A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on abortion and the legal consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization blew up during a tense back and forth between Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Berkeley Law Prof. Khiara Bridges when the senator questioned her characterization of who can get pregnant.
After Bridges referred to “people with a capacity for pregnancy,” Hawley asked if she meant women. When the professor stated that some women cannot get pregnant and that some transgender men and non-binary people can, Hawley questioned whether abortion is really a women’s rights issue, as it has historically been presented. This led the professor to accuse Hawley of creating a dangerous situation with his question.
“I want to recognize that your line of questioning is trans-phobic, and it opens up trans people to violence by not recognizing them,” said Bridges, who teaches courses in Family Law as well as Reproductive Rights and Justice.
“Wow, you’re saying that I’m opening up people to violence by asking whether or not women are the only folks who can have pregnancies?” Hawley asked.
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Bridges responded by stating that one in five transgender people have attempted to commit suicide.
“Because of my line of questioning?” Hawley shot back. “So we can’t talk about it?”
Bridges said Hawley was causing a problem “by denying that trans people exist and pretending not to know that they exist.” The Republican senator questioned the idea that he was denying that trans people exit by asking a question about women getting pregnant.
Bridges then offered Hawley a test.
“Do you believe that men can get pregnant?” she asked.
“No! I don’t think men can get pregnant,” Hawley replied, leading Bridges to state that this means he denies the existence of trans people.
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“And that leads to violence?” Hawley asked, incredulously. “Is this how you run your classroom? Are students allowed to question you, or are they also treated like this, where they’re told that they’re opening up people to violence by questioning?”
Bridges said she and her students have a good time in her law school class and suggested Hawley come see for himself.
“You should join, you might learn a lot,” the professor said.
“Wow, I would learn a lot. I’ve learned a lot just from this exchange,” Hawley replied.
The senator then commented on Twitter that the conversation summed up Democrats’ position.
“The Democrats say what they really think: men can get pregnant and if you disagree, you are ‘transphobic’ and responsible for violence,” he tweeted.