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Posted at 07:27 PM ET, 03/13/2012

From Ohio Viagra to Georgia cows and chickens, it’s all fun and games until someone passes a law

State legislatures are a zany place these days. With the budgets mostly balanced, legislators are amusing themselves by passing joke laws. First, male legislators, in a spirit of fun, step up to the podium and compare women to chickens and livestock, then threaten to pass laws that would bar abortions after 20 weeks, even for stillborn babies. Then female legislators, chortling, respond to those knee-slappers with some jokes of their own, suggesting that men be required to undergo cardiac stress tests and prostate exams before getting access to Viagra. Those crazy coots! Someone take away the punch before anyone passes a law.

Wait, I’m hearing something. Oh. Oh I see. It seems that only half of them are joking. Oh. Wow. Georgia legislator Terry England actually thinks that you can talk about your experiences with birthing livestock in the same breath as women’s reproductive rights? And that because a young man he met whom he described as the “salt of the earth” was willing to give up his fighting birds, women should be forced to carry stillborn babies to term? Wow.

When I thought everyone was joking, I was a bit indignant. “Now, now,” I said. “Stop wasting taxpayer dollars on expensive jokes.” I still feel that way. But it seems that the male half of these proposals, at least, are very real. It wouldn’t be the first time that something men put a lot of effort into conceiving had to be carried to fruition over female objections.

So a great number of women — Janet Howell in Virginia and Nina Turner in Ohio among them — are trying to fight fire with fire, attacking ridiculous, absurd, invasive laws that are or ought to be jokes with — well, ridiculous, absurd, invasive laws that are jokes.

(They say that the best way to fight fire is with fire. Or do they say that? I am not an expert on fire. I always thought a better way to fight fire might be to cut off its oxygen supply or “with high-pressure hoses,” but that is why no one asks me these things.)

In Ohio, according to Turner’s proposal, your paramour has to sign an affidavit saying your junk isn’t functional. This is, on the one hand, hilarious. It’s mortifying. A notary has to get involved before you can reach the pills. You have to go to counseling and discuss your options.

In Oklahoma, Senator Constance Johnson introduced an amendment proclaiming every sperm sacred.

And the Internet is rallying. It’s one of those times when people honk and point at their bumper stickers that say, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” (This is not strictly true. If men were the ones who got pregnant, women in statehouses and governors’ mansions the country over might well be suggesting we work them over with shaming wands regardless of doctors’ orders, just the same.) But I wonder how far it’ll go. Probably not far, given Ohio’s Republican statehouse. Besides, no matter what Turner says about the seriousness of her intentions, this proposal is a joke, intended to point out the absurdity of Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill.” And the joker tends to blink first, before people get hurt and frightened and made to feel dreadful about themselves. People not blessed with senses of humor have no such qualms.

But in the mean time, fight fire with fire, jokes with jokes.

I just wish both sides were joking.

By  |  07:27 PM ET, 03/13/2012

 
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