“In politics, absurdity is not a handicap.”
As you’ve probably heard, yesterday the Ohio House voted 54 to 43 to pass the so-called “heartbeat bill”, which would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detectable. If the bill passes the Senate, it could prevent anyone from accessing an abortion as early as four weeks after conception, when a heartbeat could potentially be detected by a high-quality ultrasound machine.
As Robyn Marty at Alternet reports, this essentially amounts to an almost total ban on abortion in Ohio.
Many longtime pro-choice activists and journalists are calling this bill the most radical that they’ve seen proposed anywhere in the country.
The bill is so extreme, Ohio’s Right to Life group isn’t even on board with it (they support The Viable Infants Protection Act, which would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks when the child is proved to be “viable”).
The hearing for this “heartbeat bill” underscored how absurd it really is, involving “testimony” from a 9-week-old fetus, and making references to fictional plays as “evidence”.
Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Plain Dealer” in Cleveland, described a scene from the bill’s legislative hearing in an interview with Rachel Maddow.
“We‘re watching fetuses testify by ultrasound on a screen, and when the woman was rubbing the jelly on the belly of the woman, and she was only nine weeks pregnant and they couldn’t find a heart beat, she made a joke at one point that if only they had the vaginal probe, then they could get it and a bunch of the men on the committee started chuckling. And at that moment you realize that this has nothing to do with women‘s health. This has nothing to do with protecting life. This has everything to do with playing to their extremist base.
…And I sat there while an attorney from Washington got up and first suggested—not suggested—said that some women who are raped want to have those babies because it is a triumph over their rapist. And I could hear women gasp in the audience and some of them were tearing up. This is cruelty. This is an assault on women‘s rights.
The same lawyer at one point said if Romeo—I‘m not kidding you—if Romeo had known that Juliet still had a heart beat, Romeo would not have killed himself. And I wanted to look around the room and just ask for a show of hands, how many know this is fiction? How many know this was a play?”
All of which just goes to show that if you have an incredibly extremist position on something, which the majority of the country doesn’t agree with and wouldn’t support if it came to a vote, sometimes it takes some absurdity to get your point across and make a dent on your issue.
It may seem like backers of this bill have forgotten about a lil old case known as Roe v. Wade, or at least are content to ignore it as the law of the land. But all signs indicate that, rather than having forgotten about the case, they are aggressively targeting it, pushing forward bold legislation designed specifically to challenge the famous standard established in Roe v. Wade. The most dangerous thing we could do as pro-choice activists is to dismiss their efforts as without logic.
The Republicans who are behind this bill are extremists. They are risking their political capital, and are willing to lose independent voters, to present a legislative challenge to Roe v. Wade that they view as strategic, with a chance of success. It’s a democratic loophole, a way to change current laws without having the majority of the country on board with what they are doing. And so far, it’s succeeding.