Sometimes (a lot of the time, lately) public figures say things that make you want to both sob uncontrollably and throw back your head and laugh. Wayne Wallingford and Bob Onder, both Republican senators from Missouri, sparked loaded fury when they suggested women would be safer receiving abortions at the zoo rather than at an abortion clinic.
Somehow, during a senate debate on Wednesday over a tax increase intended to help the St. Louis Zoo, Onder wandered onto the subject of abortion, calling St. Louis an "abortion sanctuary city."
In what one could only hope was a weird and abysmal attempt at humor, Onder submitted a bizarre amendment to the Zoo Tax Proposal, claiming that it should change its name to "The Midwest Abortion Sanctuary City Zoological Park." It seems he was attempting to link the debate to a city ordinance he opposes that would ban landlords and employers in St. Louis from discriminating against women who have had an abortion.
Wallingford then piped in and suggested women just go to the zoo to terminate a pregnancy "because we know it will be safer."
Quickly developing a comedy duo and turning the senate floor into Second City, Onder riffed off of Wallingford's words, deciding to take the zoo theme to the next twisted level. Missouri's state law that requires women to wait three days before receiving an abortion, during which she must receive counseling. Onder used this as fodder, comparing abortion to putting down animals at the zoo.
"Let's think about this," he mulled. "Babies, it's three days, so although there are members of this body who don't agree with three days, babies are three days. So, zoo animals, it couldn't be more than 24 hours, right?"
Actually, the waiting period to euthanize zoo animals is five days, but Onder was well aware of that, since he then proceeded to explain the law. He was just trying to be dramatic.
"I believe there's some sort of requirement to notify in case some other zoo wants to adopt that animal," he said before chuckling. "Isn't that interesting?"
"Maybe we should send the people that want an abortion to the St. Louis Zoo, because we know it'll be safer," Wallingford piped in again, doing his sad part for their comedic act.
The public backlash was swift.
“Not only has [Onder] compared women to giraffes and zoo animals, but he has invoked the Holocaust and genocide in reference to a woman's right to an abortion,” Progress Missouri said in a statement. "His colleague, Senator Wayne Wallingford, also suggested that we send people seeking an abortion 'to the zoo.' Unfortunately, this nonsensical rhetoric is as dangerous as it is disturbing, and there's no place for it in public discourse.”
Onder's response on The Marc Cox Show did nothing in the way of an apology.
"When we're debating on the Senate floor, sometimes we make serious proposals, and sometimes they're tongue-in-cheek to make a point," he said. "The humorlessness and the lack of appreciation for irony and satire on the left is on full display here.”
The thing is, in a place like Missouri where policies toward abortion have put women in incredibly vulnerable positions, two male politicians snickering over their harsh realities looks a lot more inhumane than funny.
St. Louis contains the only abortion facility in the entire state, and the procedure is not free or covered by insurance plans, except in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is in jeopardy. A federal court is currently debating Missouri's cruel and unnecessarily tight abortion restrictions, many of which are similar to those ruled unconstitutional in Texas.
Some "abortion sanctuary."