Take Two #26: Laws reveal incredibly strange fear of sexuality

By Kyra-lin Hom

Back in mid-February I wrote a column about the difference between abortion and contraception. This was in response to employers being unwilling to provide contraceptive health insurance for their employees. As you may remember, the decision of whether or not to provide this coverage was redirected to the health insurance companies themselves therefore rescinding the responsibility from the employers.

Specifically, my column addressed the pill known commonly as Plan B. Politically and socially conservative individuals refer to it as the 'abortion-inducing' drug. However, medically it is a contraceptive and has nothing to do with abortion. I naively thought that might be the end of it. I was wrong.

On the tenth of this month, Arizona legislators passed three bills: 1) a bill to legally protect doctors who intentionally withhold information from their patients that might lead to abortions; 3) a bill that mandates how school curriculums are allowed to address issues of unwanted pregnancy; and 3) a bill that redefines the beginning of a pregnancy and prohibits all abortions after the 18th week while most states hold to the 20th.

Despite the wrongness of doctors being able to withhold relevant information from their patients and of teachers being legally required to withhold this information from students, I would like to focus on this last one. See, under this new Arizona law, pregnancy can technically begin up to two weeks prior to conception. This further means that that 18 week cut off date can actually be 16 weeks – earlier than that ruled appropriate by the U.S. Supreme Court. Apparently we've entered the new age of time travel and precognition. I really hope I'm not the only person going, “What?”

This bizarre re-definition is rooted in a selective interpretation of how doctors estimate gestational age as Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute (“Advancing sexual and reproductive health worldwide through research, policy analysis and public education”) explained. She said that since exact conception dates are near impossible to know, doctors instead use the date of a woman's last menstrual period as a gauge for medical treatment. This can, in fact, set the date of conception up to two weeks prior to the act itself.

My manipulative, Slytherin side has to hand it to the Arizona lawmakers. By warping this medical policy and dragging it into the legal limelight, they have 'successfully' usurped those, like myself, who fight against the mislabeling of Plan B as an anti-abortion pill and have even swept aside U.S. Supreme Court rulings on abortion. Impressive bit of word twisting, isn't it? And despite it being medically unfounded, all three of these bills passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and are now headed to the desk of R. Governor Jan Brewer for veto or approval.

Arizona isn't the only state willingly up to its elbows in intrusive sexual policy. A couple months ago R. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell thankfully revoked his support for the bill that required women to have an invasive, transvaginal ultrasound prior to even consideration for abortion, which according to Virginia's own laws would have been bordering on rape via object sexual penetration. Controversy about what should and should be required still reigns. Seven other states, including North Dakota and Texas, do have some form of these mandatory ultrasound laws in place.

That's only the issue of abortion. The Tennessee Senate just recently passed a bill mandating that educators only teach abstinence and that it is a “cause of action” for anyone to “promote gateway sexual activities.” What those include – teaching teens how to put on condoms, dancing or, gasp, even handholding – is anyone's guess. I feel like I'm back in the 50's with conservatives waggling their fingers at Elvis' provocative hips. On top of that, no sex before marriage in a state that doesn't permit gay marriage essentially forbids homosexual physical intimacy. Then again, maybe that was part of the agenda.

There is so much more I want to say, but alas I am out of words and space this column. What it all boils down to is this incredibly strange fear of sexuality. With unemployment, war, mind-boggling debt and the energy crisis, don't US policy makers have better things to do?

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