a bill that would charge rape survivors seeking an abortion with a felony - for tampering with evidence."
By Jennifer Bailey Bergen
Jennifer Bailey Bergen is the Client Relations Manager and Social Media Consultant for an IT consulting firm, with over a decade of experience helping people translate ideas into technology.
"Women as refrigerators", said my dearly beloved comic book geek.
A three word response, a nod of agreement from me, end of conversation. Why? Well, that's what brings me here today to write this post, because those three words of “partner shorthand” pretty accurately - if horrifyingly - described the New Mexico situation as we see it. Lots of information can be conveyed in very few words between two people who spend lots of time together (thus “partner shorthand”), and in this particular conversation, the three words "women as refrigerators" summed it up.
First, for those of you out there who don’t live with a walking encyclopedia of comic book theories and practices as I do, let me define for you the "Women in Refrigerators Syndrome": In Green Lantern #54 (1994), the title hero arrives home to his apartment to find that his girlfriend has been killed by a villain, and then stuffed in a refrigerator. Thus the term “Women in Refrigerators” was coined by comic book writer (and somewhat reluctant feminist figurehead in a male-dominated industry) Gail Simone, to describe female comic book characters being (disproportionately more often than male characters) injured, killed, or depowered as a plot device within various superhero comic books.
Internet, I’m sure you will agree with my blatant assumption that New Mexico has not run out of refrigerators. Now, having never been to New Mexico personally, I am still confident in asserting that the good people of that state have not suffered some kind of kitchen appliance wipeout forcing them to use women as cold storage units. While many of you may know women as “people” - we’re kind of like men, only with fewer rights and less pay - we still tend to run way over the optimal temperature for storing tissue evidence. Speaking of which, aborted fetal tissue evidence has been admissible in criminal trials since at least 1990. Explain to me again how an abortion is “tampering with evidence”? Oh, right. It’s not.
Following some fairly significant backlash after the bill’s introduction, Republican state legislator Rep. Cathrynn Brown backpedaled pretty fast, and then reintroduced the bill with some modified language. Better? No. While rape survivors would no longer be the felons under her bill, it would become a crime to ‘facilitate’ an abortion. Yes, that means doctors, nurses, or anyone else who works at a clinic where pregnancies are terminated would be the ones committing felonies.
Call it what you like. Me? I call it depowering, dehumanizing, possibly injuring, maybe even killing, the 1 out of every 4 women in New Mexico - 25% of their female population! - who are likely to be raped (PDF). Women aren’t your plot device, Rep. Brown. Women aren’t refrigerators.