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 at its absurdity. Wayne Wallingford and Bob Onder, both Republican senators from Missouri, became the center of controversy when they joked that women could receive safer abortions at the zoo than in a 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 an abysmal attempt at humor, Onder submitted a bizarre amendment to the Zoo Tax Proposal to change its name to "The Midwest Abortion Sanctuary City Zoological Park." The Independent notes that it seems he was attempting to link the zoo debate to a city ordinance he opposes which prevents landlords and employers from discriminating against women who have made the choice to have an abortion.
Wallingford then piped in and suggested women just go to the zoo to get an abortion "because we know it will be safer."
Quickly developing a comedy duo, Onder riffed off of Wallingford's words, deciding to take the zoo theme to the next level. For fodder, he used Missouri's state law that requires women to wait three days before receiving an abortion, during which she must attend counseling.
"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?"
The waiting period to euthanize zoo animals is five days, but Onder was actually 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 interjected.
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 is downright inhumane.
St. Louis contains the only abortion facility in the entire state of Missouri, and the procedure is not 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 unnecessarily tight abortion restrictions, many of which are similar to those dismissed as unconstitutional in Texas.
Some "abortion sanctuary."