"You buried the lead" in last week's post about Sen. Ralph Shortey, a reader pointed out to me, and he was right. Given that Shortey's proposed ban on the use of "aborted human fetuses" in food or food research is specifically limited to products "intended for human consumption," it would appear that the senator does not have a problem with turning the miracle of birth into animal chow, and I, for one, am outraged.
Mostly at myself for not noticing this first, but also partly because of the fetus thing.
The Los Angeles Times managed to get an interview with Shortey last week, one of the few he seems to have given. According to its report, the bill was one of 70 filed on Shortey's behalf on the previous Thursday, which was the deadline for introducing legislation in that session. (The bill was actually filed by an assistant, who also drafted it for the senator's review, although unlike the subject matter this is pretty common.) Shortey then apparently left town, speaking to the Times on Monday "after returning from tending to family matters and a weekend quail hunt" to find his phone ringing off the hook and about 400 emails in his inbox, much of it not too friendly.
He stuck by his story, though, such as it is. "Are fetuses being chopped up and put in our Doritos? No," he said. (Last week he was using "burritos" in that line — the Times might have misheard him or maybe they focus-grouped it over the weekend.) But, he said, he does think somebody may be using human embryonic stem cells in some sort of food research. And if that somebody is doing something with something like that in some sort of research somewhere, whatever that is better not be going on anywhere in Oklahoma.
And again, it isn't, as far as anybody knows. The FDA told the Associated Press it had "never gotten any reports of fetuses being used in food production," although that could just be part of the coverup. Shortey claimed he had "done some digging" on this before deciding to ban it, and since he didn't explain further, that probably means the Internet. No, wait: "Asked if he believes everything he reads on the Internet," the Times reported, Shortey replied, "Absolutely not."
That's good, because despite my headline I don't actually think he intended to encourage feeding human fetuses to livestock. That would run contrary to the deep respect he shows for tiny, innocent living things, which he demonstrated by blasting a bunch of them into oblivion over the weekend. But that inference could be drawn from the language of his bill. If a law prohibited the use of human fetuses only in products "intended for human consumption," then one could argue that the legislature must not have intended to prohibit tossing a few into animal feed, or using them in any non-edible product, for that matter. That would be a logically valid though entirely stupid argument. In fact, one could argue that the sloppy language might unintentionally "encourage" some unscrupulous fetus-wrangler to go down this horrifying path. Only two ways to deal with that, it seems to me — either withdraw the bill altogether, or amend it to make the ban even broader. I wonder which he will do.
He is apparently not to be deterred by the past week's mockery, even appearing to suggest it was partly motivated by political opposition. "The first attack," he said, "is to make that issue or person look ridiculous." (Check.) But "I've got thick skin," he continued. "I don't care what people think about me." That's also good. Still, he did seem a little miffed that people are talking about it. "This was an invitation to my colleagues to have this discussion," he told the Times. "This wasn't an open invitation for the country to chime in." How dare you discuss proposed legislation, America?
FYI, the country (or certain members of it) have signed up to receive email alerts to track the future progress of the bill, if any, and may have plans to chime in again.