When the Republican dominated Virginia senate proposed a bill requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, one of their own finally had had enough. Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) attached an amendment to the bill that would require men to have a rectal exam and cardiac stress test before being prescribed Viagra for erectile dysfunction. "We need some gender equality here."
She didn't get it. While her amendment failed, the rest of the bill passed. Rush Limbaugh can be reassured Virginia will protect his God-given right to a stiffy while making sure the women of their fair state will be forced to pay for an unnecessary and expensive ultrasound and view images of the fetus before an abortion can be performed. This particularly cruel act proves yet again that Republicans consider women to be very little more than walking wombs without the same rights over their own bodies that men enjoy over theirs.
But it started a trend. When Republican Senator Brian Crain of Tulsa, Oklahoma, introduced Bill SB 1433, otherwise known as the "Personhood" bill, seeking to legally define human life as beginning at conception, even before implantation in the womb, and offering more legal protection to a one-celled zygote than its fully grown adult mother, Democratic Senator Constance Johnson had had enough - she introduced an amendment declaring every sperm must be likewise sacred. "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."
"As a woman and a 31-year veteran of the legislative process in Oklahoma," she wrote, "I am increasingly offended by state law trends that solely focus on the female's role in the reproductive process. With Oklahoma's new, never-before-experienced Republican majority, we are seeing enactment of more and more measures that adversely affect women and their rights to access safe medical procedures when making reproductive healthcare decisions.
My action to amend the so-called 'Personhood' bill - SB 1433, introduced by Senator Brian Crain (Republican, Tulsa) – represents the culmination of my and many other Oklahomans' frustration regarding the ridiculousness of our reproductive policy initiatives in Oklahoma. I have received overwhelmingly positive responses from men and women in Oklahoma – and worldwide. The Personhood bill would potentially allow governmental intrusion into families' personal lives by policing what happens to a woman's eggs without any similar thought to what happens to a man's sperm.
My amendment seeks to draw attention to the absurdity, duplicity and lack of balance inherent in the policies of this state in regard to women. Oklahoma already incarcerates more women than any other place in the world. Under the latest provisions, a woman in Oklahoma may now face additional criminal charges and potential incarceration for biological functions that produce or, in some cases, destroy eggs or embryos, such as a miscarriage. In vitro fertilization, involving the fertilization outside the womb for implantation into the womb, would also potentially represent a violation of the proposed Personhood statute.
Finally, this amendment seeks to draw humorous attention to the hypocrisy and inconsistency of this proposal – from the Republican perspective of down-sized government and less government intrusion into people's private affairs. Despite the great challenges our state faces, it is far more important that we address issues such as affordable healthcare to help improve our state's ranking of 48th in health status; to create good, secure jobs that grow our economy; and ensure that all citizens have access to quality, affordable education."
Nor was the outrage felt only by women - in solidarity with his colleague, Democrat Jim Wilson proposed an additional amendment to the bill that would make the father of an unborn child financially responsible for its mother's health care, housing, transportation and nourishment while she is pregnant. Unsurprisingly, Wilson's amendment also failed in a Republican dominated Senate. While Oklahoma Republicans seek to control women's bodies, they hypocritically also wish to excuse men from any responsibility whatsoever for their contribution to the creation of an unborn child.
Thankfully, a similar bill to the Oklahoma "Personhood" 1433 bill was defeated at the polls in Mississippi last November. But this insidious movement, supported by almost every Republican Presidential candidate, aims to overthrow the 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling, the Supreme Court decision legalizing a woman's right to chose a safe medical abortion, and is gaining momentum with nearly every single Republican presidential candidate signing on to the so-called "Personhood Pledge" vowing to make abortion illegal, for any reason whatsoever.
Rightwing Republicans do not give a damn about women, not their human rights, not their bodies, not their health or welfare. We're just biological incubators to them. Nor do they really care about the unborn, either - once that blastocystic blob of cells with all the rights under the 14th amendment becomes an actual living, breathing baby, it's on its own, in a country with the worst infant mortality and poverty levels in the western world. So while it is nice to see politicians like Janet Howell, Constance Johnson and Jim Wilson finding creative ways to highlight Republican dishonesty and push back against the misogynistic and even misanthropic power-hungry hypocrites in the Republican party, it's going to take a lot more than amusing amendments to truly malicious bills to stop the rightwing from turning back the clock even further than they've already managed to do.