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Why women are calling Indiana's governor to talk about their periods

Prominent Republicans Address The Republican Jewish Coalition Spring Meeting
Gov. Mike Pence, who has probably been making this face all week
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

For the past week, women have been calling and emailing the office of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to tell him about their periods. In detail.

"My flow seems abnormally heavy"
"My name is Sue Magina."

The epic trolling effort comes from members of the Facebook group Periods for Pence, launched after Pence recently signed a new anti-abortion bill into law.

Some of the calls are gross-out moves that mock the overall idea of legislators meddling with women's health care. Pence thinks he knows better than my gynecologist, the joke goes, so maybe I should start coming to him with my reproductive health issues!

"I just hit a pothole on I-70. It was a doozy! I'm worried it might have shaken something around up in there."

But there's also a very specific critique of Indiana's new law going on here.

The bill signed by Pence (and written by state Rep. Casey Cox, who is now also getting calls) has some pretty shocking provisions. One of them basically forces women to seek funerary services for a fetus — no matter if she has had an abortion or a miscarriage, and no matter how far along the pregnancy was. All fetal tissue has to be cremated or buried, which has never been required in any state law before.

There's one big problem with this, other than the fact that it will probably increase costs for women and doctors. About half of miscarriages happen shortly after a fertilized egg is implanted, and occur at roughly the same time a woman would expect her period.

"Fertilized eggs can be expelled during a woman's period without a woman even knowing that she might have had the potential blastocyst in her," wrote the anonymous founder of Periods for Pence in an introductory post. "Therefore, any period could potentially be a miscarriage without knowledge. I would certainly hate for any of my fellow Hoosier women to be at risk of penalty if they do not 'properly dispose' of this or report it."

So by telling Pence about their periods, women are simply being good citizens who are being extra careful not to run afoul of the new law. It sounds absolutely absurd, and it is. But it's also what happens when you take a law as bizarre and medically incoherent as Indiana's to its logical conclusion.

"How big a period clot is too big?"

And some of the posts in the Facebook group are sobering. This one suggests how convoluted the law's enforcement is likely to be, and how it could have horrifying unintended consequences:

"I feel like I would have to abort or miscarry at home to protect my privacy"

The law also forbids a woman from having an abortion based on the fetus's race, sex, or in the case of Down syndrome or any other "disability." One woman posted at length about her experience with a fetal anomaly, and why she thinks this requirement is "cruel."

"I hope you burn in hell for the pain and torture you are potentially causing Hoosier women and their families"

Pence had this to say about the law when he signed it: "By enacting this legislation, we take an important step in protecting the unborn, while still providing an exception for the life of the mother. I sign this legislation with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mothers and families."

Notably, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) just filed a lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood to block the new law before it takes effect July 1. The ACLU says the law unconstitutionally invades a woman's privacy and interferes with her protected decision to have an abortion.

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