March 04--I am not a doctor, but I believe the problem is vagina envy -- or VE.
At no other time in modern history has reproductive rights been under such attack, which leads me to think an unhealthy number of policy-makers are suffering from VE. They wish they had a vagina. They don't, and so they let their emotions get the best of them and they leave all rationale behind.
How else to explain an all-male congressional revue that discussed religious freedom and contraceptive coverage last month and included no women? Or Thursday's failed attempt in the Senate to scale back President Obama's plan for health insurance coverage of birth control?
It has to be VE. Because ladies? That burning, uncomfortable feeling you may be experiencing might be a conservative who's crawled up in your ladybusiness and is right now seeking to nest where s/he doesn't belong. You really should have that checked and -- if necessarily -- have the conservative removed.
Last week, the Virginia Senate sent to their governor -- a man who is pretty certain he needs to leave the commonwealth for the national stage -- a bill that requires a woman seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound. This was a compromise bill. Originally, the bill called for a woman to receive her ultrasound transvaginally but after a loud outcry, lawmakers compromised on a jelly-on-the-belly one.
Earlier, that same governor had argued that TSA pat-downs are beneath the dignity of air travelers, yet he seemed perfectly willing to run a wand up a strange woman for no sound medical reason.
Maybe we should take a page from (female) legislators around the country who have been proposing gender-based amendments that make no more sense than the real-life (and often successful) legislation of their brothers. In Oklahoma, a state senator, fed up with her colleague's discussion of a personhood bill, suggested in an amendment that "any action in which a man may ejaculate or otherwise deposit semen anywhere but in a woman's vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child." She has since withdrawn the amendment. Too bad.
In Georgia, another personhood bill prompted a sister bill that suggested vasectomies be allowed only if a man's life is in danger.
And in (yes) Virginia, a state senator suggested men get rectal exams before they get Viagra prescriptions, because that has every bit as much to do with erectile dysfunction as routine ultrasounds have to do with first-trimester abortion, when the bulk of abortions are performed.
If you doubt this overwrought attention to female genitalia is a trend, last week folks in Sarah Palin's hometown of Wasilla threw a tarp over a piece of public art they said looks like a woman's parts. I polled my friends and we disagree. We think the 12.5-foot high sculputure looks like a baked potato, or an avocado -- but I suppose that might just prove that my friends think a lot about food.
Meanwhile, Guttmacher Institute released a study that said a lack of health insurance contributes to the number of unintended pregnancies, while the receipt of Medicaid tends to lower the numbers. If states want to reduce abortions, lawmakers should look at their citizens' health care. Abortions are legal. Let's make sure they're safe and accessible, and let's remember if we cover everyone, we can reach our common goal of fewer abortions.
You can argue the World Health Organization ranking of countries by infant mortality -- we're all the way down at No. 41 out of 193, tied with Qatar and Croatia and United Arab Emirates -- but people who pay attention, like National Nurses United, say the low rank comes in part from a 10 percent cut in federal spending for maternal and child health programs over the past seven years.
Imagine if we made health care accessible to all. Imagine if we considered the whole woman, and not just her parts. Eyes up, boys. We're up here.
Courant staff writer and columnist Susan Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.
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