As Republican lawmakers across the country continue to introduce legislation to regulate women's access to reproductive health services, some of their Democratic colleagues have responded in kind with intentionally ridiculous proposals that spotlight the hypocrisy surrounding the issue.
The most recent gambit came late last week, when Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, a Cleveland Democrat, introduced a bill that would effectively regulate the sex lives of men. The legislation, Senate Bill 307, would require men seeking prescriptions for the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra to see a sex therapist receive a cardiac stress test and obtain a notarized affidavit signed by a sexual partner affirming the man's impotency.
While the legislation may seem outlandish, Turner insists that it isn't a joke.
I'm just as serious as the men policymakers across the nation who introduced bills to regulate a woman's reproductive health, Turner said during an appearance on MSNBC on Monday.
Turner's Viagra bill was introduced in response to Ohio's House Bill 125, known as the Heartbeat bill. The bill, proposed by Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, a Republican, would prohibit abortion in the state once a fetal heartbeat is detected, a contentious proposal opponents say is clearly meant to ban abortion since fetal heartbeats can be identified as early as six weeks -- before many women even realize they are pregnant.
Wachtmann has blasted Turner's proposal, telling media sources it is like comparing apples to bananas. However, Turner believes her comparable legislation for men is about gender equality.
We have to make sure we guide men to make the right decisions that maybe these drugs may not be the best decision for them to make. Celibacy is always an option or natural remedies, but this is about leveling the playing field, she said. Women, we are not going to continue to take this lying down. We are going to stand up for the rights that our foremothers fought for.
U.S. legislatures enacted a record number of anti-abortion laws in 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which reports 92 of the 125 reproductive health-related provisions that passed in state chambers last year restricted access to abortion services. This year -- which has thus far featured an intense political debate over the merits and religious implications of requiring contraceptive services to be covered by health insurance providers -- is looking similar.
The following is a roundup of symbolic counter-proposals meant to give the primarily male sponsors of several reproductive health bills targeted solely at women a taste of their own medicine.
Oklahoma and Delaware's 'Every Sperm is Sacred' Proposals
Both the Oklahoma state Senate and Wilmington, Del., city council have recently seen proposals aiming to declare the sanctity of sperm, in response to the personhood measures that have been popping up on ballots across the country.
In Oklahoma the bill -- like the famous Monty Python song -- aims to declare that every sperm is sacred. Proposed by state Sen. Constance Johnson, Democrat, the measure, an amendment to an actual personhood effort, declares that any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman's vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.
Meanwhile, the Wilmington council actually approved a satirical measure earlier this month asking state legislatures and the U.S. Congress to enact law that forbid men from destroying their semen. Councilwoman Loretta Walsh said she introduced the legislation to call attention to the absurdity of men making health decisions for women.
Georgia: Outlaw Vasectomies to Save Children
In a response to a bill proposed by a male Republican state senator that aims to ban abortions after 20 weeks on the grounds that fetuses can feel pain at that point, a Democratic lawmaker shot back with her own assertion: that vasectomies are leading to the deaths of thousands of potential children.
Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies, explained state Rep. Yasmin Neal, who proposed a bill that would limit vasectomies to men who will die or experience significant health problems without one. It is patently unfair that men can avoid unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly, while women's ability to decide is constantly up for debate throughout the United States.
Illinois' Effort to Educate Men About Risks of Viagra
Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat, has countered a proposal intended to prevent abortions by offering to perform an ultrasound examination -- and allowing the patient to see the image -- to women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.
Cassidy, working off the idea that men should equally be given the option to see visual depictions associated with their reproductive health choices, has suggested that men requesting Viagra prescriptions be required to watch a graphic video about the most common side effect of the medication: priapism.
Priapism is a painful condition in which the penis does not return to its flaccid state for hours as a result of blood not adequately returning to the body from the organ. Treatment sometimes involves extracting excess blood directly from the organ.
It's not a pretty procedure to watch, Cassidy told CBS News in early March.
Texas Proposes Subsidizing College Tuition of Children 'Saved' From Abortion
Texas Democratic state Rep. Harold Dutton unsuccessfully offered three amendments to House Bill 15, which would mandate that women receive potentially invasive sonograms before an abortion. Dutton initially offered an amendment to the bill requiring the state to pay for the college tuition of children of women who decide against terminating their pregnancies after undergoing the sonogram as required by the bill. When that failed, Dutton submitted another amendment requiring the state to pay for that child's health care until age 18. After that failed as well, he followed up with a similar proposal that only went to age 6, without success.
Meanwhile, Democratic State Rep. Marisa Marquez proposed that pregnant women who receive a state-mandated sonogram be able to force the unborn child's father, by court order, to undergo a vasectomy. The measure also failed.
Ashley covers U.S. politics for the International Business Times, with a focus on civil liberties, women's issues and campaign finance. Her work has also appeared in The...