This should sound familiar to those who followed the debate in the Virginia General Assembly over forcible vaginal probes. Republicans are deeply uncomfortable with the word “vagina,” and once Democratic legislators started tossing that word around, Republicans basically gave up the debate. So go for it, elected Democrats—vagina vagina vagina. If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t be allowed to regulate it. →
Obviously, the biggest reason why the ultrasound bill collapsed is because of its implicit requirement of a transvaginal ultrasound. It’s enormously ironic that Del. Kathy Byron is simultaneously patroning one bill that requires that an object be inserted into an unwilling woman’s vagina (arguing that such medical decisions are the role of government) and another that eliminates the requirement that kids be vaccinated against HPV (arguing that such medical decisions are out of the realm of government). That’s both indefensible and politically infeasible.
But there’s another reason for the collapse of the bill that’s nearly as important: Republican legislators didn’t want to say the word “vagina.” As soon as opponents took control of the terms of the debate, and framed it as the “transvaginal ultrasound bill” or the “vaginal probe bill,” Republicans had lost the debate. Del. Dave Albo lamented that his wife wouldn’t have sex with him after seeing Del. David Englin on TV talking about “trans-V this and trans-V that”—a telling complaint. Setting aside how wildly inappropriate that these remarks were, there are two components of this that stand out. The first is Albo’s belief that his wife merely hearing him described on TV in association with the word “vagina” was enough to put her off of him for the night. The second is that Albo was perfectly willing to describe to the House his failed attempt to have sex with his wife, but unwilling to say the word “vagina” in the process.
The bill’s supporters couldn’t even engage in the debate about their bill, because it required uttering a word that they were unwilling to have pass their lips.
There’s a special irony here that I’d be remiss in failing to acknowledge. A common practice of pro-life groups is to hold protests that feature enormous color photos of aborted fetuses. The idea is to disgust passersby, in hopes that they will be convinced to oppose abortion. This strikes me as absurdly illogical, although perhaps no less effective for that. Photos of maggot therapy or organ transplants would also elicit disgust, but that doesn’t mean that those practices should be outlawed. In this instance, this practice was used by pro-choice groups against the pro-life groups who supported this bill. (Many claimed it was about keeping women healthy. Horseshit. If that were the case, this bill would require—and fund—ultrasounds for all pregnant women, not only those about to get an abortion.) Opponents of the ultrasound bill employed the phrase “vaginal probe” and the word “vagina” over and over again, making audiences squirm in reactions ranging from discomfort to disgust. Many people opposed the bill because, in part, they just didn’t want to keep hearing the word “vagina” and found the concept of a vaginal probe disgusting, regardless of its medical necessity (or lack thereof). Conservatives got out-flanked by liberals ripping off their tactic.
(In case this blog entry doesn’t make it obvious, I completed my assignment for the White House on Friday, meaning I am no longer a federal employee. Thus ends my self-imposed prohibition on overtly partisan politics. The project I was working on is not yet public, but when it is you can be sure I’ll write about it here.)
In 1968, Christianity Today (Billy Graham’s magazine) pointed out that Leviticus 24:17 commands capital punishment for murder, but Exodus 21:22–24 lays out a specific scenario under which, if a fetus is killed, the offender must pay a fine to her husband. The author concluded that, according to the Bible, a fetus does not have a soul. This wasn’t a bombshell—it was simply the perspective of evangelical Christians at the time. Did the Bible change in the intervening years? Of course not—only Republicans’ strategy to make abortion a political issue to help them get out of the wilderness. It’s gone well for them, politically speaking, →
- Ars Technica: Patent trolls have cost innovators half a trillion dollars
A study by some Boston University researchers have found that, from publicly traded companies alone, $500B has been spent on paying off patent extortionists. That's a quarter of all U.S. R&D expenses, wasted. If we want to get serious about reducing the cost of doing business in this country, let's start with software patent reform.
- Google Webmaster Central: View-all in search results
When articles can be viewed paginated or all on one page, Google is now preferring the all-in-one approach in displaying search results. Because, of course, people don't want to read articles broken up into ten pages.
- Pressthink: We Have No Idea Who’s Right—Criticizing “he said, she said” journalism at NPR
Jay Rosen provides this thoughtful piece about the media-wide habit of presenting two sides of a disagreement and pretending that's good journalism. (The exception to this rule is, of course, Fox News, which makes only the thinnest of pretenses at presenting both sides equally.) Opponents of abortion say that tighter regulations on clinics are necessary. Supporters say that regulations are tight enough. So, go farther—compare abortion clinics to other, similar medical facilities, compare the requirements and the actual health data, and tell us who's right.
Bob McDonnell is getting awfully squeamish about Sen. Creigh Deeds bringing up the topic of abortion, and rightly so. As The Washington Post points out in an editorial today, McDonnell has dedicated much of his career to restricting access to abortion, contraceptives, and even information about contraceptives. McDonnell has fled to the center of the political spectrum over the past eighteen months, desperate to shed his long-fought-for image as a leader in the fight for socially conservative values, now that the country has swung eagerly to the left after eight awful years under President George Bush.
If Creigh Deeds “is engaging in the politics of division” by talking about abortion, as McDonnell says, then what in the world does McDonnell say that he was doing with, say, the whole of his political career until about January of 2008?