With proposals such as mandated ultrasounds for abortion seekers and bans on Sharia law, state legislatures avoid actual governance in favor of dead-end ideas.
Virginia's attempt to intrude (literally and figuratively) upon the privacy of its pregnant women would be bad enough if it were merely a rare example of state lawmakers unhinging proposed legislation from law, science, and sense. Unfortunately, however, such official recklessness has become a national trend. All over the country, and especially since the 2010 election that swept Tea Party candidates into office, local lawmakers have spent a great deal of time and effort promoting measures they either don't fully understand or can't reasonably believe are constitutional.
Here's how The Washington Post explained how and why Virginia's anti-abortion measure got as far as it did before enough grown-ups began to pay attention:
Confusion over the legislation and ultrasounds -- and considerable national media attention -- preceded the unraveling of the bill. The original measure stated, simply, that a woman needed an ultrasound before an abortion. Many lawmakers did not understand that at the young fetal age abortions usually occur, the invasive vaginal ultrasound would be needed to establish gestational age, as required by the bill.
The fact that these lawmakers evidently didn't understand what their law would mean to women, and what it would require of doctors, didn't stop the legislators from pushing forward with the measure anyway. Ignorance of the law may be no legal defense to you and me, but ignorance of the law among those who are passing the law surely is the definition of bad governance. For the politicians now scrambling away from Virginia's measure, however, pleading ignorance perhaps is easier today than confessing the truth, which is that the pols who supported the measure probably didn't care in the first place if its mandated procedures offended women. That was the whole point, wasn't it?
At a minimum, the barely-averted disaster in the commonwealth raises questions about whether the same intellectual disconnect is happening in New Hampshire, where the Republican-dominated legislature is pressing ahead with anti-abortion measures over the objections of medical experts. Or in Iowa, where a GOP lawmaker recently introduced a bill that would ban abortions and generate potential life sentences in prison for doctors who perform what the law calls "feticide." Or in Nebraska, where legislators are considering a bill that would create a legal defense -- justifiable homicide, it's called -- for the murder of a doctor who intends to harm a fetus.