Texas lawmaker Jessica Farrar wants men fined for masturbating
- 13 March 2017
- From the section US & Canada
A female politician in Texas is taking an unusual swipe at what she sees as restrictive abortion laws by targeting men - more precisely male masturbation.
Her unlikely draft law has a simple aim, she says - to protect unborn children everywhere.
Which is why it wants all "emissions outside of a woman's vagina, or created outside of a health or medical facility" to carry a $100 (£81) fine.
If a man made such an emission it would "be considered an act against an unborn child".
If it sounds like something out of a dystopian novel, that is because it is meant to.
'If it's good for the goose...'
Jessica Farrar, a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives, submitted House Bill number 4260 last week. She knows it will never become law. Indeed, it is unlikely to make it far at all.
But she argues it is no more extreme than the restrictions put on women by the state of Texas when it comes to choosing whether or not to end their pregnancy.
The last straw for her came with the most recent in a string of proposed bills, which she saw as chipping away at women's rights.
The latest wanted to force women to choose whether to bury or cremate the embryonic remains of either a miscarriage or abortion.
During a hearing for the bill last August, state Senator Don Huffines said: "For far too long, Texas has allowed the most innocent among us to be thrown out with the daily waste."
Ms Farrar decided to put a different spin on this belief.
"It got me thinking, maybe what's good for the goose is good for the gander," Ms Farrar told the BBC. "If we are taking these measures because of the sanctity of life, well, we just cannot waste any seed."
But her critics were not impressed. "Plain stupid," said one on Twitter, saying that only a fertilised embryo needs protecting, and asking if she would also use the law on menstruating women.
"Life begins at conception," Mr Huffines had said.
Texas has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the US - even though the Supreme Court overturned a 2014 ban on drug-induced abortions after seven weeks last year.
The restrictions mean clinics providing abortions are few and far between. According to the Texas Tribune, there were 19 abortion clinics in June 2016, the vast majority of them concentrated in urban areas.
It has left 95% of counties within Texas's expansive borders without a clinic. In the 885km (550 miles) between San Antonio and El Paso - the same distance as between Penzance and Edinburgh - there are no abortion clinics.
Ms Farrar also speaks angrily of women forced to sit and listen to a lecture on the moral implications of abortion, and look at images of foetuses when they seek terminations. They also undergo an intrusive vaginal ultrasound to hear the baby's heartbeat, and receive warnings of abortion being linked to breast cancer, even though this claim has been disproved.
"It is clear this is about manipulation," said Ms Farrar, whose bill suggests a male equivalent for each step, including a "digital rectal exam".
"As if every woman has not thought about this [abortion]. The fact is, only she knows what has happened in her life," she said.
Texas-based group New Wave Feminists insists it wants to support women, but believes a foetus has rights too.
"Many would say that the foetus is actually the most vulnerable member of the human family and yet, because it is smaller, weaker, and can't tell us to stop, we've decided it's okay to dispose of it however we see fit," the organisation says.
Texan women are not alone in facing an increase in legislation over abortion.
Anti-abortion activists and their supporters have become emboldened as Donald Trump's White House shifts away from the pro-choice stance of the Obama years.
A slew of new restrictions has been proposed by lawmakers across the country. Among them, one which would force women in Oklahoma to get permission from their sexual partner to allow them to have an abortion.
The man who proposed that bill, which passed its first reading in February, described a pregnant woman as a "host" for her unborn child. The idea is something Ms Farrar fears in her own state.
"We are dealing with more measures being proposed which would treat the woman as an incubator," said the Houston native, who was first elected to the Texas House in 1994.
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Already, the right to life of an unborn child overrules a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order in Texas for women who are pregnant.
A DNR order would normally mean medical staff do not attempt to bring a patient back to life if they stop breathing or their heart stops, because of the damage already done to the patient.
Now, new proposed legislation would force women to carry an unviable foetus to term if it is discovered after 20 weeks, while another could even prevent a doctor telling a family of their baby's condition if he feels they may choose an abortion.
Elizabeth Graham, director of anti-abortion organisation, Texas Right to Life, defends preserving the life of the foetus.
"Current provisions singling out disabled preborn children for death are not only embarrassing for the state but morally unconscionable."
Ms Farrar argues that more pressing issues need to be addressed, like the fact Texas has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world.
"I think the reason we are where we are is because people have tolerated these things," she added. "I'm hoping my bill will wake people up."