For the Signal this post-Thanksgiving week, two developments stand out (apart from the ever-simmering impeachment inquiry, now moving from the House Intelligence Committee to the Judiciary Committee).
The first is increasingly bizarre extremism on the anti-abortion front. Twenty-one legislators in the Ohio House of Representatives have co-sponsored HB 413. The bill, which in its abortion prohibition includes no exceptions for rape or incest, defines a fertilized egg as an unborn human, which presumably would make even usage of the day-after pill a felony defined as “abortion murder,” punishable by a sentence of life imprisonment. That charge could be brought against those who administer and use such pills—including even girls as young as 13. The provision that has received the most attention requires doctors to reimplant an ectopic pregnancy in a patient’s uterus. As many obstetricians have pointed out, this procedure is actually medically impossible—but if doctors don’t attempt to perform it, they could face murder charges under this idiotic bill.
This is what now passes for serious politics in large parts of the country. It reflects attitudes that align more with the ignorance and cruelty of fundamentalist sects such as the Taliban, or with the murderous thuggery of rebel groups in Congo who have taken to killing medical workers struggling to contain an Ebola outbreak, than with the pluralist views of the open society.
It’s what happens when political expediency wins out over science. It’s no accident that these increasingly fanatical state bills are popping up like mushrooms at a time when the federal government has turned its back on the science of climate change, and when public health agencies and scientific advisory committees in Washington are being systematically stripped of influence and their findings deliberately ignored.
The second Signal development this week is the Trump administration’s ongoing effort to gut the food stamp program (aka SNAP). Over the past few months, the administration has proposed a raft of changes that would likely result in millions more Americans’ going hungry. This past week, the Urban Institute released a report analyzing the likely impact of these changes, concluding that roughly 3.7 million Americans would lose access to SNAP benefits; more than 5 million would see significant reductions in assistance; and nearly a million children would lose access to free or reduced school lunch.
In a normal world, the Urban Institute’s dire findings would have generated headlines from coast to coast. Yet the report got buried amid the Noise: the GOP’s bulk-buying spree that helped turn Donald Trump Jr.’s flimflam book Triggered into a best seller, and Trump’s impersonation of a dog-whisperer in his hosting of the hero canine involved in the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Stay tuned to the Signal. That’s where the real action is.