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Health Care / HEALTH CARE

Abortion-Rights Supporters, Losing in State Legislatures, Retaliate With Jokes

A bill giving sperm special status and another requiring men to undergo invasive exams before they can get Viagra are among some of the tongue-in-cheek pushback measures being offered up this year by legislators backing abortion rights. 

The liberal blog Think Progress published a list of such measures on Tuesday. They include laws that would protect the rights of sperm and laws that would require onerous medical tests before men could seek prescriptions for drugs to treat erectile dysfunction.

In Ohio, where legislation is pending that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, state Sen. Nina Turner, a Democrat from Cleveland, introduced a bill that would require men to undergo a cardiac stress test and a psychological screening from a sex therapist before they could obtain prescriptions for erectile-dysfunction drugs.

 

“I care about the health of men as well, and I thought it only fair that we illustrate that and make sure that a man is fully informed of the risks involved in taking these drugs and also the alternatives such as natural remedies or also celibacy,” Turner told the website Talking Points Memo.

In Oklahoma, a state senator penned an amendment to legislation to define life as beginning at conception. It would punish men who wasted sperm on non-procreative activities: “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,” read the text of the amendment by Sen. Constance Johnson, a Democrat from Forest Park. (Johnson ultimately agreed to table the amendment.)

A Georgia legislator proposed a bill that would have outlawed vasectomies except for men who will die or suffer dangerous health problems without one. The sponsor, Rep. Yasmin Neal, a Democrat, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she was trying to make a point about a bill that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks.

In Virginia, where a bill that would have required women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds before seeking early-term abortions was making national news, state Sen. Janet Howell, a Democrat from Fairfax, tried tacking on a men’s health addendum. Her legislation, like the Ohio bill, would have provided some hoops for men to jump through before seeking Viagra and similar drugs. Under her proposal, men would need to undergo a digital rectal examination and a cardiac stress test.

“I just think we should have a little gender equity here,” she told The Washington Post.

Howell’s amendment failed, and the ultrasound bill passed, though in amended form. Women seeking abortions in Virginia will now have to undergo abdominal ultrasounds.

So far, none of these satirical bills have gotten very far. But for the authors, it appears that making a point about women’s ability to make their own medical decisions is more important than scoring legislative victory.

“If we are going to do this, we need to do it in a way that is applied equally,” said Illinois state Rep. Kelly Kassidy, a Democrat, whose amendment would require men to watch a “horrific video” on the side effects of Viagra before obtaining a prescription.

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