Where to begin? Locally or nationally, the batshit has hit the fanfare. Pregnancies from rape are an anomaly. Fetuses now masturbate. And abortions used to be “the thing to do” back in the swinging ’70s. It goes on — these were all in just the last week alone. From Arizona to Texas to Wisconsin, the party that has made a sacrament of individual liberty and freedom from big government continues to quite spectacularly demonstrate strident gibberish in the name of contradicting ideology.
Just when you thought no politician could say something stupider about pregnancy than Todd Akin, there’s Michael Burgess, Republican House member from Texas, who offered this wildly specious argument during testimony recently:
1) Fetuses masturbate;
2) if fetuses masturbate, then they feel pleasure;
3) if they feel pleasure, then they feel pain as well;
4) therefore, abortion is immoral because it constitutes a kind of torture to the fetus.
Rep Burgess actually is a doctor — an ob-gyn at that — which makes his crackpot logic all the more puzzling. Talk about quacks. The testimony in question was on behalf of the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” a name so bizarrely sci-fi and deserving of semantic parsing as to earn the bill’s author, Trent Franks, an honorable mention in the field of creative writing.
Which brings us to Arizona, at least the 8th district, represented by Mr Trent Franks, who offered this bit of compassionate conservatism backed by gritty statistical abstract: “You know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy is very low.” Really? How did he come by that assertion? An intensive background in criminal justice? Obstetrical care in an inner city ER or rural healthcare clinic? A stint of investigative journalism? Nuh-uh. What about an undergrad class in Sociology 101? Nope, the guy is a high school graduate who drilled oil wells for a living before getting involved in politics in the early 1980s — notably as a member of Arizona Right to Life and later as founder of the Arizona Family Research Project, an affiliate of Focus on the Family. So about that claim… Thanks to an often cited study in 1996 conducted by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, there are over 32,000 cases of rape-related pregnancies each year in the U.S. And those are only the ones reported, which account for about half of all actual rapes, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. 32,000+ pregnancies resulting from rape is “low” relative what, congressman? So offensive was Franks’ glib remark that he was pulled from managing the debate on the House floor yesterday, even though it was his own bill.
Moving on closer to home, we have Wisconsin state Senator Mary Lazich — finally a woman legislating against the womb! Like so many current Republicans in the State Legislature, she is hot to trot on fast-tracking as many culture wars issues as she can while her party holds hard onto its majority status. Still coasting on her success of abstinence-only education, the senator’s latest claim to fame is “Sonya’s Law” aka SB 206, which is really two separate bills in its effect: 1) it requires that an ultrasound be done before an abortion, and that while the pregnant woman is not required to look at the picture, the doctor is required to describe what’s going on with the fetus (no news yet whether (a) the woman may wear ear plugs or bring in her own headphones or (b) the doctor may whisper the amniotic play-by-play in a hush befitting the PGA); and
2) a doctor performing the abortion is required to have what is called “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic .
Planned Parenthood, one of only two refuges for women wishing to terminate their pregnancies in Wisconsin, already performs ultrasounds (the other is Affiliated Medical Services, just in Milwaukee). It’s just what Planned Parenthood do. The difference is the woman has a choice about knowing its results. But thanks to our new “Sonyagram” policy, Planned Parenthood will be closing its facility in Appleton, WI, due to the technical legalese of admitting privileges within a 30-mile radius. The effect of this is shutting down one of its three-only clinics in the state, leaving women in northern Wisconsin with even fewer options and less access than before. Which is of course the whole point for Republicans after all. But don’t take my editorial for that. Listen to Senator Lazich for yourself…
“Gosh awful and gosh painful” indeed. How out of touch and totally tactless do you have to be to render abortion as a kind of lifestyle choice – “the thing to do” – made fashionable by the leading ladies of Women’s Liberation in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Taking the pill? Sure. Tantric sex? Maybe. TM and dropping acid? Probably. But having an abortion as though a de rigueur pre-req along the lines of bra burnings, teach-ins, and Title IX? Or as the senator said in her own derisive words: “You needed to get one of them to be a woman”? Damn.
It hasn’t happened yet, but it is only a matter of time — weeks? months? — til Wisconsin follows suit in the U.S. House and restricts abortions after 20 weeks. It’s part of a national trend (thank you ALEC?). Here’s the current breakdown state by state:
As an unabashed liberal pro choice guy, it’s pretty easy for me to dismiss the spat of abortion restrictive measure as moronic nonsense. It’s part of a two-pronged strategy of both chipping away at Roe bit by bit while also going for it all. I get that. And while I myself fundamentally disagree with the essential premise that life begins at conception and therefore abortion is murder (“it’s not a choice; it’s a child!”), I am entirely willing to move beyond me and my side’s rhetoric by accepting the notion that these attempts are passionate crusades by tireless activists trying to give a voice to those without one. But why not start with the already born who are just as voiceless, innocent, and in need of assistance? Why do Republicans always (and usually only) take up the plight of embryos — or “unborn” children in their language — while continually gutting resources and breaks for the poor? It is a real challenge to give much credence to crusaders about their values and platform of being “pro life” when it only applies to the womb — and then you’re all on your own once you’re out; here’s your bootstraps…if you even get any. The culture of life cannot begin at conception and end at birth. That alone simply isn’t viable.