When Serena Williams revealed that she had won her seventh Australian Open title without dropping a set, all while eight weeks pregnant, most of us saw it as proof of her athletic prowess and determination.
So you can imagine the bewilderment and anger that followed a legislator’s apparent call for Serena Williams to be stripped of her Grand Slam title, because “fetal personhood” meant that she was unfairly advantaged.
An article in Sydney student newspaper Honi Soit claimed that the Australian politician Reverend Fred Nile had argued that Serena’s unborn baby constituted a second person, and therefore should technically have counted as a doubles partner.
“She was playing doubles in a singles tournament!” he is quoted as saying. “I believe that ‘life at conception’ should be the law, and that means two people won the Grand Slam. That’s clearly against the rules!”
The article is, of course, entirely fake – a satirical feature posted in the paper’s comedy section - but that didn’t stop some 90,000 people sharing the news on Twitter.
Many took the ludicrous claims at face value, expressing their disbelief that anyone could possibly hold such an absurd view.
I've been laughing at this for 20 minutes 😂😂 https://t.co/QQvQWnj8Ln
Rev Nile is a member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales and an outspoken Christian minister. He is known for his anti-abortion views and has previously pushed forward a bill giving a foetus its own legal identity, separate to that of the mother.
Fortunately however, Rev Nile has never suggested Serena Williams should be stripped of her title because her foetus should be counted as a second player.
However, in a world where a US senator described a pro-choice advocate as a “terrorist” and a state governor compared abortion to the Holocaust, it can sometimes be hard to know what to believe.