Rep. Scott Randolph was trying to make a point about abortion last week when he used the word "uterus" on the floor of the State House.
It's a pretty common word when talking about reproductive rights — one that probably wouldn't even make your average middle-schooler giggle.
And yet it set off a firestorm in Tallahassee.
House Republicans sent word to Randolph, a Democrat from Orlando, that he should no longer say the word without first warning those who might be offended.
"Actually, they said I was no longer allowed to say any body parts," Randolph said.
Holy fallopian tubes, Batman.
We're living in a state run by lawmakers who have filed at least 10 bills to further regulate or restrict abortions —and then throw hissy fits over people who use the proper terms when debating them.
Here's a good rule of thumb: If you can't say a word, don't try to regulate it.
When I first heard this story, I wondered if perhaps House Speaker Dean Cannon genuinely didn't know what uterus meant.
Maybe he was that kid from second grade who always teared up and ran to hide in the bathroom when some other kid said: "Hey Dean! Your epidermis is showing!"
But no, Cannon's office confirmed that the speaker did, in fact, understand the word.
Cannon, it seems, was concerned that anyone who might be offended by the word "uterus" wasn't given fair warning to clear the chamber before the offending word was uttered.
And that's where this story goes from simply silly to seriously maddening — because there are a lot of truly offensive things coming out of Tallahassee right now … but this word isn't one of them.
For those who don't know, uterus is another word for womb.
And if lawmakers want to further regulate what happens in that part of a woman's body, they had better be willing to talk about it … like adults.
At this point, I want to be clear about something: I respect differing opinions on this topic. I genuinely believe there are thoughtful and passionate people on both sides.
In fact, I don't often charge head-first into abortion columns for just that reason — and because I believe it's a topic where most people already have their minds firmly made up.
But I also firmly believe that, if lawmakers are going to launch a crusade against reproductive rights, using words like fetus and embryo, that it takes an astonishing amount of hypocrisy and nerve to get indignant when someone else uses the word uterus.
Randolph actually used the word in trying to make a point about what he considered to be hypocrisy in the Republican Party alleged commitment to de-regulation.
"We constantly talk about not putting more regulations out there," Randolph told his peers. "Yet, when it comes to my wife's uterus, more regulations. When it comes to my friends' bedrooms, more regulations. When it comes to unions, more regulations. Don't practice an ideology of convenience! Look into your heart and practice what your preach!"
According to Cannon spokesman Katie Betta, Randolph's major crime was bringing up abortion when it wasn't the topic scheduled for discussion.
"The Speaker was concerned about the remarks," Betta said, "because they were not related to a debate on abortion, and were made within the context of a debate on labor unions within earshot of young children."
To that, Randolph suggested that his Republican peers' worries about upsetting children was both newfound and selective: "I don't remember this party caring much about the kids whose parents were between jobs on the day they described the unemployed as lazy bums looking for a handout."
Betta noted that the speaker didn't publicly chastise Randolph by name.
Randolph confirmed that, saying GOP leaders instead delivered the message to both his party's House leader and rules chairman. "They told both of them I was no longer allowed to use any body parts at any point in time on the floor anymore."
Personally, I'd rather these politicians spend less time fretting over terms that might offend children — and more time developing an agenda that's less offensive to humanity.
Because right now, we have politicians trying to slash school spending while defending tax loopholes to special interests.
We have proposals to cut spending on veterans, so that we can give new breaks to out-of-state corporations.
We even have lawmakers attacking the volunteer watchdogs who report neglect at nursing homes.
There are indeed obscene things happening in Tallahassee.
But the uttering of the word uterus isn't one of them.
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