A University of California, Berkeley School of Law professor called out Republican Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) for a transphobic line of questioning that denied the existence of trans and nonbinary people.
Khiara M. Bridges was one of five expert panelists to testify in a hearing about the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that protected the right to abortion.
Bridges, whose work focuses on civil rights, reproductive rights and constitutional law, sparred with Hawley when he attempted to mock her for using the phrase “people with the capacity for pregnancy.”
(Watch the full interaction in the video above.)
After the professor explained that cisgender women are not the only people who can become pregnant, Hawley continued to pick at Bridges for her word choice, asking: “So this isn’t really a women’s rights issue?”
“We can recognize that this impacts women while also recognizing that it impacts other groups. Those things are not mutually exclusive, Senator Hawley,” Bridges responded.
She went on to tell Hawley that his line of questioning was “transphobic” and “opens up trans people to violence by not recognizing them.” She later asked him whether he believes that men can be pregnant. He said no, which she noted is “denying that trans people exist.”
Hawley, who was once an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, asked her: “Is this how you run your classroom? Are students allowed to question you?”
“Absolutely! We have a good time in my class, you should join. You might learn a lot,” Bridges said.
This isn’t the first time Hawley has made a point of denying trans people’s existence. Earlier this year, HuffPost reporters Arthur Delaney and Jennifer Bendery asked the senator to define the term “woman.”
“Someone who can give birth to a child, a mother, is a woman. Someone who has a uterus is a woman. It doesn’t seem that complicated to me,” Hawley said.
He said he didn’t know a woman would still be a woman if she had a hysterectomy or lost her reproductive organs to cancer.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Bridges also rebutted an argument from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who said that abortion should be illegal because it’s racist. While Black people do have higher rates of abortion, Bridges explained that it’s linked to the fact that they “disproportionately bear the burdens of poverty” due to systemic racism.
Fellow panelist Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton (D), the only other Black woman testifying at the hearing, weighed in as well.
“It is cruel to deny that access to abortion is actually what is liberating for Black women, to be able to haver bodily autonomy and the ability to decide what’s best for their bodies, for their lives and their futures,” Stratton said.
The Judiciary Committee hearing focused on the legal consequences for birthing people after the Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The decision, which came down just over two weeks ago, overturned federal abortion protections ― repealing 50 years of precedent and triggering 22 states to ban or severely restrict abortion. The ruling is a historic moment in U.S. history that will have devastating effects for people across the country.