by Daryl Gale

Folks have hinted at it for months, nibbling around the edges of a thorny issue, but I’ve had enough, and it’s time to declare the truth once and for all:

The Republican Party has gone stark raving mad.

They’re completely nuts. Off the chain. Slippin’ into darkness. And worse, they’re proud of it—each competing to see which of them can out-crazy the others. There are no such things as moderate Republicans anymore. The moderate wing of the GOP is dead—the Arlen Specters and just-retired Olympia Snowes of the Party have been beaten into submission by their tea party brethren—leaving behind the present crop of frothing-at-the-mouth maniacs who stand for nothing, but stand against everything.

Sure, when they were elected in that nationwide tsunami of 2010, the new GOP, led by their orange-tinted puppet master John Boehner, promised they’d focus exclusively on the economy, jobs and getting Americans back on their financial feet. They’d right the ship of state, they said—repeal those job-killing liberal policies, and give the country back to the middle class.

It was all a big, fat lie.

Since then, they’ve focused on social engineering, cultural battles fought and won 50 years ago, and ways to make the rich richer. They’ve introduced anti-abortion, anti-immigration and anti-worker’s rights legislation out the wazoo, but not one bill to spur job growth.

The latest ponderously stupid idea catching fire among the GOP ranks: to make the abortion process more invasive and twice as humiliating for young women facing difficult choices, they’ve put forth legislation in several states that would require doctors to perform unnecessary, vaginally-invasive ultrasound procedures prior to any abortion.

The draconian measure was voted down in Mississippi, and Virginia lawmakers are now squirming to backtrack on their own bill once exposed to the light of media scrutiny—and the wrath of hundreds of thousands of women.

I know what you’re thinking. Maybe they could float that craziness down South, but up here in the progressive North, no one would dare to introduce such a blatantly anti-woman piece of legislation. Right?

Well, say hello to Pennsylvania House Bill 1077, the so-called “Woman’s Right-to-Know Act,” which would—you guessed it—force women to undergo a mandatory and invasive ultrasound at least 24 hours before receiving abortion care.

There are, of course, constitutional scholars who suggest the idea is wrong on its face, and just plain unconstitutional.

University of Pennsylvania Professor of Law Tobias Barrington Wolff is quoted as saying, “The Supreme Court has held that a State cannot pass laws for the purpose of obstructing a woman’s access to a legal abortion, nor impose undue burdens on that access. A law mandating that doctors perform a medically unnecessary procedure, including the use of an invasive trans-vaginal probe in some cases, and requiring doctors to position an ultrasound monitor in the woman’s face whether or not she wants to watch it, appears designed to intimidate and humiliate. Pennsylvania cannot mandate such mistreatment of women.”

Forget, for a moment, the flagrant unconstitutionality of this madness, and just consider it from a human rights perspective. The legality of abortion, evidenced in the Roe v. Wade decision, has been black letter law for a generation. These GOP lawmakers would have America turn back the clock 50 or 60 years on women’s rights without giving it a second thought.

And it’s not just abortion. The very notion of contraception as we know it, long the prerogative of modern American women and couples, has been assailed by GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum and a host of his knuckle-dragging friends. Interestingly, you may have noticed that the predominant voices on that side of the debate have been an all-male chorus. Indeed, a congressional hearing on the subject two weeks ago was notable mostly for its conspicuous absence of women on the panel.

And here’s another sobering thought: if they’re willing to roll back women’s rights, why not civil rights? Why not decree that private restaurant owners have every right to refuse service to Blacks, as subtly suggested by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul? Or that you don’t have to rent your property to Hispanics, or gays, or anyone else you don’t happen to like?

Since their rise to power, the GOP has championed the cause of millionaires, corporations, big oil and gas and fat defense contractors. They have simultaneously and deliberately alienated labor unions, public employees, gays, racial minorities, the elderly, the poor and the middle class.

This is not your father’s Republican Party. It’s something much, much worse.

(Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune’s city editor.)

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