- On March 13th, 2017, The Independent ran with a headline which read “Female politician proposes law to fine men $100 for masturbating as ‘an act against an unborn child’”, BBC News ran with “Texas lawmaker Jessica Farrar wants to fine men for masturbating”, The Washington Post ran with “‘Satirical’ Texas bill turns language of antiabortion laws on men” and The Guardian ran with “Texas lawmaker ridicules anti-abortion measures by filing an anti-masturbation bill”. All of these sources cover largely the same information barring only one or two data points.
- The proposal put forward is called the ‘Man’s Right to Know Act’ (Texas House Bill 4260). Under which all of the following would become criminal acts and each incident punishable by a $100 fine (just over £80 in the Queens English, based on current exchange rates), any emissions outside of a vagina or except within a sanctioned session at a hospital or clinic, not following a mandatory waiting period before a vasectomy can take place, obtaining Viagra by any means other than prescription, not partaking in a “medically-unnecessary digital rectal exam”. As well as these prohibitions there are requirements under this legislation that if not followed are subject to the same punishments and these include, the state must create and distribute educational pamphlets promoting the messages within this legislation and at least 24 hours before a vasectomy, seeking a Viagra prescription or a colonoscopy, a medical professional must discuss the details of this pamphlet in detail, there must be an established and maintained registry of private nonprofit organisations and hospitals that provide ‘fully abstinent encouragement counselling’. The bill also allows medical professionals to allow their personal, moral and/or religious beliefs as regards to the treatment of patients regarding these issues.
- This proposal was put forward by Jessica Farrar, who has claimed the purpose of this proposal is to highlight how women have been affected by targeted healthcare legislation within Texas, particularly relating to abortion.
- Within Texas, the legislation as it relates to abortion for females includes; illegal abortion is defined as such if, a facility operates without a licence or adhering to the standards set by the Board of Health or fails to submit the necessary reports to the Department of Health, destroys the vitality of a child either in birth or before (if would otherwise have been born alive), acts performed after pregnancy with intent to cause termination of pregnancy other than purpose of birth of live fetus or removal of dead fetus and must not be carried out with public funds except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. A time period exceeding 20 weeks gestation (or 22 weeks if calculated from last monthly period) unless necessary to the life of health of the woman. Penalties for abortion of a viable fetus can include upwards of five years imprisonment, operating a facility without a licence can range from a $100 to $500 fine per day. Additional restrictions include that a woman must undergo ultrasound, be shown the image, and have the image described to her and this must be obtained at least 24 hours in advance of an abortion. Furthermore if seeking abortion-inducing medications then the woman must make four visits to see a licensed physician.
- Jessica Farrar is a Democratic Party Representative and Doctor of Law from the University of Texas School of Law, who has served in multiple capacities within the Texas House of Representatives. She currently serves as the Vice-Chair on the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence and as a member of the House Committee on State Affairs. She has, in the past also played a large part in several other notably contentious pieces of legislation. These include in 2003 when she sponsored legislation to prohibit discrimination based upon gender or sexual orientation within employment, in 2009 she proposed a bill to recognise postpartum psychosis as a defense for mothers who kill their infant children meaning that the mothers could at most be convicted of infanticide carrying a maximum two year prison sentence instead of murder and in 2011 she introduced legislation to prevent law officials such as police officers from inquiring as to the immigration or nationality status of a witness or victim in a criminal investigation.
- On the 14th March 2017, Jessica Farrar received questioning on another piece of legislation as to if this piece was also intended as ‘satirical’ or a serious matter, following on from the Man’s Right to Know Act proposal to which she hit out claiming “a retaliatory effort” on the part of those who did not vote in favour of her proposal.
By Hannibal Moriarty…
Right off the bat, I am far from oblivious that anything said on such a contentious topic will be scrutinised so I shall try and lay out a series of points in as clear and precise a way as I can but I shall begin by stating unlike, what seems the views of the majority of people, I am neither pro nor anti abortion. And this is not to try and take a path of least resistance as this path means upsetting those on both sides of the argument. But I think a reason, at least in part, that this topic is often so divisive, is that both sides are so set into their ideological alignment that nuance is often disregarded and an emotional attachment to ideas takes place over rationality in most discussions.
I would like to begin by addressing the claim that this proposed legislation is intended to be satirical. Maybe that was the intent, maybe not, only Jessica Farrar can know her original intentions, however if first we are to assume that the claim is the truth and this legislation is only satire and never intended to pass into law, why bother, is she such an ineffective politician that neither she nor the points she make can be taken seriously thus her turning to satire? Also I fail to see the funny side in creating legislation designed to criminalise the actions between consenting individuals or alone individuals within the privacy of their own homes and bedrooms. Also it seems to me that in a claimed effort to raise awareness for her cause, in doing this she has done more harm than good in two ways, firstly she has committed a red herring fallacy in which she has diverted her audiences attention from her original issue onto another and them claiming her original point settled by proxy of the distraction, but also she has only served to make her side of the argument look ideological, bitter and ultimately ridiculous. Furthermore if this legislation is never intended to pass but has been put forward, then does that not insult the very nature of the position of office that she holds and does it not insult the tax paying public contributing to this publicity stunt? Furthermore what will happen if the legislation for whatever reason did happen to get passed, would she seek to somehow retract it?
