In Praise of Kindergarten Style Payback

Virginia State Senator Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier County) introduces a bill to require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion. In protest, State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) introduces an amendment requiring a cardiac stress test and rectal exam before men can be prescribed erectile dysfunction medication. Vogel’s bill passes by voice vote while Howell’s amendment narrowly fails. Glenn Reynolds, A.K.A. Instapundit, declares himself “okay with abortion” but reserves all of his outrage for the failed amendment, insisting that what we’re seeing here is “a false equivalence” and “kindergarten style payback.” Something is very wrong with this picture.

In a way, Reynolds is right. We are seeing a false equivalence. While there is absolutely no medical reason to require women to have ultrasounds before undergoing abortion procedures, there are good medical reasons to require men to undergo rectal exams and cardiac stress tests before being prescribed erectile dysfunction drugs. Included among the side effects of Viagra, for example, are rectal bleeding, colitis, chest pain, and irregular heartbeat. I don’t know if Howell had any of these side effects in mind when she proposed her amendment or if she was instead purely interested in kindergarten style payback, but either way her amendment actually makes more sense from a medical perspective than does Vogel’s.

Rectal exams and cardiac stress tests can, of course, be unpleasant. In a very different way, so can being forced because of someone else’s moral objections to view an ultrasound image of a fetus that you would rather not see. And none of it can compare with the pain of child birth, which is no doubt all the more intense when the pregnancy is unwanted. Anti-choice folks like Vogel and her Virginia State Senate colleagues who voted for her bill would force that kind of pain on every woman who for whatever reason finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy. If that made Howell angry and put her in the mood for a little kindergarten style payback, I don’t think anyone can blame her.

Many libertarians would argue that in reproductive matters as well as in other circumstances such as erectile dysfunction, decisions about medical treatment should be between a doctor and his or her patient. I think that may have been precisely the point that Howell was making. There’s something to be said for kindergarten style payback when it can make that kind of point so effectively.

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