Iowa State Representative Lisa Heddens of Ames is simply looking to achieve “equality” in Iowa’s laws on men and women’s health procedures with a new amendment she proposed to Republicans’ 20-week abortion ban. Heddens is encouraging her colleagues to pass her “Men’s Right to Know Act,” which would allow doctors to refuse prescribing erectile dysfunction drugs on moral grounds, require rectal exams for men seeking such medication, and impose an $100 fine on every “masturbatory emission.”
It’s all in response to a series of Republican bills this session designed to vastly restrict women’s healthcare options, abortion rights and funding for Planned Parenthood.
“With the number of pieces of legislation that have been sponsored this year in regards to women’s health and women’s reproductive rights, I’m focusing on equality,” Heddens told Starting Line. “We need to be looking at men’s health and potential reproductive capacity. It’s basically a statement saying we need to look at both parties involved.”
Heddens’ amendment to Senate File 471 would have given the state of Iowa sweeping new powers in regulating mens’ reproductive healthcare options. Much like Republicans’ attempts to allow doctors or employers to refuse birth control to women based on their religious beliefs, Heddens aims to have the same standards apply to men.
“[E]nsure a physician’s right to invoke personal, moral, or religious beliefs in refusing to perform an elective vasectomy or colonoscopy or to provide erectile dysfunction services, including prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs,” read her amendment.
It would also have added additional steps to men’s healthcare consultations with their doctors, mandating a new booklet that doctors would discuss with their patients, which “shall include, as applicable, an artistic illustration of each procedure.” Men would need to sign a form acknowledging they had received the information.
Most importantly, the legislation would have imposed a $100 fine on every “masturbatory emission” that was not done in pursuit of creating a baby.
“A male who releases masturbatory emissions outside of a health or medical facility registered with the department of public health, with the intent that the masturbatory emission be used for a purpose other than procreation, is subject to a civil penalty of one hundred dollars for each such emission, and such act shall be considered an act against an unborn child and failure to preserve the sanctity of life,” Heddens proposed.
However, a hospital or private nonprofit organization could have created a program to help men produce such “masturbatory emissions” in a regulated, observed environment. Those programs would need to be registered with the state public health department and would “be required to provide for storage of any masturbatory emissions to be used only for the future purpose of procreation.”
Clearly, it might be difficult to enforce such fines, so Heddens also proposed essentially a “see something, say something” provision.
“Any person witnessing the release of a masturbatory emission by a male in violation of this section may maintain a cause of action against the male as an act against an unborn child and failure to preserve the sanctity of life,” the amendment read. “If the plaintiff prevails in an action brought under this section, the defendant shall pay a civil penalty of five thousand dollars to be remitted to the department of public health to be used as provided in subsection 3.”
Finally, in a nod to other states’ efforts to impose transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking an abortion, Heddens sought to require extra medical procedures for men.
“[A]dminister a digital rectal exam and magnetic resonance imaging of the rectum before performing an elective vasectomy or colonoscopy procedure on the male patient or providing a service or prescription to a male patient to address erectile dysfunction,” her legislation proposed.
None of this was expected to pass. And it’s all similar to legislation Democrats introduced in protest in Texas last month. But pro-choice advocates in Iowa are fed up after multiple attempts by Iowa Republican to use their new majorities to defund Planned Parenthood and impose new abortion restriction bans.
“In my opinion it’s not my place to arbitrarily set a timeline for her,” Heddens said. “I think it’s something that needs to be discussed between her, her physician, her spouse or partner or family or minister, whomever she prefers to consult with. It’s not for the Legislature to interfere in … I think people are taking notice and rising up and saying enough is enough.”
This evening Heddens spoke in favor of her amendment on the Iowa House floor during the debate over the 20-week abortion ban, but withdrew it with unanimous consent instead of giving a chance to be voted on. Before that happened, however, Democratic Representative Bruce Hunter of Des Moines gave opening comments in support of it, quoting Monty Python’s Every Sperm Is Sacred song.
“The next section is so important, masturbatory emissions,” Hunter said in the House chambers. “The reason we feel this is important can probably best be summed up by the words of Michael Palin and Terry Jones when they declared that ‘every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great. If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate. Let the heathens spill theirs on dusty ground. God shall make them pay for each sperm that cannot be found. Every sperm is wanted. Every sperm is good. Every sperm is needed in your neighborhood.'”
A “fetal heartbeat” amendment, introduced by a Republican legislator, which would effectively ban nearly all abortions after six weeks, was withdrawn as well. Still, the 20-week abortion ban is expected to pass tonight and be signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad.
by Pat Rynard