You’re not supposed to say the word uterus on the floor of the Florida House. It’s offensive, unfit for children, pornographic, almost. Nevertheless, they just can’t get enough of this dirty word in the House. When it comes to blabbing about the u-word, they’re at it again.
Last week, a House committee passed on a party line vote the latest round of bills aimed at nibbling away at Roe v. Wade. The bills would, among other things, impose a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion and ban abortions after 20 weeks.
What the committee did could be called infuriating, but anger is old news among abortion advocates. There isn’t much else they can do in this doomed fight but fume and sweat. The Republicans are playing a game of we-dare-you. They know full well that those who believe women have a right to choose are afraid to challenge these restrictive measures in court, for fear that, if the fight went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, all of Roe would be tossed out.
So the Republicans play on fear, as well as on a most insulting idea -- that women who get abortions do so with less thought than they put into buying a lipstick. A woman who has an abortion without pained and complicated reflection first has a lot in common with a man who commits voter fraud in this state: she doesn’t exist.
Look at the matter another way: Nearly a third of all American women will get an abortion before the age of 45, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which follows abortion trends. Most are single, young, have children already, are poor, or have some religious affiliation. The Institute reports 27.2 abortions for every 1,000 Florida women in 2008, the last year for which figures are available. Do the Republicans truly believe all the women who got them are soulless and craven?
Apparently so. “I don’t think that killing these children should be convenient,” declared Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, last week.
This interminable battle has made those who oppose abortion go through philosophical contortions and verbal contradictions of all sorts. It is a strange thing indeed when Republicans claim they are against every government regulation on the books and yet are perfectly willing to stick their noses in doctors’ offices and order them to give women sonograms of their – insert the u-word here -- before an abortion, as was legislated last year.
Language, as those House Republicans will tell you, is revealing. The word uterus comes from the Greek word that we know as hysteria. And nothing, absolutely nothing, makes these House Republicans – men, mostly of course, although hysteria has long been attributed to women only -- more hysterical than abortion.
Mary Jo Melone, former columnist with the Tampa Bay Times, is a writer in Tampa.
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