Female Lawmakers Use Satire Against Conservative War on Women

Lately, legislation across the United States has been rife with various attacks on anything that gives women even a modicum of control over their bodies. President Obama caved on his administration’s mandate for contraceptive insurance coverage (and no women were allowed on a congressional panel on the matter), Illinois saw two anti-abortion bills pass, Utah is considering imposing a 3-day waiting period before abortions, and three states (Iowa, Texas, Virginia) have proposed (or have already passed) forcing women to have ultrasounds before they can obtain an abortion. In the last week, women everywhere began to realize just how much Republican men hate them when the news Virginia’s ultrasound bill made mainstream headlines. The word “trans-vaginal” had never seen such a limelight before this week.

In response to such “small government” conservative measures, a handful of  female lawmakers have realized something recently too — how to wield satire against this crap.

This week, Georgia Democratic state Rep. Yasmin Neal, proposed a law banning vasectomies for men. This was in response to a Republican-backed bill that would ban abortions past 20 weeks as well as raise the standards for “health of the woman” exceptions to the law. Rep. Neal describes the amendment:

Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies. It is patently unfair that men can avoid unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly, while women’s ability to decide is constantly up for debate throughout the United States. Women, our bodies, and what we do with it are always up for debate.

This bill has been drafted for all women who have the wherewithal to choose. The day has come where men should feel the same pressure and invasion of privacy that women have faced for years. I have introduced this legislation because it is the purpose of  the General Assembly to assert an invasive state interest in the reproductive habits of the men of this state and substitute the will of the government over the will of adult men.

This bill states that vasectomies can be performed to avert the death of a man or to avert serious risk of substantial or irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the man. This bill mimics the abortion bills throughout the nation, and just like the abortion bills interfere with a woman’s right to choose, it’s only fair that the General Assembly debate the men’s right to choose, as well.

In a similar vein, in Virginia last month, state Senator Janet Howell attached an amendment to the now-infamous ultrasound bill which would require men seeking medication for erectile dysfunction to first undergo a prostate exam and a cardiac stress test. Unlike the ultrasound bill, this at least isn’t wholly extraneous, health-wise.

Additionally, in response to Oklahoma’s fetal personhood bill, state Senator Constance Johnson attempted an amendment to add language which states that

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 Sen. Johnson explained in an article about her amendment, these kinds of counter proposals serve to bring attention to how absurd it is to make anyone undergo an irrelevant, invasive exam because their government says so, and to point out the hypocrisy of woman-hating conservatives (how redundant!) who truly just want to restrict women’s options by forcing pregnancies be carried to term and who use concern for zygotes as a cover.

In some corners of the liberal feminist blogosphere, these kinds of counter amendments that would force men to have medically unnecessary exams and procedures have been called just as bad as the awful anti-woman bills they are attached to. However, these two situations are on absolutely unequal ground. It means something very different for a legislative body composed of a majority of men to force women – by law – to give birth if they should ever become pregnant, compared to when a woman offers a snowflake’s-chance-in-hell-of-passing amendment.

For example, the Texas sonogram law was quickly passed in the legislature last year and was then signed into law by Governor Rick Perry. When the law was challenged, a federal court overturned a temporary injunction that had prevented the law from taking effect. In comparison, the Oklahoma “Every Sperm is Sacred” joke-mendment was withdrawn by state Sen. Johnson after she felt her point had been made.

But these dudes aren’t kidding. They really want to put mandates into law which reduce women to incubation devices to be poked, prodded, and humiliated, and they really can rally enough support to actually get this done.

And that ain’t funny. (ZING!)


