Endocrine disruptors — you’re soaking in them

A human embryo at the 4th week of development is just a tiny bean with a length measured in millimeters, but at this time all kinds of remarkable features are starting to develop. This week in class I talked about urogenital development, which involves forming an array of incredibly delicate, thin tubes from a structure called the urogenital ridge, a thickening of an embryonic membrane which will eventually form a succession of kidneys, the pronephros, mesonephros, and metanephros, only the last persisting into adulthood. The key feature for the story I was telling, though, is that they formed something called the mesonephric duct, and then the paramesonephric duct which parallels it. Another name for the mesonephric duct is the Wolffian duct, and the paramesonephric duct is called the Müllerian duct (personally, I don’t care for the self-serving names given to critical bits of the developing embryo by 19th century men, but it’s what still persists in the embryo. So it goes.)

Both of these ducts are associated with the bipotential or indifferent gonad. There are no sexual differences in embryos this young.

The sex differences emerge later, in response to differential signals. The Müllerian ducts degenerate in males, while the Wolffian ducts persist. In females, the Müllerian ducts persist, while the Wolffian ducts fade away. The bipotential gonad associates with the remaining duct and differentiates into testes or ovaries.

I’ll refrain from delving deeper into the details. My point is that these minuscule ducts and tissues form very early, and are going to expand to form critical, elaborate structures necessary for human fertility. They’re fragile. You really don’t want to perturb the signals and processes going on in a one month old embryo, especially since you may not see the consequences for 15 or 20 years.

In 1941, pharmaceutical companies started to market a synthetic drug with properties similar to estrogen, called diethylstilbesterol, or DES. It wasn’t patented, so anyone could make and sell it, and they pushed it hard to pregnant women. There was weak evidence that it could help sustain pregnancies in women with low progesterone levels, so sure, let’s market it as “routine prophylaxis in ALL pregnancies.” About 4 million pregnant women took this stuff at the suggestion of their doctors, between 1941 and 1971, when it was finally banned.

Think about that. This was an endocrine disruptor, term that wasn’t invented until the 1990s, but everyone knew then that it would have some kind of effect, since it was a functional analog of estrogen. So they gave it to pregnant women, and by that means delivered a potent hormonal signal to their embryos at a time when they were carefully assembling those delicate little tubes. Worse, they knew that high doses given to mice and hamsters caused mammary, cervical, vaginal, and uterine cancers in adult females, and that adult males developed lung cancers, which ought to have set off all kinds of alarm bells. Any tissue that was sensitive to estrogen could be provoked to turn cancerous with DES.

Just for dessert, it was determined in 1953 that DES did nothing to maintain at risk pregnancies. They continued to prescribe the stuff. Just in case, you know.

For additional profit, they also marketed it as a growth hormone for livestock. That continued until it was eventually banned for that purpose in 1979.

Here’s the structure of this potent little molecule.

A is DES; B is estrogen; C is BPA, the common, heavily used plasticizer that we now know is an endocrine disruptor.

You might be wondering what happened to those 4 million women who took the drug. They were fine! Humans and other primates seem to be more resistant to the carcinogenic effects of DES, and they were taking much lower doses than those poor rodents in testing labs who were given massive doses of the drug.

And what about the millions of boomer babies who were doped with it in utero? Again, mostly fine — this is the thing about endocrine disruptors, they tend not to have the gross teratogenic effects we associate with chemicals that cause significant birth defects, like thalidomide. They’re more subtle. They perturb the balance of internal organ systems, and in this case, cause problems in the physiology of reproductive organs, which may lead to fertility issues or some kinds of cancers. I emphasize may because I know DES-exposed people who have had children and are cancer-free; it’s more a matter of letting their gynecologists know to keep an eye on potential warning signs.

But it can go very wrong.

DES is still used in experimental studies because it’s such an interesting molecule. Regular readers probably know about the importance of Hox genes; these are genes expressed along the body axis in pretty much all animals that defined anterior-posterior structures. The same genes also get re-expressed to define the proximal-distal axis of the tetrapod limb. They seem to be a handy-dandy molecular tool for establishing tissue identities along a line.

Here’s another instance of Hox genes defining position on an organ: they’re re-expressed in the Müllerian ducts, which become the fallopian tubes of adult women.

Hoxa9 is expressed throughout the oviduct, Hoxa13 in only the cervix, and Hoxa11 and Hoxa10 in between, forming a kind of positional coding system. This is really neat! I like finding examples of molecular recycling in the evolution of developing systems.