Then we move on to the ideas that she has proposed if this in fact not satire, the first and most glaring issue that came to mind was that of cost of policing and enforcement. Given the glaringly obvious fact that almost nobody would come forward and report themselves (unless maybe they were trying to make a kind of political statement), thus only serving to heap a cost onto the tax paying public that it can never reap back, especially given that the state would be forced to foot the bill for the creation and distribution of ‘educational’ pamphlets, and adding in additional mandatory visits to health professionals adds costs both onto the health services and onto public individuals given the American system of healthcare.
Another serious issue is that of the primary piece of this legislation, “any emissions outside of a vagina or except within a sanctioned session at a hospital or clinic” being criminal acts with a $100 penalty, firstly as previously mentioned, almost nobody will report themselves for masturbating, and how do they intend to gather evidence to prove this act has been performed if a person is alone in the privacy of their own home or a specific room within their shared abode? Will they be encouraging neighbourhood spies to peer through the curtains of their neighbours and capture evidence of potential offenders? It is of course in entirety, completely ludicrous and unenforceable. However there are far worse potential abuses and implications of this idea. Under this law, any ejaculation resulting from oral sex, anal sex, mutual masturbation, wet dreams and premature ejaculation and more, would all be criminal acts subject to punishment under the law as well as if you also think about it any kind of homosexual act whatsoever. So to break this down further as I do believe it warrants further examination, firstly the implication that the state are to interfere in the consenting sexual acts between two adults in the privacy of their own homes, heterosexual or homosexual, is utterly disturbing, regardless of what anyone thinks (to which I believe it is no concern of mine when a person desires to fulfill their sexual destiny as they see fit, provided it is of the mutual consent of all parties involved) I see no reason for this to be, in any way, the business of the state. Also do they really think that it is wise and advisable to further stigmatise an individual who suffers with premature ejaculation by damaging them further psychologically by deeming them guilty of a criminal offense? What of the similar issue on the opposite end, what of men who suffer with delayed ejaculation, often being incapable of achieving ejaculation with a partner or inside the vagina, often when ejaculation can occur in one set of circumstances but not others there are often psychological reasons behind this, and under this legislation those men suffering with this psychological problem are to be criminalised? (For anyone who suffers or knows someone who suffers with these conditions and desires information or help, at the bottom of this article, one of the links is to an NHS website that can provide further information and advice). Finally the issue of wet dreams, wet dreams can start in the earliest stages of male puberty and often end into the early teenage years but in some cases can carry on into adulthood, they are unwanted and involuntary, and often are a source of personal embarrassment for those experiencing them, but are simply perfectly natural, is it wise to criminalise these boys or men for an act they, quite literally have no control over and often are not even aware of until they wake up? She claims the legislation is designed to parody that of the legislation against abortion, but can you begin to imagine the outcry if as a parody to this, a men’s rights campaigner suggested women be fined for menstruating, which would be the equivalent for parody? It would be front page news across much of the western world with millions of people rallying against it, of that I have no doubt. But all of these issues have been entirely either overlooked or considered worth equally demonising as a part of this crusade against every kind of male sexuality. Either way my position is the same, I find both the ignorance and the condemnation equally deplorable.
Then I must question some serious ethical failings that Jessica Farrar has shown, she calls firstly for “a medically-unnecessary digital rectal exam” and for healthcare professionals to be allowed to put their personal, moral and religious beliefs before that of the needs of the patient and that these organisations must provide “fully abstinent encouragement counselling”. So legislating to waste time and money, indoctrinating those who oppose or question and forsaking the founding principles of medical care. Even if meant to be satirical, a person must be quite devoid of morality to suggest that medical professionals should value anything above that of the best possible interests of a patient, and actually put that forward as a potential piece of legislation.