Image: State Rep. Carol Alvarado holds up a trans-vaginal ultrasound probe on the floor of the Texas legislature

  1. lishra said:

    Here are some honorable mentions that I didn’t include in my post…

    On the Texas sonogram law:

    State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, offered an amendment that would, in the event that a woman decided to carry her child to term after undergoing a sonogram as required by the bill, require the state to pay for that child’s college tuition. When that didn’t work, Dutton proposed that the state pay for the child’s health care until age 18. That failed, too. He followed up with a similar amendment that only went up to age 6, but with no more success. […]

    State Rep. Marisa Marquez, D-El Paso, proposed giving a pregnant mother being required to undergo a sonogram the option to force, by court order, the unborn child’s father to undergo a vasectomy. That fell short.

    On the Oklahoma fetal personhood bill:

    In response to that bill, Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, who is strongly pro-choice, offered an amendment 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.

    Wilson’s amendment failed.

  2. lishra said:

    Also, my favorite synonym for “mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasound” this week comes from Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” Thursday, calling it “this… vagina thing that’s goin’ in there”.

    Excellent. And very obviously the result of serious discomfort with Lady Business.

  3. smash said:

    Brilliant reporting, Lishra.

  4. karmarad said:

    Thank goodness some of these legislators are doing something, anything to stop the steamrollering.But these are liberal tactics, joshing the oppressors. These tactics feel weak to me.

  5. Isis said:

    “It means something very different for a legislative body composed of a majority of men to force women – by law – to give birth if they should ever become pregnant, compared to when a woman offers a snowflake’s-chance-in-hell-of-passing amendment.”

    1. A man who isn’t allowed to get erection medication won’t suffer as much as a woman who is forced to give birth. Being denied something you like isn’t comparable to being forced to do something you don’t like.

    2. Women are oppressed and to say that hitting back is the same as hitting first is nonsense, especially when the hitter-backer knows her strikes will cause less damage than the oppressor’s strikes will.

    3. It was satire. It was supposed to be a joke, not really pass.

  6. zeph said:

    Interesting post, as usual Lishra! I agree these tactics are a good beginning and a useful way of raising awareness. But in their appeal to men to see through themselves I think they will fail; because men are already so well aware of what they are doing! But if this satire reaches the street, it may prove a good way for women to express to each other, the malicious infringement of their civil liberties these measures represent.

  7. lishra said:

    Thanks for the comments, smash, karma, and zeph! I too think that this is just a minor jumping off point, but I appreciate the sentiment of the women who have proposed these things. Like you said, zeph, at this point I see it more as something for women to commiserate over (“Ah! Finally a taste of their own medicine!”) than any widespread consciousness raising among men as well (at least not that I’ve seen).

    But if you don’t have the numbers for votes, at least this is a try at *something*, right? A sort of harm reduction… a weaker tactic, as karma said. But what else do politicians in their shoes realistically have at their disposal? I suppose you could just go all Ron Paul and routinely propose a bunch of things that you’d would love to see – but couldn’t get close to passing in your lifetime – and just hope that what you’re doing is laying the groundwork for a future political movement, but what can be done *now*?

    Uh… home abortion methods, anyone?

  8. This is fascinating!! Thanks for the awesome reporting, Lishra!

    I especially liked your explanation at the end regarding why these satirical proposals are NOT at ALL “just bad as” the very REAL limitations on women’s bodily autonomy being passed by MALE MAJORITY legislatures all over the country. These women’s proposals are hardly a threat to male power– legal or reproductive.

  9. Javelina said:

    I’m really puzzled: Why is anger directed at the supposed “invasiveness” of trans-vaginal ultra-sound? It is much less invasive than an abortion. It is a mild, painless test. But it costs money and is another hoop to jump through before being allowed to have a pregnancy terminated. THAT is the real problem, I think.

    Protesters outside of Planned Parenthood clinics have the same intent, to make it more difficult for a woman to have a legal medical procedure from a licensed healthcare provider (an abortion). The protesters can be awful, granted. But being required to pay additional fees, maybe another office visit are more significant obstructions.

