Last month, congressional Republicans introduced a House resolution that recognizes a person’s “biological sex” as a distinct legal category deserving of certain protections.
The resolution, dubbed the “Women’s Bill of Rights,” affirms that, for legal purposes, “sex” means only a person’s biological sex — either male or female — at birth, and distinctly defines the terms “woman,” “girl,” and “mother” as referring to humans assigned female at birth while “man,” “boy,” and “father” refer to humans assigned male at birth.
The House version of the resolution — introduced by U.S. Reps. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Diana Harshbrger (R-Tenn.), and Mary Miller (R-Ill.), has 15 co-sponsors, while the Senate version of the resolution has three sponsors — Send. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
The resolution is based on so-called “model legislation” — crafted by the right-wing organizations Independent Women’s Law Center and Independent Women’s Voice, and the radical feminist organization Women’s Liberation Front — that outlines certain rights and protections for those assigned female at birth. The resolution has been endorsed by several Republican congressional candidates, author Abigail Shrier, known best for her opposition to transgender-affirming policies, and socially conservative groups like Concerned Women for America.
Of particular note, the resolution makes sure to note that “only females may get pregnant, give birth, and breastfeed children.” This appears to be based on the premise that a transgender male who becomes pregnant and refuses to self-identify as “female” — as well as any individual who recognizes that person’s gender identity or preferred pronouns — is committing a personal affront to social conservatives.
The resolution also notes that biological differences between the sexes mean males are “larger in size and possess greater body strength” than females, and that those differences can “expose females to more harm” in the case of violence or sexual assault.
In terms of the rights recognized by the resolution, the only right enumerated in the bill is the right of cisgender women to enjoy spaces from which transgender females would be barred (presumably, transgender males would be allowed in such spaces, despite their outward physical appearance — though that has yet to be proven in practice) due to the aforementioned biological differences.
The facilities to which cisgender females are granted access to a transgender female-free environment include prisons, domestic violence shelters, and restrooms.
The resolution also bars transgender females from female-designated sports teams. No other rights — such as the right to reproductive freedom, the right to vote, the right to equal pay for equal work, the right to choose one’s spouse freely, or even the right not to be forcibly circumcised (despite the latter being a popular cause for many on the political Right in recent years) — are enumerated.
The resolution says that policies and laws that distinguish between the sexes are “subject to intermediate constitutional scrutiny” — a test used to determine a law’s constitutionality — and will be permitted when such laws “serve an important governmental objective and are substantially related to achieving that objective.” In other words, if the government were to adopt such a policy, any law that creates sex-segregated facilities for “biological women,” such as a prison or a homeless shelter, would likely be upheld by a court if the segregation of the sexes can be shown to achieve “an important government interest.”
Lastly, the resolution demands that state and local government agencies that collect information or data related to “sex” must aggregate that data based solely on an individual’s assigned sex at birth.
“I am proud to introduce the Women’s Bill of Rights to affirm the importance of acknowledging women and their unique and distinguishing characteristics and contributions to our nation,” Lesko said in a statement. “As the Left continues to erase women, we must fight for women and their place in our society. Whether it’s keeping the word ‘mother’ in written law, or ensuring women’s domestic violence shelters do not have to accept biological men, we must stand up for women.”
“We can’t fight sex discrimination if we can’t agree on what it means to be a woman. And we can’t collect accurate date regarding public health, medicine, education, crime, and the economic status of women if we redefine sex to mean ‘gender identity,'” Jennifer Braceras, the director of Independent Women’s Law Center, said in a statement. “At Independent Women’s Law Center, we know what a woman is. Thankfully, Representatives Lesko, Banks, Harshbarger, and Miller do too.”
While the “model legislation” on which the resolution is based defines “sex” based on whether a person’s “biological reproductive system” is developed to produce ova or sperm, the resolution itself makes no mention of that specific term, nor does it say how biological sex will be determined — whether that’s by medical examination, medical documentation, chromosomal testing, or some other process.
Critics of such simplistic definitions argue that while several physical aspects, such as chromosomes, genitalia, or hormone levels are typically associated with gender, they don’t necessarily align, and are often weaponized against cisgender women — especially women of color — to exclude them from female-designated spaces or activities. This has been the case with some female Olympians with naturally-occurring levels of testosterone that were higher than average.
Olivia Hunt, the policy director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, criticized the resolution as not only an election-year ploy, but an attempt by social conservatives to “erase” transgender identity from society.
“The Republican resolution is another in a long line of cynical attempts by anti-LGBTQ extremists around the country to erase transgender and nonbinary people from our communities,” Hunt told LGBTQ Nation. “More than a century of science has shown us that biology is far more complicated than what the authors of this resolution describe, and that trans and nonbinary people’s genders are just as real and just as valid as everyone else’s. Science simply doesn’t support this attempt at making our existence a ‘culture war.'”
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