Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican who represents Missouri, was slammed for suggesting women who've had hysterectomies aren't women.
Hawley made the remarks during an interview with The Huffington Post, which asked several Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to define the word "woman," a callback to GOP questions for Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson during her recent Supreme Court Senate confirmation hearing.
Hawley offered a shallow answer, suggesting womanhood is tied to a woman's ability to give birth to a child.
"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.”
However, when the reporter asked Hawley if his definition applied to women who have had hysterectomies, Hawley appeared uncertain and answered the question with another question:
“Yeah. Well, I don’t know, would they? I mean, a woman has a vagina… Right?”
A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus, a procedure that is typically performed by a gynecologist. The most common type of hysterectomy is a total hysterectomy, which removes all of the uterus, including the cervix. The ovaries and the fallopian tubes may or may not be removed.
By contrast, a partial, also called subtotal or supracervical, hysterectomy removes just the upper part of the uterus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that hysterectomies are quite common, estimating that "1 of 3 women in the United States has had one by age 60."
Hawley's remarks were particularly criticized by women who took him to task over his cluelessness about female reproductive health.
Others shared stories about how hysterectomies have impacted their lives.
Republicans have been preoccupied with the definition of "woman" since a widely talked about moment shortly after confirmation hearings for Jackson kicked off last month.
When asked for a definition for the word "woman," Jackson, who Democratic President Joe Biden nominated and who has now been confirmed to replace the outgoing Associate Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court, told Tennessee Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn that she could not because "in this context, I’m not a biologist.”
The preoccupation with the word "woman" and gender overall is a further example of how transgender issues have recently galvanized the far right, taking a spot at the forefront of attacks conservatives have directed toward the LGBTQ+ community in what has become one of the more defining elements of the culture wars.