“The thing about my jokes is, they don’t hurt anybody. You can take 'em or leave 'em. You can say they’re funny or they’re terrible or they’re good, or whatever, but you can just pass 'em by. But with Congress, every time they make a joke, it’s a law! And every time they make a law, it’s a joke!”
Sometimes you wonder if some of the people who get up and talk in front of legislative bodies and/or TV cameras even listen to what is coming out of their own voice boxes. If they do, it is clear that they have no grasp of irony.
The other day the Utah Capitol building was graced with a rally in which various elected officials and political activists announced a new drive to outlaw abortion in the state. They did so on the basis of the argument that every life, starting at conception, is valuable and to be protected.
The whole affair was an unwitting performance of an old joke, one that’s perhaps more painful than it is funny, about how a conservative is someone who believes that life begins at conception and ends at birth.
The star of the show was state Sen. Dan McCay, who said he was in the process of drafting a bill that would forbid women from having “elective” abortions. Because he cares about innocent, defenseless life.
What complete and irredeemable garbage.
The Utah Capitol is the place where our elected officials demonstrate on an annual basis that their concern for innocent, defenseless life is basically nonexistent.
The Utah Capitol is the place where lawmakers voted to torpedo Proposition 3, the 2018 ballot measure, passed by the people, that would have expanded the federal-state Medicaid program. That expansion would have saved lives, boosted the state’s economy with the influx of millions of dollars to pay for medical care, strengthened families, improved school performance and made it easier for people on the low end of the economic escalator to find and keep jobs.
The Utah Capitol is the place where heartless politicians and faceless bureaucrats dream up rules to kick more households off of Medicaid and other forms of public assistance. Where they engage in the utterly backward idea that people should get jobs first and Medicaid after, ignoring the fact that having health care in your back pocket can make all the difference between being employable or not.
The Utah Legislature is the outfit that every year refuses to take more than token steps to clean up the poisons in our air that sicken the weak, shorten lives and that are linked to an increased number of stillbirths. They even took a huge chunk of Salt Lake City away from its proper municipal jurisdiction in order to create an inland port that can only make our air quality worse.
In other words, our Legislature is totally cool with unborn babies dying, as long as it is the political-industrial complex that caused it and not the informed and deeply personal decision of a female.
The Utah Legislature is the group that is happy to dangle millions of dollars in tax breaks before the greedy eyes of large businesses that can afford to put their new operations anywhere they want but can never find the money to adequately pay for a public education system that is overburdened with children who are, among many other things, facing unmet needs for their physical and emotional health.
The Utah Legislature is the body that holds the Second Amendment up as holy writ — even picks an Official State Gun — with no apparent awareness that there are more than a few innocent and defenseless lives that will be lost to arrested-development cases who can’t be deprived of their lethal toys.
McCay argues that women seek abortions because they find pregnancy and childbirth “inconvenient.” That is a sickeningly inappropriate use of the word. “Inconvenient” is properly used to describe conflicting invitations to tea. Proper terms for unwanted pregnancies include “devastating,” “heart-breaking” and “none of your damn fool business.”
There are many things that McCay and his fellow lawmakers can do if they really value human life at its weakest and most vulnerable. They can pay for schools, clean up the air, provide a First World health care system — one that makes contraception easily available — and stare down the gun lobby.
Until they have done those things, they are viewing government’s role in protecting the vulnerable through the wrong end of the telescope. And there is no reason that any of the rest of us should care what they say.
George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, sometimes has to laugh to avoid crying.