On Tuesday, after liveblogging my read-through of Pennsylvania’s HB1077, the bill which would force unwanted endovaginal ultrasounds on most persons seeking an abortion in the state, I sent a scathing email to my state representative, Harry Readshaw, who is a co-sponsor of the bill. To be entirely fair, I dislike my representative a great deal. He’s nominally a democrat, yet he’s entirely anti-choice, he also introduced a copy of the Arizona “papers please” anti-immigrant bill in this legislative session. I don’t know why he calls himself a democrat, but he does, and I hold him accountable. I wrote:

Dear Representative Readshaw:

I know this message will fall on deaf ears as you’re firmly committed to destroying my constitutional right to control my reproductive life, nevertheless, this legislation that you are co-sponsoring is both onerous and offensive and I feel it my responsibility as your constituent to let you know that your support of this bill completely erodes any possibility of my continued support for you.

Fact: there is no evidence, from actual empirical studies, that ultrasounds change people’s minds when they’re seeking an abortion. All that these “educational” ultrasounds do is add unneeded time, expense and delay to the process and, as a consequence, increase the number of medical complications that arise. If the goal is to improve women’s health, this bill is already a failure on its face.

Fact: More than 60% of those seeking an abortion already have had at least one child. they know what pregnancy is, how it works, and what continuing an unwanted pregnancy would mean to their lives and the lives of their families. they don’t need counseling, waiting periods or extra ultrasounds to “know” as per this “right to know” concept.

Women do have independent intellect. We are able to come to decisions about important issues in our lives without being handheld or spoonfed information, and if there’s information that women want or need to know, we are capable of asking for ourselves.

The arrogant overriding of women’s agency and presumption of women’s ignorance inherent in this bill, from its very first line, and the “right to know” language makes me wonder: if women are so dreadfully incapable of independent decision making and learning, how on earth are they meant to parent the end results of the pregnancies that they’re being encouraged not to terminate? Or the children that they already have?

The illogical position that you are espousing by co-sponsoring and, I’m sure, ultimately voting for this repulsive piece of legislation speaks volumes about your inherent disdain and mistrust of women and bigotry against us. Given that, I’m not sure why you think that more than half of the electorate should support you, given that you’ve demonstrated time and again how little you think of us, our abilities and ultimately, our humanity.

Yeah, I was a little bit fired up, because this bill? Is ridiculous. (Yes, I also went to “women” rather than my normal gender neutral language. This dude is a Neanderthal, no way was he going to grasp the point of gender neutrality.)

Today, I received an oversized manilla envelope from Rep. Readshaw. Inside was a printout of HB 1077, a printout of some database’s information about me, indicating where I live, that I’m not the head of the household (why/how it knows this I do not know) and a few other things about me, like ethnicity, that no elected official should or needs to know. I’m going to have to get to the bottom of that.

Also included was a printout of my email, with the phrases “will fall on deaf ears” “destroying my constitutional right” and “my continued support for you” underlined in red ink. Apparently these phrases were exceptionally offensive? I don’t know.

And then there was the letter you see above. Handwritten by the representative himself, in all its chickenscratchy, grammatically questionable glory.

Let’s break it down together, shall we? First, note the black bar? That’s where the letter was addressed to me solely by my first name. (Government name, hence the censoring.) Not Ms. Lastname, not even Dear Firstname, just Firstname, as if he knows me and is writing to a friend. I don’t play that way. I gave him the respect of referring to him by title, he’ll do the same if he ever addresses me again.

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He writes:

I know this message will fall on deaf ears but….. I do not choose to debate “intellect” vs. morals. As I believe morals should overwhelmingly be the favorite.

This is obviously a reference to my amazing assertion that “women do have independent intellect.” He disdains that, clearly. And thinks that if we choose abortion, we’re immoral. And I, by extension, am immoral for my stance. The inference is pretty clear to me, how about you? So this is a moral issue, which says to me that it’s not a legal issue. If it’s about morality, that’s not for the state to legislate to me, it’s for me to determine a course of action about, perhaps with the people I trust to discuss moral issues with, and whose guidance I can trust.

Let’s move on, though, shall we?

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This blew my socks off. The arrogance and ignorance you’re about to read from a sitting elected official is absolutely breathtaking.

There should be no need to consider “what continuing an unwanted pregnancy would mean to their lives.” This can be controlled by contraception. Why create and kill? Simply, do not create….. Be responsible!

Where do I start? Apparently in whatever fantasy land this man inhabits, everyone has access to contraceptives. We know this is false. We know that this is demonstrably false. Apparently in that same fantasy land, contraception is 100% effective in every case. We know that this is demonstrably false. Apparently in that same fantasy land there is no rape, no coercion, no sexual abuse, no domestic violence, no birth control sabotage. There should be no need to consider. Nothing to think about. Just move along, you irresponsible killer sluts.

How dare he? I’m seething here. Seething.

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Seven cosponsors are women of HB1077 and I do not believe any of the cosponsors have a “disdain and mistrust of women or bigotry against them.”

