Flurry of legislation aimed at abortion, reproductive health

Men who want a prescription for pills to treat erectile dysfunction should have to first see a sex therapist, receive a cardiac stress test and get a notarized affidavit signed by a sexual partner affirming impotency, according to legislation submitted to Ohio legislators last week by state Rep. Nina Turner, a Democrat from Cleveland.

Turner’s bill is in response to another bill, dubbed the Heartbeat bill, now before the Ohio House, that would prohibit abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically around the sixth week of gestation.

“I certainly want to stand up for men’s health and take this seriously and legislate it the same way most men say they want to legislate a woman’s womb,” Turner told the Dayton Daily News.

Turner’s volley is the latest on a surge of political actions aimed to influence reproductive healthcare policies around the country. Several states have recently passed laws requiring women to undergo an ultrasound prior to getting an abortion. And, of course, the federal government has been beset by arguments over insurance coverage of contraceptives.


According to the Guttmacher Institute, 92 abortion-related bills were passed in state legislatures in 2011.

In a thought-provoking essay published online Wednesday, R. Alta Charo, an attorney with the schools of law and medicine/public health at the University of Wisconsin, argues that the larger argument is about more than just public health. The bigger issue, she says, is whether individuals should be free to use religious beliefs to limit access to public goods used by people with different beliefs (such as contraceptives) or whether people performing public functions -- such as doctors, pharmacists, police officers -- should be required to serve the public regardless of individual beliefs about what is sinful.

“This debate deserves more than partisan sound bites and slogans,” Charo said in her essay, published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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