Democratic Rep. Mary Lou Marzian of Louisville shares a light moment with a fellow Representative on the House floor in Frankfort, Ky., March 3, 2009.
Photo by Ed Reinke/AP

Kentucky lawmaker responds to anti-choice law with bill restricting access to Viagra

Updated

When her colleagues in the Kentucky legislature decided to pass legislation requiring women to see a doctor 24 hours before having an abortion, Democratic state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian decided to give the bill’s male supporters a taste of their own medicine. So she introduced a measure she thought equally invasive from their perspective – a bill requiring men to jump through hoops before they can receive drugs for erectile dysfunction.

Introduced last Thursday, House Bill 396 significantly hampers access to erectile dysfunction treatments including Viagra, Cialis, Levitra and Avanafil. If passed, the measure would require every man seeking such drugs to have two doctor visits, provide a signed-and-dated consent letter from his current spouse and make a sworn statement “with his hand on a Bible” that he will only use the drugs for sex with his current spouse. Only married men would be eligible for erectile dysfunction treatment under the legislation.

Marzian introduced HB 396 one week after Kentucky’s Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law a controversial “informed consent” bill, making the Bluegrass State the 27th in the nation to require that women seeking an abortion undergo counseling and then wait a specified amount of time – most often 24 hours – before they can have the procedure.

“I thought, well, if we’re going to meddle in the private medical decisions between a woman and her health care provider, then we can meddle in men’s private health care decisions as well,” Marzian told MSNBC in a phone interview Tuesday.

The 61-year-old registered nurse, who has served in the Kentucky House of Representatives since 1994, acknowledged HB 396 stands little chance of passing. “It’s tongue in cheek,” she said.

At the same time, Marzian also believes her proposal addresses “a very serious matter” – that is, “when government … feels it’s appropriate to insert themselves into personal, private medical decisions.”

“The legislature doesn’t have a medical degree,” said Marzian. “It’s inappropriate, insulting and demeaning to have this patriarchal view that women cannot talk to their own physicians and figure out what they need to do. All of these anti-choice bills are designed to make it more difficult to obtain safe and legal abortion services.”

It’s not the the first time a lawmaker has responded to abortion restrictions with an over-the-top proposal targeting men. In 2012, for example, as the Oklahoma Senate considered a “personhood” bill stipulating that life begins at the moment of conception, former state Sen. Constance Johnson, a Democrat, put forth an amendment that would have outlawed masturbation.

“If we’re talking about protecting life,” Johnson reasoned in a satirical segment for The Daily Show, “then let’s talk about life at its very basic beginning.”

Johnson’s amendment failed. And in all likelihood, Marzian’s bill will too. But she’s hopeful it won’t be the last of its kind.

Already, Marzian said she’s preparing an amendment that would apply the same waiting period now required for abortions to gun sales. Under this measure, anyone hoping to buy a firearm would have to wait 24 hours and sit through a counseling session with victims of gun violence, she said.

Marzian is also hoping her approach inspires reproductive rights supporters in other states to fight back against legislation restricting abortion access.

“I think it really has awakened the sleeping giant,” she said of HB 396. “I’ve had over 500 emails so far and almost all of them have been supportive and saying they are sick and tired of governments, mostly men, inserting themselves in their doctor’s office.”

Reproductive Rights

Kentucky lawmaker responds to anti-choice law with bill restricting access to Viagra

Updated