Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Be Careful What You Vote For: Those Who Decry Big Government May Be Its Biggest Fans

Oklahoma’s own House Representative Ralph Shortey appeared on The Daily Show on April 11, 2012. Al Madrigal, a correspondent with Comedy Central’s hit show, interviewed Mr. Shortey about the effect of legislation introduced by Senator Constance Johnson. Mr. Shortey seemed unaware of his boys-will-be-boys permissive attitude in sharp contrast to a woman’s sovereignty over her own body and thus brought comment and derision upon himself.

Mr. Shortey agreed to be interviewed in support of Oklahoma’s version of the personhood bill, SB 1433, a bill that declares that life begins at conception, effectively removing any time period in which a woman may decide to terminate a pregnancy with an abortion. Basically SB 1433 denies women the freedom to choose what they will do with and for their bodies.

Senator Johnson introduced an amendment to SB 1433, one that would prohibit “any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina” because to do so “shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.” The amendment failed, and Shortey celebrated that fact.

In fact, Shortey scoffed at the amendment because it denies men free choice. Basically,” Shortey said, “the government is telling a man what he can and cannot do with his body.”

One would hope that a reckoning would dawn upon Shortey as he spoke these words, but apparently, he was unaware of or chose to ignore the hypocrisy and irony of his own words. He seemed comfortable defending a man’s right to answer biologically driven demands anywhere, any time, from the age of young teen to older adult, and comfortable defending a paternalistic government’s right to declare what women should and should not do.

And this is the heart of the insult within so-called personhood bills: while defending the personhood of unborn fetuses, legislatures, populated by a majority of men, offend the personhood of women, stripping them of the right to self-determine, declaring that legislators have the higher moral ground and a duty to tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.

Without doubt, abortion is a tragedy, but it is a tragedy over which most Americans grant women sovereignty. In fact, in 2011, 54% of Americans surveyed by Pew reported that women should have a legal right to choose abortion.

Men like Shortey decry big government yet assert that government needs to be big when the life of a fetus is at stake. He and others in his camp wish to legislate morals in the belief that their faith informs them and affords them the right to dictate the faith of a woman. He and others ignore the Constitutional privilege inferred from the First and Fourteenth (among others) amendments, or perhaps, more accurately, they choose to honor privacy and personhood for some and not others; e.g, for men and not women. Such uneven application of principles is not justice.

SB 1433 was not brought to the floor for a vote. State Representative Colby Schwartz, speaking for Republicans in the OK House of Representatives, on Sunday, April 22, 2012, during a program on News9, “Your Vote Counts,” explained that Oklahomans do not need legislation advanced by out-of-state interests (ALEC) so they declined to press for personhood. In my opinion, backers of the personhood legislation were “outed” by Senator Constance Johnson’s satirical amendment, by Ralph Shortey’s laughable performance on “The Daily Show,” and by public scrutiny in general. Those backers only made half-hearted attempts for the rest of the legislative session.

May the microscope continue to focus upon patriarchal, hypocritical legislation. May the public continue to press for justice, for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. May the Ralph Shorteys of the world grow wise; their apparent inability to reflect and evaluate threatens the general welfare.