By now, anyone who pays attention to American politics is well aware of Dr. Khiara Bridges, the Black woman who went before the Senate Judiciary Committee to weigh in on the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the precedent-setting Roe v. Wade decision that gave women the constitutional right to abortion.
The esteemed professor at UC Berkeley School of Law — who Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley quickly found out was also an expert on race, class and reproductive rights — went viral on Tuesday for enlightening the Republican insurrection-supporting election-denier on why he and his rhetoric on abortion are so problematic.
The showdown came when Hawley — who is known for literally cheering on the Capitol rioters — delivered a question criticizing Bridges’ use of the term “people with a capacity for pregnancy. Would that be women?”
The senator’s smug veneer betrayed his obvious intention to use the opportunity to disparage the trans community. But Hawley — and American viewers, by proxy — soon learned he picked the wrong one.
“Many cis women have the capacity for pregnancy, many cis women do not have the capacity for pregnancy,” Bridges replied matter of factly. “There are also trans men who are capable of pregnancy as well as non-binary people who are capable of pregnancy.”
Bridges continued almost in disbelief she had to tell Hawley this.
“We can recognize that this impacts women while also recognizing that it impacts other groups,” Bridges added. “Those things are not mutually exclusive, Senator Hawley.”
Seeing what Hawley was trying to do, Bridges had a bit more to say to the senator.
“I want to recognize that your line of questioning is transphobic, and it opens up trans people to violence by not recognizing them,” Bridges warned him.
With a classic “who me?” face, Hawley looked incredulous and offended?
He asked: “Wow, Are you saying that I’m opening up people to violence by asking whether or not women can have pregnancies?”
That prompted Bridges to connect the dots Hawley couldn’t.
“I want to note that out of five transgender persons has attempted suicide,” Bridges said.
Visibly upset by now, Hawley peppered Bridges with rhetorical questions.
“Because of my line of questioning? So we can’t talk about it?” he snorted.
“Because denying trans people exist, and pretending not to know they exist – ,” Bridges began before Hawley cut her off.
“I’m denying that trans people exist by asking you if you’re talking about if women have pregnancies?” he asked.
Instead of engaging in Hawley’s apparent game of semantics, Bridges asked him a setup question she likely knew Hawley couldn’t resist deflecting from: “Do you believe that men can get pregnant?”
Hawley was quick to say, “No, I don’t think men can get pregnant.”
Bridges’ point was made.
“So you’re denying that trans people exist,” Bridges said.
“And that leads to violence?” Hawley asked, still not understanding the basic point Bridges had established.
Hawley, grasping at straws at this point, decided to attack Bridges’ livelihood and question her ability as a law school professor.
“Is this how you run your classroom? Are students allowed to question you or are they also treated like this?” Hawley asked.
“We have a good time in my class, you should join,” Bridges said with a smile. “You would learn a lot.”
Watch it all unfold below.
As shown in the video above, Bridges not only took Hawley’s bait, but she fried and fricasseed it and served it right back to him, all with an affable smile.
It was natural
Bridges schooled Hawley in a way that likely came very naturally to her, speaking to him in instructional tones like perhaps she might address one of her students. It was clear to everyone but Hawley that he asked a question out of his own pure, unadulterated ignorance, and Bridges was there to eagerly inform his flawed line of thinking.
It was courageous
Let’s be honest. Probably not that many of us would be able to dress down a sitting senator to his face while maintaining an amenable countenance. That may be twice as true for Black women, whose Herculean efforts at the polls in 2020 Hawley tried to void by working to overturn the election under disingenuous and treasonous auspices. But race aside, Bridges showed she had a big heart by not only speaking on behalf of the trans community but also all women — all while telling Hawley that he was a “transphobic” bigot.
At least one person who identified themselves as Bridges’ current student spoke out on Twitter to applaud “her brilliance and bravery!”
Chances are that Hawley was trying to get a rise out of Bridges by asking her his question about “people with a capacity for pregnancy.” But Bridges refused to fall into his trap, seeing right past it and side-stepping what could have been a pitfall to navigate the always murky waters of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Bridges spoke calmly — lest she be accused of being a so-called “angry Black woman” — with a resounding intention that should not only be recognized but also applauded.
She did way more than school Hawley
Bridges also sounded off on Associate Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito — who wrote the majority opinion that made abortion unconstitutional — citing the 19th century to justify overturning Roe v. Wade.
“The LGBTQ community was not contemplated by the folks who ratified the constitution; people of color, immigrants, people with the capacity for pregnancy, their interests were not considered at that point in the nation’s history,” Bridges testified.
She said Alito’s opinion cites “periods of the nation’s history where marginalized portions of the population were completely erased.”
Bridges linked abortion laws to voter suppression
After New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee were making it seem like “access to safe abortion care is somehow racist against African Americans,” Bridges expounded.
“The states that are passing the most restrictive abortion laws are also the states that are preventing people from voting,” Bridges said in reference to people like Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz who champion SB8, the co-called “heartbeat bill” that makes abortions illegal “after detection of an unborn child’s heartbeat.”
She rebuffed Texas Sen. Cornyn, too
Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn — who, along with Hawley and Cruz attacked newly sworn-in Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing — unsuccessfully tried to conflate Bridges’ stance on reproductive justice with having “more Black babies aborted.” But Bridges is nothing if not consistent.
“I believe I trust, I love Black people with the capacity for pregnancy,” Bridges responded. “I believe they have agency, they have intelligence, they know what is best for themselves, and I would love to create the conditions under which they can live lives that are filled with dignity and humanity.
Bridges is also an HBCU almuna
This reason is selfish to this writer, who is also an HBCU graduate with ties to Spelman College, where Bridges was valedictorian while graduating summa cum laude. Bridges is part of the wave of notable figures produced by historically Black colleges and universities that is increasingly finding itself among the upper echelon of decision-makers in America.
Bridges’ wide-ranging interests span far beyond the law, according to her bio. She also speaks fluent Spanish and Arabic and is a classically trained ballet dancer.
For these above reasons, and likely others this writer doesn’t know about, we need to give Professor Khiara Bridges her flowers right now.
OP-ED: Overturning Roe v. Wade Makes Reproductive Health Care Harder For Black And Brown Women
Supreme Court Ruling Overturning Abortion Reaffirms The Role Of Reproductive Justice In Black Liberation
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