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A Texas lawmaker's answer to abortion restrictions: Rectal exams for men

Under proposed legislation in Texas, before a man receives an elective vasectomy, a colonoscopy or a prescription for Viagra, he would be required to undergo a “medically unnecessary rectal exam and magnetic resonance imagining” and wait at least 24 hours.

Rep. Jessica Farrar, an 11-term Democrat, doesn’t expect the bill she introduced last week to go anywhere in the Republican-dominated state Legislature. But that was never the point.

The legislation is a send-up of what she regards as increasingly onerous and invasive requirements imposed on Texas women who want to obtain abortions, including a 2011 law that mandates an ultrasound at least 24 hours in advance.

“I think it’s accomplished its goal, which is to shine a light on what is happening in Texas and hopefully to stem the tide of this kind of legislation that interferes with the doctor-patient relationship,” she said in a telephone interview. “I mean, we would never do this to men.”

In a biting critique of abortion opponents, the bill states that it aims to “ensure a doctor’s right to invoke their personal, moralistic, or religious beliefs in refusing to perform an elective vasectomy or prescribe Viagra.”

The legislation would also require that the Texas Department of State Health Services produce an informational handout for men seeking a vasectomy, Viagra prescription or colonoscopy, just as it does for women who want an abortion. The booklet, titled “A Man’s Right to Know,” must contain “artistic illustrations of each procedure,” and an attending physician must go over it with patients.

Abortion providers have long taken issue with a booklet titled “A Woman’s Right to Know” — which they are required to give to patients under a 2003 law — saying that it contains inaccurate and misleading information.

For example, the booklet advises pregnant women that they are less likely to develop breast cancer if they deliver their babies — even though the National Cancer Institute and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists concluded that early studies suggesting a link between abortion and breast cancer risk were flawed.

Texas has over the years imposed some of the most stringent requirements in the country on abortion providers and their patients, testing the limits of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling legalizing the procedure nationwide.

Last summer, the Supreme Court struck down two provisions of a 2013 Texas law: that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and that their clinics meet the same standards as same-day surgical centers.

The justices said those provisions placed an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. But Republican state lawmakers returned for the 2017 legislative session armed with several new antiabortion measures.

They include a bill that would outlaw abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy in all cases except when the mother’s life is in danger. Current state law also allows abortions after 20 weeks when doctors find that the fetus has a severe, irreversible abnormality.

Another bill would codify into law new health regulations that require medical facilities to bury or cremate the remains from abortions and miscarriages — even though a federal judge has blocked state health officials from implementing the rules pending a legal challenge.

Farrar said she has been fighting these kinds of regulations for years. But she said she is worried that the election of President Trump has emboldened abortion opponents, making it “harder and harder for any of the reasonable Republicans who are around to make this stuff stop.”

She takes issue with Republican colleagues who invoke the “sanctity of life” and “protection of the unborn child” as a basis for antiabortion measures.

If that is their argument, she said, then they should have no objection to a provision in her bill that would fine men $100 for any “masturbatory emissions” that aren’t deposited directly into a woman or collected and stored by a health facility “for the purposes of conception for a current or future wife.”

The proposed fine has generated considerable hilarity among defenders of women’s reproductive rights on social media.

“Well that's one way to pay off the national debt in less than a month,” one commentator said on Twitter.

Others wanted to know if an exception would be made for gay men.

Abortion opponents, however, were not amused.

“Why don't you actually do something productive,” one tweeted. “You were not voted in for this silliness.”

“I can wait 24 hrs,” wrote another. “Incidentally, who gets murdered during a colonoscopy?”

Rep. Tony Tinderholt, a Republican who introduced a bill that would outlaw abortions at every stage of gestation except when a woman’s life is in danger, said he was embarrassed for Farrar.

“Her attempt to compare [her bill] to the abortion issue shows a lack of a basic understanding of human biology,” Tinderholt said in a statement. “I would recommend that she consider taking a high school biology class from a local public or charter school before filing another bill on the matter."

alexandra.zavis@latimes.com

Twitter: @alexzavis

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