Sometimes I fret that I spend too much time writing about right-wing extremism. But as I have often observed, the radicalization of the conservative movement and the Republican Party is the preeminent political development of our era, and affects absolutely everything. Beyond that, from a sheer aesthetic perspective, the hits just keep coming, and it’s hard to ignore them.
Today’s example comes from the state that is trying very hard to outdo all its many extremist rivals, even those steeped in the toxic cultural waters of my own Deep South: Bleeding Kansas. Here’s a report from Tara Culp-Ressler of ThinkProgress on the Sunflower State’s remorseless effort to enact antichoice legislation so sweeping that it will stand as a bright shining symbol to those everywhere who want to stamp out the very idea of reproductive rights:
The Kansas legislature is advancing an omnibus abortion bill that would, among other things, define life as beginning at conception in the state constitution and place unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers in the state. HB 2253 has already passed the House, and looks poised to gain enough support to sail through the Senate — but only after Republicans rejected several key amendments to soften the measure, including a provision to add exceptions for rape and incest to the state’s existing abortion restrictions. Top Republicans decried those provisions as “little gotcha amendments.”
Senators discussed the bill for more than two hours on Monday. There were several proposed amendments up for debate — a rape and incest exception, a provision ensuring that women won’t be prosecuted for using birth control even if the state officially redefines life with a “personhood” amendment, and a measure to remove HB 2253’s requirement that doctors tell women about a scientifically disputed link between abortion and breast cancer. All of them were rejected.
“These amendments are little gotcha amendments,” Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce (R) said during the floor debate. “I’m getting a little irritated at it.”
Culp-Ressler emphasizes the rejection of a rape exception, presumably because of the role that issue played during the 2012 elections. But what amazes me is the rejection of immunity from prosecution for use of birth control.
The dirty little secret of “personhood” initiatives is that they would proscribe not only abortions, or “abortion pills,” but IUD’s and “Plan B” contraceptives on grounds that such devices and drugs are actually “abortifacients,” identical morally to murdering an infant. And indeed, some “personhood” folk would ban the routine anti-ovulant “pill” used by many millions of Americans on grounds that it sometimes operates by interfering with the implantation of a fertilized ovum—i.e., a “person”—in the uterine wall.
If regular Republican-voting Americans had any idea of the radical vision underlying such legislation—something straight out of the Handmaid’s Tale, folks—the solons supporting it wouldn’t even last until the next election. So you’d think they’d be extra careful about supporting efforts to ensure that most of the female population of the state of child-bearing age wouldn’t have to worry about being hauled off to the hoosegow and told they needed to get their procreative groove on or put an aspirin between their legs.
But no: Kansas Republicans consider that sort of concession to the twentieth century a “little gotcha amendment” they find irritating.
Maybe it’s just that they know this package of legislation wouldn’t stand a moment of judicial scrutiny, even if Justice Kennedy goes a lot further in his drift towards second-guessing what’s good for women. Maybe they just want to erect a monument to ideology that can never be surpassed, or to distract attention from less frightening provisions (like all those boring medical licensing provisions which actually shut down abortion providers) that might survive a court test.
But I don’t mind paying some special attention to this particular development because for all their movement’s habits of deception and crocodile tears for women, Kansas’ antichoicers are giving us real insight into their idea of a good society.
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