On Monday morning, Georgia state Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick sent an email to her legislative counsel, the staffer responsible for writing bills.
Subject line: Testicular “Bill of Rights” Legislation.
“Good morning,” Kendrick wrote. “Please have the following legislation drafted.” The 36-year-old Democrat went on to lay out her objectives as a bulleted list: Require men to obtain permission from their sexual partner before obtaining a prescription for Viagra. Ban vasectomies in Georgia, and criminalize the doctors who perform them. Classify sex without a condom as “aggravated assault.” Require paternity testing at 8 weeks of pregnancy, and require expectant fathers to begin paying child support immediately. Last but not least, Kendrick proposed a 24-hour waiting period on any men wishing to purchase any porn or sex toys in the state of Georgia.
“I’m dead serious,” Kendrick tells Rolling Stone, adding that she expects a draft on her desk by the end of the week. The point, she says, is to “bring awareness to the fact that if you’re going to legislate our bodies, then we have every right to propose legislation to regulate yours.”
Kendrick is spearheading the legislation, which she admits has little hope of ever passing the Georgia House of Representatives, to highlight the absurdity of HB 481, a bill that similarly legislates women’s bodies. On Thursday, the Georgia House approved HB 481, which would outlaw most abortions once a doctor can detect a heartbeat in the womb or around six weeks — before many women even realize they might be pregnant. The controversial “heartbeat bill” passed by a vote of 93-73. The bill will now head to the Georgia State Senate and, if approved as expected, to Governor Brian Kemp’s desk.
The bill, on its face, is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has made it clear in past cases that states cannot ban abortion before the point of viability — 23 to 25 weeks. But, as Kendrick, a lawyer, notes, that’s the point.
“It’s unconstitutional on purpose: this is a test case. It is a case to test Roe v. Wade. They’re hoping that it gets up to the Court of Appeals — the Eleventh Circuit is one of the most conservative court circuits that we have, and they’re hopeful that they will uphold part of it, and then they’ll take it all the way to the Supreme Court,” Kendrick says. “They know exactly what they are doing. This is intentional.”
Kendrick, who represents Metro-Atlanta’s 93rd district, has been a vocal opponent of the bill. Over the six years she has served in the Georgia House, she has watched the erosion of reproductive rights in real time. “In 2012, we had a bill that took [the cut-off to seek an abortion] from 26 weeks down to 20 weeks, and I knew that as soon as a Republican president got in office and was able to make Supreme Court nominations, that this was the direction we were headed,” she says.
As a member of the minority party in the House, all Kendrick can do to register her disapproval — above voting against the measure, as she did last week — is put forward her own bill in an effort to highlight the absurd double standard Georgia’s women, and perhaps all American women before too long, are being held to.
“I’ll get signatures on it, or not — I might be the only signature. That’s fine,” she says. The cut-off date to submit legislation for this calendar year has already passed, so “it doesn’t have a chance of passing this year,” she adds. “But I already know that it doesn’t have a chance of passing any year.”
The bill “is indicative of the people in power being scared that the tides are turning and we are going blue,” Kendrick says. “Georgia is going blue: we picked up 17 seats this past legislative session. So, as with most things, they are trying to rush it through because they know that it’s on the horizon. But if I am still here when Democrats take over, [the heartbeat bill] will be the first bill that I overturn if it’s not overturned already.”
This post has been updated to clarify that Kendrick represents Georgia’s 93rd district.