Once again, he misuses quotes to try to paraphrase things I wrote in my email, and does dreadful things to proper English grammatical syntax. Also? I really don’t care what he believes, the evidence contradicts him. This bill says in the very first line that we are too ignorant to understand our own pregnancies. It’s disdainful, it’s brimming with mistrust of our knowledge and our ability to make decisions for ourselves, ask questions for ourselves or understand our needs and those of our families, and I’ll stand by bigotry every day. That’s what underpins this all. And yes, women can be bigoted against other women. I think we’ve all seen and experienced that. It’s evident on its face — if you’re willing to look.

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You stated my position is “illogical” and your feeling is no doubt prompted by disagreement with my stance on the subject.

Really? Are you just now getting that, Harry? Also, note that word feeling I don’t have thoughts or positions or stances, I have feelings. Little hypersensitive woman that I am. Yeah, the tone is clear, isn’t it?

Now, prepare to be appalled, if you’re not already, because he’s about to cross a line so broad and so unbelievable it will take your breath away.

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I have a daughter that is not biologically capable of having a child due to complications. She cannot bear a child and you want to kill them. She has also experienced 2 miscarriages. Sorry, I disagree with your convictions.

HE JUST DISCLOSED HIS DAUGHTER’S PRIVATE MEDICAL INFORMATION IN AN EFFORT TO JUSTIFY HIS SUPPORT OF THIS BILL AND GENERAL ANTI-CHOICE POSITION.

Sorry for shouting, no, actually, I’m not. I am beyond disbelief that he believes that this woman’s personal pain, her private information, her reproductive status is fair game to be bandied around like this, to be used to score political points, as a gotcha at me. She can’t have babies and I want to KILL THEM! What kind of person am I that I could possibly support other people having autonomy over their own reproduction when she doesn’t have any?

What kills me is that he doesn’t actually know whether I’m pro-choice. My email to him didn’t say. I’m opposed to forced endovaginal ultrasounds before abortions, that doesn’t mean that I necessarily like abortions. For the record, I don’t much care for them. I wish no one ever had to have one. But that isn’t reality. Even with ideal comprehensive sexual education, universal healthcare and unfettered contraceptive access there will still be pregnancies that cannot be sustained. That’s why I’m pro-choice because I recognize reality, and because it’s not my right to interfere in other people’s medical choices.

But it doesn’t matter to him. Anyone who has support for autonomy is some kind of horrible monster who’d kill the precious thing his daughter wants and can’t have.

What he doesn’t know, couldn’t know, in his fantasy land of assumptions and presumptions, is that I too am actually incapable of having much-wanted children. (I’ll give benefit of the doubt that his daughter actually is, that he’s not making that up to justify himself.) And yet, despite the fact that being pregnant would make me incredibly happy, and won’t ever happen, I still recognize that my desire to be pregnant is not universal and I cannot expect other people to continue pregnancies that they do not want, cannot afford, cannot physically or emotionally sustain, just because of my feelings about pregnancy for me. I am not other people. I cannot expect them to live their lives as I would. That’s kind of the cornerstone of what liberty is, isn’t it?

Let’s press on, before I get all maudlin all over this thing.

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As of this date, you are the only person other than 2 medical doctors that have contacted me in the negative.

Huh, doctors are opposed to a broadly invasive and overreaching bill that directly interferes with patient care and injects politics into treatment rooms. Is that surprising? Is that extraordinary? I don’t think so. And when this thing blows up, as Texas should have and Virginia has, and it will, I think that this number will change. And now, I’m going to do my best to be sure of it.

One last note, remember when I said that in the envelope with the letter was a printout of some database’s information about me? Check out the last line again:

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Congratulations on your voting record it is very good!

I’m going to presume that there is some database that shows how many times I’ve voted since I registered in 1991. (The answer is “twice a year, every year, or 42 times thus far.) But why is he looking that up before sending me a letter in response to me writing to him? Why is it germane? Why is it his business? Why is it legal? Do I not get a letter if I don’t vote or vote often enough for his tastes? I’m going to be looking into this too, I assure you.

Now, the question is: what to do about this. First, I’m definitely writing him back, and calling. I have a few words to say, the first of which will be don’t you ever call me by first name again. Start with basic respect and work from there.

Other than that? I’m not sure. I’m still seething. I’ve been essentially called an immoral baby killer here, by my elected representative, and he’s disclosed information about his daughter that is reprehensible. There should be some consequences for this.

I’d say that you should all email Representative Readshaw and let him know what you think of his letter, but he only accepts email from constituents. But if anyone is inclined to send him postal mail

Representative Harry A. Readshaw
1917 Brownsville Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15210

or
Room 122 Irvis Office Building
House Box 202020
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2020

If you’re inclined to call or fax:

Call: 412-881-4208 or 717-783-0411
Fax: 412-886-2077 or 717-705-2007

If you have other suggestions for responses, please share. I don’t think that this should go unaddressed.

UPDATE: SATURDAY 25 FEBRUARY: Please read this follow up which addresses a number of the questions that have arisen in these past 48 hours. Thank you!

Notes

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