Missouri Lawmakers Keep Comparing Women To Cars, And Women Aren’t Pleased

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Last week, Missouri Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger (R) got some backlash for comparing the decision to have an abortion to the decision to buy a car. But that hasn’t stopped his colleagues from making their own automobile-related analogies. At a legislative hearing on Tuesday, another member of the state legislature compared women’s reproductive health resources to cars.

The comments came during a hearing on House Bill 1613, a proposed measure that would make it more difficult for women to access abortion services by forcing them to wait three days after receiving a mandatory “counseling” session. In response, opponents attached an amendment to the bill that would impose the same restrictions on “crisis pregnancy centers” — right-wing facilities that seek to dissuade women from choosing to end a pregnancy — that are forced on abortion clinics. Rep. Kurt Bahr (R) didn’t agree with that amendment, and turned to cars to make his point.

“I’m trying to understand the need for this amendment…We’re saying a pregnancy resource center, that doesn’t provide abortions, should be held by same standards as an abortion facility?” Bahr said in an exchange that was recorded by Progress Missouri. “It’s kind of like saying a model car shop has to abide by the same standards as actual auto mobile repair place. They’re two totally different things that do two totally different functions.”

But women in the state haven’t particularly appreciated the car language lately. After Gatschenberger’s comments last week, Missouri Rep. Stacey Newman (D) condemned the analogy as “extremely offensive,” telling ThinkProgress that it’s a “very flippant” way to approach abortion restrictions’ real impact on women. And on Tuesday, women’s health advocates packed the room of the legislative hearing on HB 1613, brandishing signs reading “I’m not a car” and “Can you tell the difference between this woman and a car?” Some protesters even wore car costumes to drive home the point.

Bahr told ThinkProgress that he was simply playing off the protesters. “I made this comment because multiple people opposing the legislation were holding signs stating they were not cars. One lady had a model car made from cardboard strapped over herself. I found their signs humorous and played along with that theme,” he said. “I wasn’t talking about woman’s health but on overkill regulations in what I thought was a humorous way.”

Ryann Summerford, the statewide manager of government affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri, has a different interpretation. “These comments are outrageous and show why politicians in Jefferson City have no place in a woman’s personal medical decisions,” Summerford said. “And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in Missouri — this session politicians have introduced more than 30 bills that are hostile to women’s health.”

Indeed, the Missouri legislature has been particularly intent on attacking reproductive rights so far this year. Lawmakers have introduced more anti-abortion bills than nearly any other state in the country. Since there’s just one clinic left in the state, all of that legislation is seeking to impose additional red tape on a single building.