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Whisnant and Conger Pander to the Tea Partiers 

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Like a drunk going back to the bottle, Republicans can't seem to stop themselves from returning to the same "family values" issues the party has been obsessed with at least since the reign of President Bush the Elder.

In Washington, with the economy still slumping, the Middle East exploding and other urgent problems waiting to be tackled, Republicans in Congress are focused on stuff like defunding Planned Parenthood, kvetching about the repeal of the military's ridiculous Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, and talking about impeaching President Obama for not enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act.

Their counterparts in the Oregon Legislature aren't quite that bad. At least they aren't calling for the impeachment of Gov. John Kitzhaber ... yet. But they've found the time to introduce at least three bills that would limit women's reproductive freedom.

One of them, House Bill 3512, which is scheduled to get a hearing before the Judiciary Committee next week, has attracted an impressive total of 25 co-sponsors, including Central Oregon Reps. Gene Whisnant and his freshman colleague from Bend, Jason Conger.

HB 3512 would forbid all abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy except in cases of "medical emergency," meaning a situation in which continuing the pregnancy would result in death or "substantial and irreversible" injury to the woman. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

Doctors who perform an abortion would be required to file a report with the Oregon Health Authority certifying they had complied with all the requirements of the act, including determining how long the woman had been pregnant. A violation could cost a doctor his or her license. Finally, the health authority would have to prepare an annual statistical report based on the physicians' abortion reports.

It's ironic that Republicans, who are always spouting rhetoric about individual freedom, are so eager to take away the individual freedom of women in a matter as deeply personal as the decision to bear a child. It's also ironic that people who love to denounce government regulation and warn against "adding another layer of bureaucracy" are always ready to pile on more regulations and more bureaucratic layers when it comes to advancing their own social agenda.

In past sessions, with large Democratic majorities in the legislature, the right-to-lifers didn't even bother introducing bills like HB 3512. But now, with the House split 50-50, they see their chance and they're taking it.

With a Democratic majority in the Senate and a Democratic governor, it's doubtful this bill will ever become law. If it did, it's doubtful it would stand up to a court challenge - in Roe v. Wade back in 1973, the US Supreme Court determined that abortions should be legal up to the age of 24 weeks at least. So HB 3512 is largely a symbolic gesture pandering to the Tea Party crowd.

But it's also a symbolic slap in the face to the women of Oregon. And so we're giving THE BOOT to Whisnant and Conger (his first BOOT - congratulations, Jason) for putting their names on it.


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