Much was made of the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives after the 2010 midterms. But the smart pundits at the time were quick to point out that the biggest electoral consequences will unfold at the state level, where Republicans picked up a net gain of more than 680 legislative seats.
That means state legislatures that had formerly been Democratic have shifted to the right, and states that were already controlled by Republicans have shifted even further to the right. In a state like Alabama, that means the passage of a controversial new anti-illegal immigration law that has led to broken families and rotted fruit. In a state like Virginia, that means bills to mandate drug testing of welfare recipients, allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to place children with gay couples and an insulting war-on-women bill that would require any woman seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound.
Democrats are fighting back as best they can against the avalanche of conservative-minded bills. But since they’re either minority parties or super-minorities with little chance of stopping them from passing, these Democrats are doing it instead with humor to highlight the absurdity of it all.
Here are the two highest-profile tongue-in-cheek bills so far: Virginia Sen. Janet D. Howell offered an amendment to SB484 that read, “Prior to prescribing medication for erectile dysfunction, a physician shall perform a digital rectal examination and a cardiac stress test.” The amendment, which would have killed the bill, nearly passed. In Oklahoma, State Senator Constance Johnson tried to combat a “personhood” abortion bill with an amendment that would ban beating off and wet dreaming, among other things: “Any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.”
Now, in Ohio: State Sen. Nina Turner has introduced Senate Bill 307 in response to efforts like House Bill 125, known as the “Heartbeat bill,” which would prohibit abortions once the heartbeat is detected. Turner’s bill takes aim at men’s reproductive rights: “Before getting a prescription for Viagra or other erectile dysfunction drugs, men would have to see a sex therapist, receive a cardiac stress test and get a notarized affidavit signed by a sexual partner affirming impotency,” the Dayton Daily News reported.
The amazing thing is that while many of the anti-abortion bills are ridiculous in scope and mandate — Virginia’s bill basically authorized science rape — Turner’s bill seems fairly reasonable.
If you’re wondering why it’s odd that so many so-called small-government legislatures are trying to regulate women’s reproductive health, the DDN adds this nugget:
States passed a record 92 abortion-related bills in 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that focuses on reproductive health. At the same time, fewer than one in four state legislators nationwide are women — they number 23 percent in Ohio — according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
You’re not alone in wondering why state governments are trying to re-legislate an issue that was decided long ago. One of the people asking the same question is Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau — his most recent comic, which was pulled from several papers, takes on the “shaming wand” and the Republican war on women. Rather than re-print it, head on over to his site to see it. It’s true satire at its best.
We’ve discussed the big three on Page 1, but here are some more laws being introduced to fight this war on women, rounded up by the good folks at Mother Jones:
Delaware: By an 8 to 4 vote, the Wilmington, Delaware, city council recognized the personhood of semen because “each ‘egg person’ and each ‘sperm person’ should be deemed equal in the eyes of the government.”
Georgia: Responding to a Georgia house bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Rep. Yasmin Neal wrote a bill outlawing most vasectomies because they leave “thousands of children…deprived of birth.”
Illinois: State Rep. Kelly Cassidy proposed requiring men seeking Viagra to watch a video showing the treatment for persistent erections, an occasional side effect of the little blue pill. As she explained, “It’s not a pretty procedure to watch.”
Missouri: Protesting the legislature’s vote to reject Obama’s contraception coverage mandate, nine female lawmakers cosponsored a bill restricting access to vasectomies except for men risking death or serious bodily harm. “In determining whether a vasectomy is necessary,” the bill reads, “no regard shall be made to the desire of a man to father children, his economic situation, his age, the number of children he is currently responsible for, or any danger to his wife or partner in the event a child is conceived.”
Texas: Contesting a bill mandating sonograms before abortions, Rep. Harold Dutton unsuccessfully offered three amendments in a row. The first would have required the state to pay the college tuition of children born to women who decide against an abortion after seeing a required ultrasound image. The second would have subsidized the children’s health care costs until age 18. When that failed, he lowered the age to 6. That didn’t fly, either.
State politics: They matter most. Remember that.