Up to now, while some local options have started to take shape, the Supreme Court has somehow failed to budge on the substance of its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, and this lack of movement has caused wailing and gnashing of teeth among House Republicans, a substantial number of whom owe their jobs to abortion opponents. In an effort to bypass the Court's intransigence, and with the hope of bipartisan support dancing in their heads, a small House subcommittee has drafted an outline of a new program which will take care of this pesky problem once and for all. While a verbatim transcript would obviously be too long for this column, The Vent is happy to bring you the highlights of this innovative plan.

The United States Department of Pregnancy would be created, and its Secretary would be given Cabinet rank. The Department would assume control over all American citizens of age zero or below. The exact nature of the Department's charter is still being debated, but it is expected to combine the best features of the Selective Service System and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Upon reaching menses — typically, age 10 through 13 — a girl would register with the Department through one of its many local offices, and record the date of first menstruation. For the next forty years or so, until a physician certifies that the woman is past childbearing years or, in presumably rare instances, has suffered medical problems which required the termination of the woman's childbearing capacity, the woman will submit to the Department on Form 28 (or 30; the nomenclature has not yet been finalized) her certification that menstruation has taken place on schedule, or will advise the Department that conception has taken place instead. At this time, it is not considered necessary that the woman submit evidence of menstruation, though all Department offices will be fitted for collection and disposal of related biohazardous materials, if at the discretion of the Secretary it is necessary to do so in order to enforce the charter of the Department. (A proposal to cut costs by administering the registration process through the United States Postal Service, as has been done over the years with Selective Service, was blocked by opposition from the various postal unions, which objected to handling such materials without payment of both postage and insurance.)

Upon pregnancy certification, a woman would be required to post $20,000 bond with the local Department office. (In the case of multiple births, the bond would be increased accordingly, once it is determined that twins — or more — have been conceived.) This bond is subject to forfeiture if she miscarries, or if, in the judgment of the Department, she has not exerted "maximum effort" to bring the pregnancy to term. "Maximum effort" has not yet been fixed in the United States Code, but certain activities — drug use, too many Bud Lights, failure to avoid an automobile accident in which airbags are deployed — would presumably be considered prima facie evidence of less-than-maximum effort. The Department will provide pre-natal care as appropriate, and the cost of such care will be deducted from the face amount of the bond.

The Department will supervise all births. The newborn will be issued a Social Security number and will be given an immediate drug test. Once the child has passed the test, the Department, within six to eight weeks, will refund to the mother the unspent portion of the posted bond. In the original draft, the child would no longer be eligible for any Federal services; it is expected that Democratic opposition to this provision will cause it to be modified or to be dropped entirely.

On the face of it, this plan looks pretty good. It gives GOP conservatives the absolute control over women's reproduction they crave, and what Democrat can resist the prospect of a whole new Federal department? Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done before this proposal is ready for a vote, so don't expect to see any action on it before, say, the first of April.

The Vent

#186
20 February 2000

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