Congressman Calls Women “Hosts,” Which Makes Fetuses Parasites

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Sorta transcript:

Oklahoma State Republican Justin Humphrey has proposed a bill that would force women seeking abortions to get written consent from the father of the embryo or fetus in question beforehand, unless she’s been raped, which is nice.

This has gotten headlines not just because it’s a fucking nightmare situation where a politician determines that a woman can’t make her own decisions about her body without a man’s permission, but also because Humphrey has stated that he likes to think of a woman not as a person really but more of a “host.” That’s his word, exactly: host. He means this in the biological sense, of an organism that harbors another organism.

A lot of women have taken great offense at this terminology, though Humphrey stands by his wording regardless of the outcry. There’s a chance this might catch on amongst Republicans, who long ago learned that dehumanizing your enemy makes it easier to visit atrocities upon them. With that in mind, I’d like to briefly discuss the bright side of thinking of women as “hosts.”

In biology, where there is a host, there is a “guest.” Guest is the term used for the other organism. There are three types of guest: commensal, mutual, and parasitic. Commensal guests benefit from their hosts without affecting the host positively or negatively. A mutual guest benefits from their host while also giving the host benefits. A parasitic guest benefits from the host while negatively affecting them.

Of those three categories, can you guess which one a fetus would best fit? A fetus leaches nutrients from a woman, forcing her to consume more food. The negative effects of pregnancy include, at worst, death. There’s also depression, blood clots, prolapsed uterus, hemorrhage, cramping, inflamed hemorrhoids, incontinence, mood swings, hair loss, high blood pressure, acne, constipation, indigestion, nausea, exhaustion, joint swelling, backaches, and osteoporosis. Among others.

In fact, the only possible benefit of pregnancy is that at the end you might get a baby out of it, which means that the only way that a “host” woman wouldn’t be able to consider a fetus a parasite is if the pregnancy was wanted.

So, if Humphrey’s “host” terminology does catch on, we can always switch tactics to campaigning for everyone’s right to safe and affordable parasite removal. After all, no one is standing in front of hospitals holding protest signs with pictures of baby tapeworms on them. It might work.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. Gestational Diabetes?

    There’s an old athlete’s tail that women who’ve had their connective tissue go through the softening, and reordering that pregnancy requires find themselves stronger afterwards. I’ve read this reported by track athletes but I have no idea whether there’s any truth to ti.

  2. I disagree that the definition of women as hosts makes fetuses parasites. ‘Benefit’ in biological terms means increased fitness. Biological fitness means reproductive success, so a fetus is a clear benefit to fitness; in fact, it’s the very essence of fitness. This is a mutualism.

    Of course this is probably tongue-in-cheek, but let’s use good biology.

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