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Legislation Can Be Funny, Too

All the ‘joke bills’ meant to prove a point

In March, Democratic Texas State Representative Jessica Farrar proposed a bill that would fine men $100 for masturbating unless they did so during a sanctioned session at a hospital or clinic. The “Man’s Right to Know Act” was meant to highlight how women have been targeted by health-care legislation in Texas, particularly relating to abortion. Farrar said the rules in her proposal — including a mandatory waiting period before receiving a vasectomy or Viagra prescription, as well as a “medically unnecessary digital rectal exam” — mirror “real TX laws and health care restrictions faced by TX women every #txlege session.” For example, the “Woman’s Right to Know” act, real legislation that passed in 2011, mandates that women seeking abortions must be presented with “color pictures representing the development of the child at two-week gestational increments. The pictures must contain the dimensions of the unborn child and must be realistic.”

Farrar’s joke bill is just one in a storied history of satire bills — sarcastic proposals that are meant to highlight a double standard in government regulations, often concerned with women’s reproductive rights. Here are five of the funniest:

The Snip-It Bill

The Representative: State Representative Yasmin Neal, D-GA
The Joke: No more vasectomies that leave “thousands of children … deprived of birth.”
The Real Issue: Women’s reproductive rights. In 2012, as members of Georgia’s House of Representatives debated whether to prohibit abortions for women more than 20 weeks pregnant, House Democrats introduced their own reproductive rights plan. “If we legislate women’s bodies, it’s only fair that we legislate men’s,” said Neal at the time, who added that she wanted to write a bill that would generate emotion and conversation the way anti-abortion bills do. “There are too many problems in the state. Why are you under the skirts of women? I’m sure there are other places to be.”
The Result: Did not pass.

The “Keep Strippers Young and Thin” Bill

The Representative: State Representative Kenny Havard, R-LA
The Joke:
Strippers could be no older than 28 and no heavier than 160 pounds.
The Real Issue: Human trafficking and regulating strip clubs. But not in the way you’d think. Havard was so bothered by the amount of government oversight included in a human-trafficking bill that he decided to up the ante for comedic effect. When challenged by other legislators, he quickly withdrew the amendment.
The Result: Withdrawn.

The No Spilt Cum Bill

The Representative: State Senator Constance Johnson, D-OK
The Joke: “Any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.”

The Real Issue: The state of Oklahoma’s definition of human life as beginning at the moment of conception, offering full legal protection to what’s essentially a sperm and an egg.
The Result: Didn’t pass.

The Little Blue Pill Bill

The Representative: State Representative Mia McLeod, D-SC
The Joke: Kinda like The Aristocrats, this one takes a minute to get the punchline of all the hoops men would have jump through to get Viagra, Cialis and anything else that would help them get a medicinally enhanced erection:

Obtain a notarized affidavit in which at least one of the patient’s sexual partners affirms that the patient has experienced symptoms of erectile dysfunction during the 90 days preceding the affidavit’s date.

Be referred to a sexual therapist licensed by the State Board of Examiners in Psychology for an assessment of the possible causes of the patient’s symptoms of erectile dysfunction and obtain a written report in which the therapist concludes that the patient’s symptoms are not attributable solely to one or more psychological conditions.

Attend three sessions of outpatient counseling within a period of not less than six months after the drug is prescribed to ensure the patient’s understanding of the dangerous side effects of drugs intended to treat the symptoms of erectile dysfunction and consider celibacy as a viable lifestyle choice.

The Real Issue: Access to abortion. “I purposely tried to make it as invasive, as intrusive, as hypocritical and unnecessary as possible to make the point,” McLeod said. In South Carolina, women are required to jump through these hoops to get an abortion.
The Result: Didn’t pass

The “Joke’s on You” Bill

The Representative: U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter Jr., R-CA
The Joke:
A meta take on feminism, sexism and equality. Or in Hunter’s “unfunny” words: “It’s wrong and irresponsible to make wholesale changes to the way America fights its wars without the American people having a say on whether their daughters and sisters will be on the front lines of combat.”
The Real Issue: There wasn’t one. Hunter heard people debating about making women eligible for the draft, and he decided to force the issue by showing no one would ever vote for that.
The Result: Hunter was wrong. His bill actually passed.