It's a rare day that passes without news of an extreme, ill-conceived measure to restrict women's reproductive rights and basic access to healthcare making its way through a state legislature somewhere in the country. While reading said news (about, say, forced ultrasounds, six-week abortion bans, "fetal pain" provisions, 72-hour mandatory waiting periods, etc.), do you ever wonder: "Who are the maniacs coming up with this stuff?"
Well, wonder no more! Here are (five of) the extreme lawmakers behind some of the most draconian reproductive rights restrictions grabbing headlines in recent months:
Texas state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg
To say that state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, is the brains behind Texas' sweeping new abortion law would be to suggest that she is the "thinking" type, so let's instead call her the bill's primary sponsor. As some of you may recall, Laubenberg came to national attention when she rejected an amendment to include a rape exception in her proposed 20-week abortion ban because “in the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out,” incorrectly comparing the collection of forensic evidence following a sexual assault to an abortion.
Some of Laubenberg's other greatest hits include voting in favor of mandatory ultrasounds and trying to force Texas mothers to wait three months for prenatal care because, as Laubenberg explained in 2007, at three months, the fetus is "not born yet."
Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert
Having the world's most Freudian Twitter background is not the only thing state Rep. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, is famous for -- he is also the sponsor of one of the most extreme pre-viability abortion bans in the country. Although currently blocked by a federal injunction, Arkansas' Human Heartbeat Act criminalizes almost all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable with an abdominal ultrasound, generally around 12 weeks.
The bill prevailed in the state Legislature despite a veto from Arkansas' governor -- and pushback from some in the anti-choice movement, who criticized it as having little chance of surviving a legal challenge.
But Rapert is not a single issue politician! In addition to his work trying to legislate forced pregnancy in Arkansas, he also dabbles in stoking anti-Muslim sentiment. While stumping in 2011, Rapert denounced President Obama for “inviting all the Muslims to come into the White House for a little Ramadan supper” and promised his constituents that he wouldn't let “minorities run roughshod” over "what they believe in."
North Dakota state Rep. Bette Grande
The same month that Arkansas banned abortion at 12-weeks, North Dakota went ahead and passed an even more extreme measure, banning the procedure at six weeks. (See, the battle to be the worst state for women's rights is kind of cutthroat -- like "Game of Thrones," only without the dragons!) Leading the charge to criminalize abortion before most women even realize they are pregnant was state Rep. Bette Grande, R-Fargo, who, despite warnings from other Republicans and her own governor about the cost of defending a blatantly unconstitutional ban, pushed ahead with the draconian legislation.
When asked about the potential legal costs of defending the ban, the self-described fiscal conservative told the Associated Press that she “didn’t look at [the measure] from the financial side of things” but from the “life side of things.”
Grande is also a signatory of the “Contract from America” (not to be confused with Grover Norquist’s “Contract with America”), a Tea Party document that, among other pledges, calls on lawmakers to identify “waste and ineffectiveness” in government and end “runaway government spending.”
Grande's ban is currently barred from taking effect while a legal challenge against it is ongoing.
Alabama state Sen. Shadrack McGill
Republican State Sen. Shadrack McGill introduced a measure to amend the definition of “person” in Alabama to “include all humans from the moment of fertilization and implantation into the womb” for a number of fascinating reasons. Let's consider some of them here.
First, because of eagle eggs, as he told the Times-Journal: "You can be charged up to $250,000 for destroying an eagle egg, but you can destroy babies in the womb?”
Then, because of his personal interpretation of Psalm 22: “Just based on the Scripture alone, the Psalm that talks about God knowing us before he placed us in our mother’s womb, is enough for me to know that that is a life inside of a mother."
And, finally, because of existential concerns about life, death and the mysteries of eternity: “So my question concerning aborted babies is, where do they go, heaven or hell?,” he told the Times-Journal.
When not introducing legislation to endow sperm with full legal rights, McGill spends his downtime dodging rogue exotic dancers who, apparently, follow him around wherever he goes.
Arizona state Rep. Kimberly Yee
State Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, shocked the nation in 2012 by introducing a measure to define pregnancy as beginning two weeks before conception. “The law defines pregnancy in a way that bans abortion two weeks before the other seven states who have similar laws. It calculates gestational age starting with the first day of the last menstrual period rather than the date of conception,” explains Michelle Steinberg of Planned Parenthood of Arizona.
And though the law was struck down by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (the judges called the law "unconstitutional under an unbroken stream of Supreme Court authority"), Yee remains undeterred, telling reporters after the decision was announced that she is "optimistic that the state will have a compelling argument if we move this before the Supreme Court."
The Arizona Department of Health Services also recently launched “A Woman’s Right to Know,” an informational website that uses manipulated ultrasound images and scary (read: medically inaccurate) claims about the risks associated with abortion to keep women from having a safe, legal medical procedure. Yee has not been shy about the intent of the website, as she told the Arizona Daily Sun: “The medical drawings, which are in full color and much more detailed than any ultrasound, may give some prospective parents additional reasons to reconsider their initial decision to terminate the pregnancy.”