    I don’t think the parody legislation is helpful, though I understand the motivation, frustration. There are A LOT of people that believe it is wrong for a man to “spill seed” as a result of any sort of contraception. They’d probably think that Senator Constance Johnson’s parody legislation was meant in earnest. On the other hand, I really liked those follow-up items from Oklahoma and Texas in the comments, about paying for care for a pregnant woman, and her child, in the circumstances described. Another thing no one seems to get: It isn’t just a matter of cost. Bearing a child to term is no minor thing. That’s why it isn’t a good idea to do parody legislation against vasectomies for men. Because ultimately, women are the ones who that impacts the most, with more unplanned pregnancies. (Men aren’t particularly eager to get vasectomies, anyway, or not so I’ve noticed…)

  10. lishra said:

    Thanks, E.H.!

    Javelina – re: ‘invasiveness’…. well, a woman is forced to be vaginally penetrated for no medical reason. I’d call that pretty invasive. And there are many, many women who have had vaginal ultrasounds who would not call it a “mild, painless test”.

    By the way, the Virginia ultrasound bill was amended by a state delegate David Englin simply to say that the woman must consent to the ultrasound first…. IT FAILED, 64 to 34. The ultrasound must be performed whether or not the doctor thinks it is worthwhile too. It’s one thing if a woman is receiving a vaginal ultrasound because it’s medically necessary for something else that she is in need of, but to have a vaginal ultrasound – whether or not it is necessary, whether or not the woman consents to it…. that is a very different thing.

    This is a penetrative procedure that is being forced upon a woman because a bunch of dudes in government want to make the experience as difficult as possible on her. I’m not sure how else to communicate how obviously “invasive” this is.

  11. lishra said:

    Isis – Sorry that your comment just now went up. It was in the spam box for some reason. Thanks for elaborating on why the two kinds of proposals are not equal.

  12. Sydney said:

    You’re kitten me Javelina (nice prongy name). So the chick that’s knocked up has already had a dick up her. Hell, she may even have fallen pregnant without consenting to sex. She’s going to have other surgical instruments stuck up her if she goes ahead with the pregnancy termination, so what you’re saying is what’s the biggy about one more vaginal penetration via the internal ultrasound? Yikes!

  13. unleashed said:

    I’m amazed, once again, that along with Javelina, many women (not meaning hereabouts), have said (when Virginia proposed that transvaginal ul/s be mandated) things like: Hell, it’s no more invasive than abortion, so what’s the big deal? Or… there’s no discomfort… it’s not invasive, no more than the act that got them pregnant in the first place. I decided comments like that were hugely insensitive, and were probably written by women who are, in their depths of their souls, pro-life, and antiabortion.

    How can any woman say that introducing a “probe” into the vagina is not INVASIVE? If a dr. palplates your tummy, it’s not invasive. If a stethoscope is used to hear lung sounds, it’s not invasive. When you’re told to get naked from the waist down, place your heels in stirrups that mean your legs are 4-feet apart, while a hand-held probe is inserted inside of you, and moved about while an ul/s image is produced on a screen… that’s invasive. To argue that the procedure is no worse than having the abortion reeks of discompassion. So if it’s humiliating, and certainly uncomfortable, you should undergo this TWICE because it’s a political mandate. And doctors don’t do the procedure. Ultrasound technicians do, or certainly did when I’ve undergone it (diagnostic to rule out endometrial Ca). Young men have gone into the Nursing profession in droves recently. I expect many will become Ul/Sound technicians as well. I just can’t wait to have a 19-year-old frat boy who “spills his seed with abandon” be in control of the vaginal probe that penetrates but is not INVASIVE.

  14. lishra said:

    Sydney and unleashed – thank you for your comments. It’s really amazing to be that someone wouldn’t understand how plainly invasive it is to have something shoved inside your body. That’s pretty much the exact definition there. As my computer says: “(of medical procedures) involving the introduction of instruments or other objects into the body or body cavities”.

