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Commentary

Wasting the taxpayers' time with shortsighted legislation

Jack Lessenberry

Over the weekend I got a number of emails, all of which went more or less like this:

“Did you know, or is it true, that there is a bill in the Michigan Legislature to make it illegal to practice using a condom on a banana?”

Even in the age of current silliness, I had real doubts this was true. But in fact it is – sort of, at any rate.

House Bill 4883 would revise Michigan’s school code to, among other things, make it illegal to:

“... allow a pupil to practice with a family planning drug or device in a public school or on public school property.”

That would, I suppose, cover using a device on a banana.

The bill is mainly an anti-abortion, anti-contraception bill, which was introduced by State Representative Thomas Hooker, R-Byron Center, a former high school wrestling coach from the Western Michigan town of Wyoming.

What's fascinating to me, however, is not the anti-abortion rhetoric, but the implied belief that the best way to prevent teenage sex is to withhold knowledge about contraception.

Hooker is in his last term, and will be gone from the House forever in 16 months.

His bill was co-sponsored by 10 other representatives, all of whom are social conservatives.

The bill calls for the teaching of abstinence, and would forbid teachers to talk about abortion as either a family planning measure or as a “method of reproductive health.”

That’s probably unconstitutional, since abortion is a legal medical procedure which long ago was declared by the United States Supreme Court to be part of a woman’s fundamental rights.

My guess is that this bill is going nowhere, and those who introduced it did so to make points with their fundamentalist Christian constituents.

What’s fascinating to me, however, is not the anti-abortion rhetoric, but the implied belief that the best way to prevent teenage sex is to withhold knowledge about contraception.

This is how a lot of parents believed half a century ago, when I was beginning high school.

There was also, as we came to find out, a term that would apply to many of those kids who indeed remained ignorant of how contraception worked: Teen-age parents.

Today, there’s a lot of evidence that the best way to increase the number of teen-age abortions is to withhold knowledge from kids.

We all have our ideas, but the hormones tend to win, most of the time. Fortunately, I was saved from having my life ruined, not by virtue, but by being shy, non-athletic and socially inept.

Regardless of that, I wonder how those behind this bill would feel if left-wing liberals took over the Legislature, and introduced a bill making it illegal to talk about guns, say anything good about guns, or teach young people how guns work.

We all have our ideas, but the hormones tend to win, most of the time.

That could happen.

My guess is that most of the nation feels the high court was either wrong about abortions or guns, but not both.

Personally, though I hate guns, I wouldn’t want our lawmakers to do that either, or to waste their time condemning violence in the Middle East, iron-poor blood, or other twaddle irrelevant to their jobs.

We have a state whose infrastructure is falling apart, whose prisons are overcrowded, and whose schools are going bankrupt.

They need to deal with those things and get them fixed, before anything else.

If Mr. Hooker can find a way to do that, I’ll happily agree to treat bananas any way he wants.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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