In one of its last official acts before jetting out of town to do holiday shopping, the Do-Nothing Congress is voting tomorrow
on a bill declaring that fetuses feel pain, and requiring abortion doctors to offer anaesthesia for their unborn child.
There's nobody more qualified to determine the point at which an unborn baby feels pain than a group of mostly white men who aren't doctors. And I'd be kind of surprised if women who decide on abortion weren't getting anaesthesia already. In fact, it's an open question in the medical community as to whether you can even provide anaestesia to a fetus. So this is a bill that's more about making social conservatives happy and making women feel guilty than any kind of actual policy.
But it occurs to me that if Congress considers themselves experts on pain, then I have a whole slew of bills they could consider. Because there are is no shortage of Americans feeling pain that could use some relief.
• H.R.111101: Declares that any of the 46 million Americans without health insurance do feel pain when they get sick, even though they cannot afford to visit a doctor and receive any treatment. Maybe they can be offered anaesthetia by the government for their illnesses. Or something.
• H.R.111102: Declares that the families of the close to 3,000 US troops who have died in Iraq (including the 4 Marines yesterday
) feel pain and suffering for their loss. Also declares that the troops themselves felt pain before they died in service to a disastrous policy. A rider in the bill could add that the Iraqi people, practically all of whom have had friends or family who have died in this war, feel pain for their loss and for the collapse of civil society and security in their nation.
• H.R. 111103: Declares that the 35 million people suffering from hunger (yes, it's called hunger
) in the United States feel pain when they go to bed hungry, when they wake up with nothing to eat in their pantries, when they have to decide between food and medicine for themselves and their children.
• H.R. 111104: Declares that the 1 in 8 people living in poverty
in this country feel pain out of need, out of humiliation, out of the loss of hope and the belief that they will always be poor and never get to experience the American dream.
• H.R. 111105: Declares that a substantial percentage of soldiers coming home from Iraq feel pain from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
, an illness that the Army is loath to admit as a problem, preferring to ignore it or to throw sufferers out of the miilitary. This bill would require treatment for this pain our heroic troops feel after being tossed into the nightmare that is war.
• H.R. 111106: Declares that any human being on the planet, no matter his race, color, religious affiliation, or combatant status, feels pain when tortured and deprived of all sensory input
until he or she is made to go mad. This bill would state plainly that anything designed to cause severe pain for the purposes of intelligence, a practice that is not only immoral but ineffective, ought to be outlawed by societies who are supposedly committed to upholding some sort of ideals.
There are about 1,000 other examples I could make, stories of the downtrodden and the helpless and those who feel pain, all of whom are living right now and can bear witness to that pain. But why would I expect Republicans to give a shit about them?
For some reason, Democrats are "shying from the fight" on the fetal pain bill, refusing to hold a whip count for the caucus. And the biggest pro-choice organization in America has remained bizarrely neutral
on a bill that could be construed to make many forms of birth control illegal, given that it defines pregnancy at conception. Why dcan't anyone very simply offer up these other pain bills as amendments and force Republicans to do exactly what they want Democrats to do? From the WaPo article:
The National Right to Life Committee's Douglas Johnson dared Democrats to vote against the bill. If it passes the House, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) will try to pass it in the Senate by a unanimous voice vote.
"Somebody will object," Johnson said. "We want to know who that person is."
Somebody would object to defining the uninsured as in pain. Same with the hungry. The mourning. The grieving. The poor. The tortured. Those made mentally ill by war.
I'd like to know who that person is.