Bioethics, healthcare policy, and related issues.
The North Dakota House of Representatives has deliberately passed an unconstitutional law intended to foster a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade. It will probably fail in the state Senate, and almost certainly go nowhere even if it does pass, but it’s a classic example of the kind of gleeful, obstructionist bomb-throwing that characterizes the anti-woman brigade. It’s also – and equally characteristically – immensely stupid, and grossly ignorant.
North Dakota’s House of Representatives has passed a bill effectively outlawing abortion.
The House voted 51-41 this afternoon to declare that a fertilized egg has all the rights of any person.
That means a fetus could not be legally aborted without the procedure being considered murder.
Minot Republican Dan Ruby has sponsored other bills banning abortion in previous legislative sessions – all of which failed.
He also sponsored today’s bill and says it is compatable with Roe versus Wade – the Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion.
(Rep. Dan Ruby, -R- Minot) “This is the exact language that’s required by Roe vs. Wade. It stipulated that before a challenge can be made, we have to identify when life begins, and that’s what this does.”
It took some digging (for some reason, it appears, no newspaper reporting this could be bothered to include the name or number of the bill, and North Dakota’s legislative Web site seems almost designed for impenetrability), but this turns out to be North Dakota HB 1572 (2009), and it is a doozy. Apparently written by Rep. Ruby himself (clearly not by anybody familiar with the law), it is filled with folksy expressions of opinion, ungrammatical and ungrounded assertions, weird non-sequiturs, and vaguely written legal directives referencing “pre-born citizens”.
It is also a perfect illustration of the utterly bizarre, distorted, and obsessive fantasies that inform the anti-sex misogyny crowd’s perfervid agitation over controlling women’s reproduction, and of the deep and thoroughgoing ignorance that in many ways makes that movement possible.
First, Ruby is completely wrong on the Roe decision – which explicitly states that its holding is not dependent upon a determination of when personhood obtains, because that question has been so contentious throughout history. That particular point (along with the central holding defending abortion rights in general) was reiterated in Casey. These decisions do not require, and certainly do not request or encourage, the states to pass definition-of-personhood bills, or imply that doing so will invalidate the central holding regarding abortion. But that’s just ordinary ignorance – he simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about and doesn’t let that stop him. But Ruby’s brand of ignorance is of an extraordinary kind. He reaches great heights of stupidity when he tries to describe, and legislate for, women’s actual bodies.
The sections of the bill on abortion are filled with references to, and descriptions of, procedures that either don’t exist or are so badly garbled that it’s obvious the author simply has no idea whatsoever what he’s talking about. In an apparent attempt to ban abortion by intact dilation and extraction, the bill stipulates that:
Personhood may not be denied:
a. If all the body parts are pulled out of the uterus except the legs or arms or portions of legs or arms are still inside the uterus;. . .
f. Once a uterus is placed back inside the mother.
and states that:
When the uterus with a child inside is placed back inside the mother, personhood extends to all other preborn children due to equal protection of the laws.
This is just insane. He obviously just doesn’t know how childbirth and abortion actually work. (If it weren’t so scary, it would be humorously reminiscent of the bizarre fantasies about sex entertained by the title character of The 40 Year Old Virgin: “You know how when you grab a woman’s breast… it feels like… a bag of sand?” Yeah – and abortion involves taking a woman’s uterus out of her body and putting it back in with a fetus inside it. Good God – why doesn’t Dan Ruby just write a bill entitled “Whereas: I’ve Never Seen a Woman’s Body, Be It Resolved That I Desperately Need to Get Laid”?)
It goes on from there. After all the abortion stuff (or what appears to be abortion stuff, given the unimaginable ignorance and complete fantasy that makes up the content of the bill), there are a bunch of catch-all concluding sections, amending various parts of the state criminal code to stick the words “born alive child” (i.e., partially-delivered fetus) into them. And what crimes, exactly, is Dan Ruby desperate to prevent?
12.1-20-11. Incest. A person who intermarries, cohabits, or engages in a sexual act
with another person related to him . . . is guilty of a class C felony. If the victim is a born alive child, as defined
in section 1 of this Act, the person is guilty of a class B felony.
Subsection 2 of section 12.1-20-17 . . . A person who, [has HIV and] willfully transfers any of that person’s body fluid to another person is guilty of a class A felony. The person is guilty of a class AA felony if the victim is under the age of fifteen or the victim is a born alive child as defined in section 1 of this Act. Section
12.1-27.2-04.1. Possession of certain materials prohibited. A person is guilty of a
class C felony if, knowing of its character and content, that person knowingly possesses any
motion picture, photograph, or other visual representation that includes sexual conduct by a
minor. A person is guilty of a class B felony if the minor is a born alive child as defined in
section 1 of this Act.
Yep. Dan Ruby amended three sections of the North Dakota criminal code to prevent incest or child pornography with a fetus during the course of a birth or abortion, and to criminalize the deliberate infection of a fetus with HIV+ bodily fluids during those same procedures. Because apparently, to Dan Ruby, these are crimes that need to be deal with . . . right now. (Odd that he assigns them lower penalties in the case of fetuses – blatant discrimination, I would say.)
It’s just breathtaking how pervasively and openly ignorant the anti-choice movement is. They hide behind pseudo-feminst camouflage, pretending concern over the danger to women’s health of wholly imaginary abortion traumas, and giving pro-woman names to their anti-choice organizations and fake health clinics. They claim they are merely concerned for the “human rights” of microscopic non-persons. But at bottom they simply loathe women, and sexually independent women most of all. And like most forms of prejudice, misogyny harbors a vast pool of ignorance at its core. They don’t understand sex, women, or women’s bodies; they’ve been taught to hate and fear them, and have – either deliberately or accidentally – avoided acquiring the familiarity or comfort that would lay those fears to rest. Misogyny requires ignorance (part of the reason for the knowingly false propaganda anti-choicers spew, and their desperate hostility to factual sex education). Nowhere is that ignorance more obviously – and hilariously – displayed than in this insanely stupid bill.
That ignorance is accepted as unremarkable within the anti-choice movement. This level of complete factual incompetence would be unacceptable in any other area – let alone one that touched on the freedom and autonomy of more than half the human race, or on technical issues of medical procedure – but is no barrier to anti-choice policymaking, because factual accuracy is not a pre-requisite to policymaking about women’s lives. If this clown had submitted a bill demonstrating an equal level of scientific illiteracy in any other area of healthcare, any other technical subject at all, or any issue involving the fundamental rights of any group of people whose rights are taken seriously, he would be a laughingstock. Apparently, however, no other member of the North Dakota legislature spoke against this bill even on grounds of factual meaninglessness, to say nothing of pro-choice principle. Complete incompetence and paralytic ignorance (it is not clear how this bill even could be implemented) are no barrier to being a leader of the pro-choice movement, or to legislating away women’s control over their own bodies and lives.
I don’t know whether we should laugh to keep from crying, or cry through our laughter. But it remains clear how utterly negligible women’s interests are. You don’t even have to know, or be able to identify, what rights, exactly, you are stripping away from them, and what parts of their bodies you are criminalizing, to vitiate women’s own interests in their own lives.
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