Categories: Skepticism

Tennessee vs Arizona: Which is the Worst?

Pretty much every state in the US has been introducing and passing awful, anti-science, anti-woman legislation, but two states in particular have recently been locked in a heated battle for Worst State Ever: Tennessee and Arizona. Let’s look at what’s been going down, and then you be the judge.

Arizona is probably best known for being super racist, like when Governor Jan Brewer signed that bill that required cops to demand immigration papers from anyone who looks like an illegal immigrant.

Last year, Arizona politicians were able to combine their racism with a fresh brand of misogyny, creating a legendary, Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cup-esque combination to terrorize nearly everyone with a bill that would force women to declare that they were not aborting their fetus due to race or sex, and would imprison any doctor who couldn’t provide proof of that declaration.

Today, Jan Brewer took it a step further and signed a bill that makes Arizona one of the worst states in the union if you happen to be pregnant with an embryo or fetus you don’t want.

For starters, the bill declares that pregnancy begins at a woman’s last period, which is fine for women with normal cycles (that’s usually how pregnancies are dated anyway unless and until an ultrasound is performed) but could obviously be ridiculous for women with irregular periods. As a fellow Skepchick pointed out, if she were to get pregnant today, she’d be about 19 weeks pregnant by that bill’s standards and she wouldn’t even know she was pregnant for at least a few more weeks. In the end, she would practically have to abort a toddler.

This bill is also one of the many in the US that bans abortion at 20 weeks based on the completely unscientific claim that that’s when the fetus begins to feel pain.

The worse news is that the Arizona bill effectively outlaws abortions that only require medication, which is often taken by abortion seekers in their first 9 weeks of pregnancy (about 20% of all abortions). Medication abortions would be illegal unless they take place within 30 miles of a hospital – often those pills are taken at clinics or homes outside that radius.

And there’s so much more to this bill! From the Daily Beast:

Other parts of the law includes education in public schools prioritizing birth and adoption, signs throughout health-care facilities warning against abortion “coercion,” and an order for the state health department to create and maintain a website touting alternatives to abortion and displaying images of fetuses. Also required is abortion counseling for women aiming to abort pregnancies due to fetal abnormalities, and if the abnormality is certain to be fatal, the counseling incorporates perinatal hospice information before ending the pregnancy. It reaffirms existing barriers to access, like the requirement of a notarized parental consent form for minors and a mandatory ultrasound screening within 24 hours of having an abortion.

So I think we can all agree that Arizona definitely deserves to be in the running for Worst State Ever. However, Tennessee isn’t giving up so easily!

You may be aware that this week, Tennessee passed the Monkey Bill, so named due to its resemblance to the 1925 Scopes trial, which also occurred in Tennessee and was also a great big shitshow of ignorance. The Monkey Bill allows teachers to “teach the controversy” of subjects like, yes, evolution, which is in no way controversial amongst scientists or those with any appreciation of science. Global warming is also caught in the crossfire as a “controversial” topic. Students in the state will now officially be free to go off into the world understanding nothing about some of the most important topics in science and public policy.

Also this week, Tennessee senators approved an update to the state’s abstinence-only education policy – which, I should add, doesn’t work seeing as the state has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country – which would outlaw the teaching of “gateway sexual activity.” I know what you’re thinking: what is this “gateway sex” all the kids are talking about? Is it as awesome as oral?

According to Tennessee legislatures, “gateway sexual activities” are kissing and hand holding. You know, things that small children do. Joyous things that bring us closer together, as humans. Ways we express affection every day. Evil.

The bill would warn teens about the dangers of kissing and hand holding, and prohibit teachers from demonstrating such activities. I’m not really clear on whether that means a teacher would be fired for, say, kissing his wife when she picks him up at the end of the day. And what about the teachers of small children who need their hand held every now and again? Off limits? Again, unsure.

What I am sure about is that a bill effectively warning teens about affection is one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard. But what do you think? Is Arizona worse for increasingly limiting the rights women have over their own bodies, or is Tennessee worse for providing us with a future world full of idiots who think evolution and global warming are myths and holding hands is a sin?

Rebecca Watson :Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

View Comments (51)

  • Wow. I can just see me 5 year old Josh gettign explelled for holdings hands with his best freind Abby.  Those are two states I could not handle living in. 

  • I couldn't [er rather] didn't want to resist; this is my first someecard, becuase it HAD to be made:
    <a href="http://www.someecards.com/usercards/nsviewcard/MjAxMi1hNzA3OTljNjFlMDA1Mjkx"><img src="http://static.someecards.com/someecards/usercards/1334439098570_2334785.png" alt="someecards.com - So Tennessee, would shaking hands be the "Gateway Sexual Activity" to homosexuality?" /></a>

    • I see now.  It's intended to be a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) style editor.  However, there doesn't seem to be any way to switch it to a mode to show the code, even though I've seen that on other WordPress based sites...
      Paragraphs apparently require a double line break, not a single line break.  Even though it shows them as though they are distinct paragraphs after one use of the enter key.
      Bold and Italic seem to be fairly straightforward: select the text to style and then click the B and I buttons.
      Links and images are more complicated.  There's these weird sub-dialogs that have to be used.  http://google.com for instance.  Most of the options on the advanced tab are nearly meaningless for a comment entry, so far as I can tell.  Only the URL, target, and name should matter...?
      Images are a little like links with their own sub-dialog.  Enter the URL to identify it and the alt text to determine what shows up when you hover the mouse over it.  After entering the URL, the size seems to be set automatically.  However, you can decrease the size to inline scale it, like this:


    • It's anyone's guess as to how to make this input box work right ~_~ .  You may have tried HTML directly, and that doesn't work?  We need a preview function, at least (*_*) .
      <b>Testing 1.  Prediction: this tag will be escaped.</b>
      <p>Testing 2.</p>

  • It's a tie!    Thumping the Bible Thumpers should be a huge priority for all sane Americans regardless of their political proclivities!   His Frothiness, Rick S. dropping out of the Repub. primaries is a good first step, but there are a lot of crazies at all levels of government doing their best to drive the good ole USA back into the dark ages.

  • "So now in Arizona, a woman is legally considered pregnant 2 weeks before actual, real conception. It's like the Schrodinger's Cat of reproduction legislation."
    - Mary Calvin

  • Apples and oranges. If Obama wins again the militias there would probably secede anyway and teach their crazy- assedness behind a wall of guns. Then I would chain myself to my Massachusetts license plate and seek dual citizenship in Finland. The Creationist document is pretty scary but I'd say they're aiming for similar goals; sending us back to the dark ages. 

  • Tennessee is whackier, but I think Arizona wins hands down in actual, demonstrably damagine and vile legislation.
    Oddly, I've lived in both states...

  • Very good article. Arizona is like Alabama with cactus; Tennessee is the mirror image of "Kensucky": Lots of grass, water and whiskey! Arizona, where we have erected a Berlin Wall more dastardly than the one in Germany and Tennessee where "We don't need no (public) education. No dark sacrasm in the classroom-"