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Panic in the House

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As at every legislative session these days, skittish male lawmakers have worked themselves into a state, professing to see bands of ruffians forcing abortions on helpless women. Even assurances from their female colleagues that there are no such gangs, that no serial abortionist is on the loose, that women are not weak and/or stupid, cannot calm the boys once the fever strikes. Only another shot of legislation will do the trick.

Rep. Sid Rosenbaum, R-Little Rock, is the leading hysteric of the moment. Rosenbaum is the sponsor of HB 2768, which would supplement the fruits of previous legislative panics. Arkansas law already imposes unnecessary and punitive “informed consent” procedures on women and their physicians, thus making the abortion question even more difficult than it would be anyway. Rosenbaum’s bill, approved by the House Friday, would add still another prohibition, this one against any woman having an abortion unless she’s been advised by a physician that “a spouse, boyfriend, parent, friend or other person can not force her to have an abortion.” A colleague asked if it mightn’t be desirable to enact a law prohibiting anyone from forcing a woman not to have an abortion. Rosenbaum replied by presenting his bill as an equal-rights measure:

“Nobody can force me to go have an operation … [This] simply states that no one can force a woman to have a medical procedure.”

His questioner was right, of course, though her question went unanswered. If a bill is needed to protect anyone from being forced to have a medical procedure, it should apply to everyone. Why not a law that no man can have prostate surgery until he’s been advised that no one can force him to have it, no wife, girlfriend, parent, friend, etc.? The real answer is that supporters of bills like HB 2768 believe that men are smart enough and strong enough to make decisions about their own bodies. And about women’s, too.

Closing meanness

A legislative session that once seemed about as under control as these things get is stumbling toward the end. While being crueler to women, legislators are maintaining their familiar cruelty to animals. An animal-cruelty bill (SB 777) that was approved by the Senate is caught in a House committee controlled by the Farm Bureau, and seems unlikely to escape, just like small animals caught by those who enjoy setting them afire or subjecting them to other forms of torture. It’s not just mean to let such people go unpunished, it’s foolish. Those who start by cutting up animals are likely to end by cutting up people.

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