On Wednesday, during a 24 minute-long statement in open court to Los Angeles probate judge Brenda Penny, Britney Spears detailed what she claims to be the abuse she has endured as a result of her ongoing conservatorship. Among the many horrifying allegations — including claims she was forced to take lithium, made to go on grueling tours, and kept away from her children — was the revelation that she currently has an IUD she does not want to prevent her from trying to get pregnant and expand her family.
Reactions of horror, outrage, and support on social media were immediate, with the hashtag #FreeBritney trending for hours. Among those offering up sentiments of solidarity and calling for an end to Spears’s conservatorship was conspiracy theorist and right-wing provocateur, GOP congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL). Gaetz retweeted a supporter who claimed that Gaetz was “leading the #FreeBritney movement in Congress,” and elevated another tweet that made the argument that Spears’s conservatorship story is not just about the pop star. “This is about a system that has allowed people to legally be used and dehumanized, their money and rights taken away,” the tweet Gaetz re-tweeted read, “and having advantage taken of a mental health crisis or disability.”
But Gaetz, forever unafraid to lay bare his shameless hypocrisy, is part of that very system. Gaetz works tirelessly, along with his Republican cohorts, to strip pregnant people of their constitutional right to full bodily autonomy, including the freedom to defend themselves from the very reproductive coercion Spears is allegedly enduring.
Every anti-abortion proposed legislation and passed law that Gaetz and his GOP friends tout as “pro-life” is an extension of what Spears claims she has experienced — and many pregnant people who do not have the platform and privileges Spears has, even in the shadows of an alleged abusive and traumatic conservatorship, are experiencing them every single day.
Studies have shown people who are denied abortion experience adverse mental health ramifications and are more likely to live in poverty; studies also show that the children those women already have at home suffer more than their peers. Gaetz has been a long-time advocate of restricting abortion access, and instead wants to federally fund faith-based, fake crisis pregnancy centers known to lie to pregnant people about the safety of abortion, their reproductive healthcare and birth control options, and how far along they are in their pregnancies in order to coerce them into carrying a pregnancy to term.
There have been numerous, documented cases of women — predominately Black and brown women — being arrested and jailed for having a miscarriage or stillbirth. And not just in countries like El Salvador, where abortion is illegal — something the GOP hopes to see happen as they work to overturn Roe v Wade — but here, in the United States. Gaetz, like his supposedly #FreeBritney crusade buddy Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), has described Roe v Wade as a “terrible decision,” and co-sponsored the erroneous Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act that protects newborns from so-called “post-birth abortion attempts” — a thing that does not exist. Instead, the bill would only increase the number of instances in which women are jailed for having experienced a pregnancy loss or stillbirth.
And just last year, a formal complaint alleged that detained immigrant women were being forcefully sterilized at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Irwin County Detention center in Georgia. Gaetz has been a long-time supporter of ICE, and in 2020 introduced legislation that would have used the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to deport all undocumented immigrants — presumably after their uteruses were cut out of their bodies without their consent.
That Gaetz, who in 2017 cast the lone vote against a human trafficking bill and is now under investigation for human trafficking, is shamelessly touting the very real need to end Spears’s conservatorship in the name of freedom and individual liberty while he simultaneously works to stifle the freedoms and liberties of pregnant people across the country is hardly surprising. Nor is it surprising that Gaetz, who continues to push the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former president Donald Trump, would appear to be easily galvanized by the release of a single documentary.
It is disgusting, though. As is Gaetz choosing to believe the claims of one woman when doing so is popular and it gives him yet another moment in the media spotlight, but continuously ignoring the claims of countless other women and pregnant people who share their abortion stories and have been yelling and screaming about the damage being done to them at the hands of anti-abortion laws.
If Gaetz and his fellow Republicans are concerned about the placement of an unwanted IUD, it’s time they stop pretending that being “pro-life” is about protecting life and admitted that it’s actually about controlling it.