Politics

Democratic state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian of Louisville has proposed a bill that would require men to have two in-person visits with a doctor before receiving a prescription for erectile dysfunction drugs, such as Viagra.

Men would also be required to swear that they will only use the pills to have sex with their spouse, who must also provide written consent.

In an interview on Wednesday, Marzian acknowledged that the bill is a tongue-in-cheek response to anti-abortion legislation put forward by conservative lawmakers. And she’s drawn national attention for the move. (Listen to the interview in the audio player above.)

This bill is being proposed in an environment in which your chamber, the House of Representatives, has started to warm up a bit to anti-abortion legislation. Why did you decide to propose it now?

The House of Representatives is Democrat-controlled 50-46, so it’s razor thin. And a lot of the fellows in my party, the Democarts, are very scared of any vote that they take. So the Republicans have proposed all of these anti-choice bills but they’re feeling like, “Oh, they better vote on them,” so they can get reelected. So they’re voting anti-choice to restrict women’s health care for an election.

And so how has this bill been received by your colleagues? I think some people consider it to be a joke. Is it a joke?

Actually, it’s tongue-in-cheek, but it’s a very serious issue. Do we want government inserting itself, do we want our government telling people what to do with their personal, private decisions? Do I want Gov. [Matt] Bevin, do I want the Senate, the House of Representatives for that matter, national folks and all of the Republican candidates are anti-choice and saying they want to stop abortion?

But this is a safe, legal procedure, and women are moral people and they can make a decision. We can make a decision for ourselves without any of these males telling us that we need to have two visits, we need to have an ultrasound, we need to understand what we’re doing. Because we’re smart enough and we know what we’re doing, and it’s insulting and demeaning to women to have all of these obstacles for us to have to jump through.

Do you think that point is getting across to your Democratic and Republican colleagues who are supportive of these anti-abortion bills?

I think to some extent. But the real benefit is, I think, it has awakened the vast majority of folks who do not want government intruding into your private medical decisions, whether it’s about a kidney transplant, whether it’s about heart surgery, whether it’s about an abortion. Most people don’t want government saying, “Here’s what you have to do with your doctor.” They don’t want Matt Bevin sitting in the exam room with them. I think that it has awakened a huge groundswell of support who are telling politicians, “Enough of this. We’re sick of you legislating to women’s medical care because, lord knows, none of you went to medical school.” So why do we feel like it’s appropriate to tell physicians, to tell women, to tell men what to do?

It seems like this bill has gone viral. Can you talk about the national response to this and across the state as well? Why has this been so salient to people across the country?

It’s picked up because it’s hit a nerve. And I have heard probably from at least two or three thousand people all across the state and the country, and I think women and men are just sick and tired of politicians dictating personal, private decisions, No. 1. And I think that they feel just great. I’ve had so many, “Way to go, we’re so glad you’re revealing the hypocrisy.” It’s just amazing the response, and I think people have felt very disenfranchised, and that politicians don’t listen and we sit up here and do idiotic things like mandate ultrasounds or whatever for women’s health, and it’s really struck a nerve. And I think women and men are sick of politicians messing in personal, private decisions and not getting the work of the state or the country done.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.