Now I desire to actually do Jessica Farrar an almost undeserved kindness, despite the fact I feel she has not earned this of me. But as I require of myself to always try to be fair and unbiased as I am able, I shall make a few points regarding the law as it relates to abortion in Texas. The first thing to note is that it is not all bad, it does require properly licensed premises adhering to the standards of both the Board of Health and Department of Health, it requires properly qualified health professionals and it threatens those not adhering to these standards with varieties of punishment, it also gives the mother up until 20 weeks (or 22 weeks depending on calculation) as a guideline for the safe abortion period, this is not to dissimilar to here in the UK where the NHS state the guidance time period is up to 24 weeks, the state will also cover the cost of abortions due to rape, incest or the endangerment of the life of the mother. However there are some negative points, these include that aside from the aforementioned conditions or grounds to believe a child may be born with severe irreversible abnormalities, no other abortions are legally permitted, and the mother having the abortion may be sent to jail for upwards of 5 years. There are also two additional restrictions that are rather questionable, the first is that a woman must have an ultrasound, see the image and have it described to her at least 24 hours before an abortion can take place. The other is that a woman must make four separate visits to a health professional before she can begin taking abortion inducing medication. The first sounds questionable emotionally and the second is questionable in terms of time wasted, however in both cases it could also be argued if these appointments are with the view to empower the woman with all the correct, unbiased information that she needs in the interest of making the best decision for herself, then I support it, but imagine the four visits could likely be streamlined, however if the only aim is to ideologically influence the mother then I object to that end. But in saying these things, and as always providing a link at the bottom of this article to this legislation, I would feel it fair to say I have done more than Jessica Farrar has to at least make people aware of the issue she is claiming she is trying to raise.
A seemingly less significant factor that I picked up on and thought worth adding in is that of the pornography industry and its economic impact. Lets say, for example, this idea gained traction and actually got passed, and due to public interest it got passed in many other states. It can at least be deemed highly likely that much of the masturbation that takes place in the modern day is aided by various types of pornography and in America alone that industry is a multi-billion dollar industry (figures are difficult to come by and most are estimates). The industry provides not only an economic boost through taxes but also provides jobs to thousands of individuals across the country. Yes some may find the industry questionable and some may be fine with it, but as long as all parties give legally expressed consent and taxes are paid, it is perfectly legal. So if somehow, miraculously these threats were enforced and people fined, and somehow, hypothetically it put enough people off, the industry would be crippled, the economy would suffer, jobs and homes would be lost, I wonder what plan Jessica Farrar has to repair the economy of the nation and the lives of those individuals and families she would have caused to suffer? I propose she has no such useful ideas and that the potential consequences of her actions never once crossed her mind.
I am sure Jessica Farrar feels her heart is in the right place, however this time, much as many other times in the past, what she supports has potentially disastrous implications.Such examples include; in 2003 she sponsored a bill to prevent discrimination based upon gender and/or sexual orientation in employment, in 2009 she proposed a bill to recognise postpartum psychosis as a defense for mothers who kill their infant children meaning that the mothers could at most be convicted of infanticide carrying a lesser prison sentence as opposed to the charge of murder and in 2011 she introduced legislation to prevent law officials such as police officers from inquiring as to the immigration or nationality status of a witness or victim in a criminal investigation. These all sound lovely, no discrimination in the work place, less time in prison for depressed women and ethnicity just not being relevant when it comes to crime. But of course we can easily see how all three of these are deeply flawed. It is clear the fact that companies have been forced into diversity hires and had to engage in positive discrimination against both existing and potential white or male or white and male employees, as highlighted especially publicly by the BBC firing established an award winning radio show host, a white male specifically for being a white male, and refusing to hire white men in job adverts for intern positions last year. Then as for postpartum psychosis, as I do not doubt in some cases it may well be very real and a serious issue to be dealt with (and for anyone with concerns related to it there is a link at the bottom of this page containing information and advice from the NHS) however, there is a clear potential for abuse of this legislation to get a lesser sentence. Then finally as for the ludicrous idea that an individuals nationality or immigration status cannot even be inquired to by the police during an investigation is utter insanity. Now I appreciate this is of victims and witnesses, however there are a plethora of possible instances whereby knowing these details of a victim or of witnesses could be of vital importance to reach the truth of an investigation and legally that information cannot be asked for.
As for the retaliation allegation made by Jessica Farrar the day after the release of this information by the press, firstly she is only assuming without proof of the intentions, secondly, given the widespread notoriety of the proposal, is a possible light hearted jibe not fair, or even a serious comment made about the waste of public officials time having to debate and vote on supposedly ‘satirical legislation’ instead of dealing with serious matters? It appears she is simply doing whatever she can to continue to try and hold the victim status in the eyes of the press, as once that is gone her lack of substance shall be exposed and her credibility, or what little is left of it even now, shall be in tatters.
As always thank you for reading and don’t forget, The Devil Is In The Details…
BBC News Article –
The Independent Article –
The Washington Post Article –
The Guardian Article –
Wikipedia Jessica Farrar –
Texas Abortion Laws –
Man’s Right to Know Act/HB 4260 Proposed Bill –
NHS Premature/Delayed Ejaculation Problems –
NHS Postpartum Psychosis –
NHS Abortion –
BBC Fire White Male For Diversity
BBC Non Whites Only Need Apply
Jessica Farrar Retaliation Claims –