  15. survivorthriver said:

    I am over the moon with sheer delight at this feast of hilarity. Absolutely spot on, I’m actually about the happiest I can remember in months over this. I’m giddy with the sheer genius of this turn-about campaign.

    I’ve been hoping the same thing would get exposed for pornography. Not so it gives perverts jollies, but careful targeted exposure of how men might like female fluids on face for our sexual pleasure NOT but let’s use the satire technique on the pornheads.

    Thank you so much for putting this post together, I will read often and laugh a lot. What a prescription for female mental health.

  16. lishra said:

    Glad you enjoyed it, survivorthriver! : )

  17. Murasaki said:

    I cried when I had a trans-vaginal ultrasound for a WANTED pregnancy. The Dr angrily snapped “whats wrong”. Another said “relax your vagina or I’m going to have to force it!”. Its humiliating and uncomfortable.

    This is about punishing women for having sex.

  18. Mary Sunshine said:

    Murasaki, if you were not applying for permission to have an abortion, then how could they force you to have a transvaginal ultrasound? How horrible !!

  19. lishra said:

    Here’s another story…. “Want Viagra? Ohio lawmaker wants men to get second opinion” http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/08/10612704-want-viagra-ohio-lawmaker-wants-men-to-get-second-opinion:

    State Sen. Nina Turner, a Cleveland Democrat, this week introduced Senate Bill 307, which is aimed at protecting men from the risks of PDE-5 inhibitors — drugs like Viagra that are commonly used to treat symptoms of erectile dysfunction — in an effort to “guide men to make the right decision for their bodies.”

    Turner told msnbc.com on Thursday that the measure was her way of sending a message to the Legislature in response to Ohio’s so-called Heartbeat Bill, which is now pending in the state Senate. That measure would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected – sometimes as early as in the sixth week of pregnancy.

    “I’m fed up over all this concern, consideration and conversation over the feeble and fragile minds of women who are unable to make decisions on their own,” Turner said. “I thought it was time to show our men some love and some regulation. It was time to level the playing field for all.”

    Sendin’ love and regulation! hahaha

  20. Sydney said:


  21. tiamathydra said:

    The ancient regime is back, especially concerning our reproductive rights. I’ve decided I’ll never have children because if things continue to go on this vein, my grandchildren will live in an era worse than Middle Ages. But will I be able to not have children? Who knows, I could be raped and not get to have an abortion (here in Europe, especially in the countries ruled by right-wing governments, we’re also hearing that they want to take abortion and the morning after pill away).
    Here in Spain there’s a very creepy and mainstream TV show now, it started a few months ago, and it’s called ”Baby boom” and it’s basically about women, especially young women, going to the hospital and giving birth, they record the experience and the women saying how beautiful it was of course. People watch it because of the sensationalism but I just want to puke. Could it be more obvious that they’re pushing an agenda to increase population and brainwash young women into motherhood? What bullshit, and what scum they are to spread this ideology in a moment of recession where many people here don’t even have a job -especially young adults.

    And I don’t know in the US, but here there has been a massive increase in TV commercials about cleaning products always advertised by middle-aged or even young women who look like housewives. Many people, especially young adults, agree that it is a bit of a shocking ‘campaign’ because actually 60% of the university students here are women and there had been progress over the last years in terms of domestic labor, I even remember that commercials about cleaning products used to be advertised by both men and women just a few years ago. And now suddenly we are literally bombarded with women, even young women the same age as female university students, advertising cleaning/cooking/housework products. It scares me a lot to watch TV because of it. The other half of commercials are about ”beauty” shit for women too, so apparently in the middle of an economic crisis it’s women who must spend all of our money, but I had been more used to seeing ”beauty” products for fuckability mandates being advertised because my generation has grown up watching those. What I’m shocked by is the young housewives advertising domestic stuff, the sentimental TV shows about childbirth… it does scare me, especially knowing that many people out there don’t have a conspirational mind and are therefore very vulnerable to brainwashing.

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