During debate Monday on a House bill that would ban virtually all abortions starting 20 weeks after conception, Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, made what likely amounts to be the most absurd argument ever for why the country should outlaw the medical procedure.

“Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful,” Burgess said during a late-night House Rules Committee meeting on the Republican bill. “They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?”

That’s right. Burgess is suggesting abortions should be banned as early as 15 weeks after fertilization because male fetuses masturbate. And he knows this because–as a former ob-gyn–he’s witnessed it himself (but apparently this is a phenomena he’s seen only in male fetuses, not female ones).

“There is no question in my mind that a baby at 20 weeks after conception can feel pain,” he said. “The fact of the matter is, I argue with the chairman because I thought the date was far too late. We should be setting this at 15 weeks, 16 weeks.”

It’s worth repeating: Not only is Burgess an elected lawmaker influencing policy on the national level, he also used to be a practicing ob-gyn.

The anti-abortion legislation, which like many bills contains a deceptive title (in this instance, the Pain-Capable Infant Protection Act), is the most restrictive measure on the issue to come before Congress in about a decade. It is scheduled for a vote in the Republican-controlled House late Tuesday.


All jokes aside — and oh, there are SO MANY jokes to be made — we can’t make light of the ridiculous pseudo-science (“pseudo” is being too kind, really; the claim that 20-week-old fetuses can feel pain comes from an oft-disputed study) declarations belching out of newly invigorated congressmen at frightening speed. The 20-week abortion ban is expected to pass later today; it’ll be ignored by the Democratic-led Senate and the White House, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore its existence. We should be able to impeach politicians for defending legislation on the grounds of fantasy, whether based on religion, fake science, or fetal porn.

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(h/t RH Reality Check)

— Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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