Political satire has long been used to expose and criticize perceived stupidity and corruption. When done well, satire is a powerful — and entertaining — motivational tool. Texas House Bill 4260, titled “Man’s Right to Know,” is not an example of a masterfully written satire. It is, however, quite amusing. State Rep. Jessica Farrar (D) filed the bill Friday, 10 March but admits that the bill is not intended to be passed. She calls it satire and claims that it mirrors legislation already in place that, as she puts it, “governs women’s health.”
The bill, which can be read in its entirety here, doesn’t quite achieve Ms. Farrar’s lofty goals. The alleged mirror of current legislation opens with a proposal for a civil penalty — that is, a fine — for any unregulated self-stimulated sexual emissions. She goes on to say that the purpose of sperm is to fertilize eggs and that any sperm ejaculated outside of an attempt to conceive must be stored for future insemination attempts. Anyone caught in the act of self-stimulating such an emission outside of the proper medical setting would be fined one hundred dollars.
The response to this part of the bill was as might be expected. Men raged at the idea and countered with proposals that women should be fined for having periods since periods “waste” eggs. However, this is not the real problem with Ms. Farrar’s bill. The piece was intended as Juvenalian satire rather than actual legislation, and it has certainly conjured the anger that Juvenalian works are meant to inspire. The problem is that Ms. Farrar extols the bill’s satirical value as a mirror to current legislation, yet there is no Texas legislation governing self-stimulation by either men or women. The topic, which sets the tone for and often recurs during HB 4260, is as irrelevant to the debate as it is asinine and incendiary.
Rep. Farrar’s bill does, to some degree, mirror actual legislation by calling for a booklet of medical information that be presented to all men who want an elective vasectomy, a colonoscopy, or a prescription for Viagra. The booklet should enforce regulations for men that match the guidelines set forth for women desiring abortions. The Woman’s Right to Know booklet explains the stages of fetal development, the different procedures for abortion, the various risks of abortion, the various risks of carrying a pregnancy to term, and the regulations regarding abortions in Texas.
Farrar attacks the current booklet by saying that it “messes with a woman’s head.” In Texas, any women who want an abortion must first meet a doctor and have both a pelvic exam and an ultrasound, then return no sooner than twenty-four hours later to have the procedure. The minimum one day waiting period is intended to provide women the time to consider the potentially life-altering decision. Ms. Farrar attacks this position by saying that men who want an elective vasectomy, a colonoscopy, or a prescription for Viagra must also have an exam and minimum one day waiting period.
The satire fails here because the proposed waiting period is actually a good idea. Any man would be wise to take at least a day or two to consider the new information gained during his exam and consultation before making a final decision, as would any woman considering an abortion — or a hysterectomy or tubal ligation. These are weighty decisions that should be carefully considered. Logic dictates that if the decision to have an abortion — or a vasectomy — does not seem to be a good idea twenty-four hours later, then perhaps it was not a good idea in the first place.
The proposed rectal exam, however, is yet another example — intentional or otherwise — of misdirection. According to the American Cancer Society, rectal exams are not suggested as stand-alone tests for colorectal cancer. While a positive result on a rectal exam would likely result in the physician recommending a colonoscopy, there is no reason that a colonoscopy must require a rectal exam. Some doctors do perform a rectal exam before agreeing to do a vasectomy, but they are not considered a medical necessity. Rectal exams are irrelevant to prescriptions of Viagra, as erectile dysfunction is not diagnosed rectally.
The pelvic exam and ultrasound required for abortion are medically necessary both to determine the stage of pregnancy and to determine the health of both woman and fetus. Things can go wrong during abortions, and these tests legitimately help physicians better estimate the likelihood of those issues.
Farrar and others who share her ideology further attack the mandatory pre-abortion reading by saying that it is medically inaccurate. Despite this claim, the only evidence cited is a Washington Post fact-checking blog post that accuses the booklet of claiming that abortion increased the risk of breast cancer based on decades old research that is no longer considered medically valid. This simply is not true. The booklet explains that carrying a child full term and breastfeeding that child – something that cannot be done in the case of an abortion – reduces the risk of breast cancer by reducing the amount of time breast cells are exposed to the hormones that can cause breast cancer. This is neither a direct statement that abortion causes breast cancer nor is it a claim based on junk science. The National Cancer Institute presents essentially the same information. Finally, the alleged citation to invalid and outdated research simply does not exist anywhere in the Women’s Rights to Know document.
Democrat Rep. Jessica Farrar’s bill did not expose and fairly criticize corruption or stupidity, so much as it falsely accused and misdirected. Farrar relied heavily on logical fallacies – which she should be well versed in as a student of law – and blatantly false accusations. In light of all of this, is Man’s Right to Know a work of true satire, or one of Leftist propaganda?