Austin, Texas -- When the Health Care Reform Bill proposed Medicare reimbursement for the elderly to discuss end-of-life planning with their physicians, the GOP cried, "Death panels!" There is no place for government, the indignant opponents argued, between a patient and her doctor.
Rick Perry, the Texas Governor so hungry to ascend to national GOP leadership that he skipped last week's electricity crisis in favor of the Reagan lovefest in California, apparently didn't get the memo.
According to a report in the Austin-American Statesman (Feb 7), Perry has fast-tracked a bill that proposes to dictate how doctors performing abortions treat their patients. The Texas Senate bill "mandates that pregnant women be shown an ultrasound of the fetus at least two hours before an abortion," the Statesman reported. "Physicians also would be required to explain the grainy image, including a description of the fetus' dimensions and, if applicable, the presence of limbs or internal organs. If audible, the fetal heartbeat would have to be played for the woman as well."
Two weeks ago Gov. Perry pronounced the bill an "emergency item," so that it can be voted upon early in the legislative session.
An emergency? Gov. Perry has led the state to a $25 billion deficit, and this is an emergency? As my friend Kate points out--without a trace of irony--the GOP boys in the lege may be impotent to solve any of the state's real problems, but they're still powerful enough (they think) to exert control over women's bodies.
This comes on the heels of H.R. 3, the GOP's attempt at the federal level to eliminate rape victims' rights--again, by manipulating the health care system. In a move similar to Perry's, House Speaker John Boehner named that bill a top priority for the new Congress.
The Texas Senate bill assumes three things. First, women are too stupid to make their own decisions without governmental protection. Second, doctors are incompetent to fulfill their professional duty to elicit informed consent. Third, GOP legislators are the experts on women's bodies.
What does Republican Sen. Dan Patrick, the bill's sponsor, propose? To tie women to their chairs for his imagined little horror show? It's a chilling scene, straight out of Orwell's 1984. Big Brother Texas GOP wants to follow women right into the stirrups.
Will the GOP do the same for men? Who's sponsoring the bill requiring men wanting vasectomies to suffer the same infantilizing indignity? Or forcing gun buyers to watch films of bloody murder scenes?
It's not uncommon that, in times of cultural anxiety, a power elite attempts to exert coercive control as a last-ditch attempt to maintain its own fading relevance. Think Egypt. In Texas, the GOP is staging its desperate power-move in the doctor's office. This bill is a weapon of intimidation against women, and an invasion of the doctor-patient relationship. It isn't a matter of "big government," as the GOP would shorthand it. It's a matter of illegitimate government.
No matter one's personal opinion, abortion is as legal a medical procedure as an appendectomy. When any governing body erodes or usurps its citizens' legal rights, even if democratically elected, it has crossed over into fascism.
If Gov. Perry prefers to hobnob in California, I won't complain. I want as much distance as possible between him and the doctor's office.