Pregnant women as hosts? Sure, state Sen. Stephen Martin, why not?

Petula Dvorak
Columnist February 27

“It’s like ‘Alien Invasion’!” exclaimed a Virginia mom with a 10-month-old baby on her hip.

Totally.

Petula is a columnist for The Washington Post's local team who writes about homeless shelters, gun control, high heels, high school choirs, the politics of parenting, jails, abortion clinics, mayors, modern families, strip clubs and gas prices, among other things. View Archive

She has been invaded three times. I’ve been occupied twice.

Pregnant women are mere hosts in the eyes of abortion rights supporters, according to Virginia state Sen. Stephen H. Martin (R-Chesterfield), who offered that description in a sarcastic Facebook post last week.

“I don’t expect to be in the room [nor] will I do anything to prevent you from obtaining a contraceptive,” the conservative lawmaker wrote. “However, once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it.”


Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress VA, relaxes at the State Capitol in a T-shirt with a reference to a Facebook remark posted by Sen. Stephen H. Martin, who referred to pregnant women who don't want their babies as “hosts.” (Bob Brown/AP)

Martin was baiting the Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition, for sure.

And, of course, the women in the Virginia Senate hit back, condemning Martin’s “total lack of respect for women,” in the words of state Sen. Barbara A. Favola (D-Arlington).

But the funny thing is, Martin’s use of the word “hosts” was just about spot-on. Being pregnant is a lot like being host to a demanding unseen stranger. After nausea, back pain, mood swings, splotchy skin, hair loss, bacon and buttermilk cravings, headaches, stretch marks and elephant feet, the hosts give birth, becoming mothers — and pretty much slaves — to our irresistible newborns.

And, frankly, the hosts/mothers/slaves are largely sick of this conversation.

Want to call women’s bodies hosts? Why not, given the medical advances we’ve been hearing about lately. Embryos are conjured in Petri dishes, in test tubes, with surrogates, and with eggs or sperm from donors, even from the dead. Men — can we just call them “vectors” in the women-as-hosts conversation? — sell their contribution to the embryo equation for cash and walk away. No ties.

Just this week, we learned that it will soon be possible to conceive an embryo using the genetic material of three people. How is Hallmark going to treat that?

We are on the cusp of serious sci-fi stuff, genetically modifying embryos to eliminate blindness. Or, in one case, to ensure deafness. Soon, the billion-dollar fertility industry will make it possible to make child production a Burger King-esque, have-it-your-way affair.

So, yes, given the light-speed changes in our world, Martin can bandy about the word “host” (though hostess seems a more appropriate choice for a good conservative) if he wants to.

But it’s not impressing the hostesses. And can anyone blame us for being irritated?

I talked with women all over Northern Virginia this week — from Leesburg to Falls Church to Alexandria. Women of all ages, ethnicities and political stripes want their state lawmakers to do one thing: Just. Stop. Talking. About. Our. Ovaries.

This is the state that tried to force transvaginal ultrasounds on women seeking abortions and that went to great lengths to force hospital-style building codes on women’s health clinics. The majority-male (82 percent) Virginia legislature has tried granting personhood to a fertilized egg, and it has considered repealing the HPV-vaccination requirement for girls.

All you conservative Virginia vectors? You can largely credit your current political predicament — having a Democratic governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general — to a huge turnout by hostesses who were disgusted by your “Porky’s”-style womb fixation.

Didn’t you listen?

The majority of your state’s voters — the XX chromosome crowd — want solutions to paralyzing traffic, decaying or overcrowded schools, and scary-expensive housing, child care and health care. They don’t want to hear from yet another middle-aged man offering his commentary on their reproductive systems.

“No matter what side of the issue you’re on, this isn’t something you’re going to change on the state level,” said a mother of two outside a grocery store in Leesburg. She opposes abortion rights but is tired of hearing her state’s elected officials obsess over the issue.

“This is something you solve at the Supreme Court level,” she said. “There are real problems in Virginia that our leaders — if they took the time to focus — could actually solve.”

Right! Effective state legislators push for affordable housing, quality child care, better roads and public transportation, top-notch schools, accessible mental-health care, clean air and safe water.

Unless a hostess is asking you to get her a taco and a chocolate Frosty at midnight, leave her alone. And do the jobs you were elected to do.

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