What isn’t so neat is that DES downregulates Hoxa10 by inhibiting an important signaling molecule, Wnt7a, creating coding ambiguities in the structure of that delicate little tube. That leads to poor cell specification and disorganized tissue, erasing what should be clear, sharp boundaries in the organ, which may then be expressed in dysplasias, increasing the odds of cancer.

As if that weren’t enough, we don’t really know what perturbing these signaling pathways does to other developing organs, like the brain. Also, DES affects methylation/demethylation of the genome, so it may have transgenerational effects — pregnant women who took DES may have messed up their children, but there is some evidence (weak, I think) that it also affects their grandchildren.

But wait! It’s banned, so we shouldn’t have to worry about it anymore! That’s partly true, but look at the diagram of the molecules above. Estrogen and DES share similarities to another molecule, bisphenol A, a ubiquitous plasticizer used to make plastic materials less brittle. BPA is found in your food packaging. It lines the interior of aluminum cans. Any plastic you have that is at all flexible has been treated with plasticizers, like BPA or phthalates. It’s leaching into your food and your general environment, and it does not go away. The US has banned its use in baby bottles and baby formula packaging, but not from all your snack food packages and your phones.

If you’re of a certain age, you might recall those commercials for a dishwashing detergent that announced, “you’re soaking in it!“, as if that meant the stuff must be safe. We ought to be aware that capitalist industries have us all soaking in a gentle bath of toxic chemicals right now, and it’s not safe.

Another test of the upsuck hypothesis

There’s an interesting argument that’s been raging for decades about women’s orgasms: are they useful or not? Normal people, especially women, are probably wondering how that can even be a question — you probably find them very nice — but that’s missing a deeper point, which is, do women’s orgasms increase their fertility? Which I would argue masks an even deeper question, which is about women’s Ultimate Purpose. And apparently, the ultimate purpose of having a woman orgasm is that it makes her cervix more likely to slurp up the manly ejaculate, a phenomenon called upsuck or insuck.

On to this paper by Robert King, Maria Dempsey, and Katherine Valentine. It’s a weak paper, but the authors, to their credit, acknowledge the weaknesses and submit it as primarily a method of testing one aspect contributing to potential fertility problems that individuals can test for themselves in their home. The procedure is simple. Six women (they also admit that their n was tiny) were each given a Mooncup, a rubbery device usually used as an alternative to tampons or pads, a supply of an artificial semen simulant, a 10ml syringe, a spoon, and a surgical glove, and sent home to masturbate. Their instructions were to first use the syringe to squirt 5ml of fake semen into their vaginas, and then flip a coin. Half the time they would masturbate to orgasm, and the other half they would masturbate for roughly the same amount of time, but then stop before orgasm, as a control. The next step was to place the mooncup over their cervix, and after an hour, remove it and measure how much of the fake semen had flowed back out of the upper reaches of their reproductive tract, which they were then to measure with the syringe.

Sounds romantic, I know.

The hypothesis was that muscle contractions during orgasm would propel semen deeper into their bodies, and that as they later relaxed, it would flow back into the mooncup, so they could compare the amount squirted up into the uterus/fallopian tubes/etc. in orgasmic vs. non-orgasmic situations. The prediction was that if orgasm were effective at increasing semen flow into relevant parts of the reproductive tract, they’d see more retention of semen after an orgasm. The answer is…they did.

I have a few problems with the study. As already mentioned, it has a minuscule number of participants, but also, it is not at all a blind study. The subjects knew what the expected result should be! I would not accuse them of outright cheating, but it’s very human to see an experiment that is purportedly testing the potency of your orgasms as a judgment, and that maybe a little fudging in one direction or another is acceptable. I’m also wondering why the contribution of the women’s fluids to the outcome wasn’t taken into account; they specifically excluded situations where the women produced female ejaculation, but as the investigators must know, women will produce more vaginal fluids with orgasm than without, which would have contributed to the volumes they measured.

One of the biggest problems of interpretation, though, is that nothing in this study actually tests fertility and the odds of conception. I would take it for granted that triggering vigorous contractions in a muscular, fluid-filled tube is going to move those fluids all over the place, but the question is whether this contributes significantly to successful fertilization. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, nothing in these observations answers that question, or even whether this is a relatively significant factor compared to all the other variables in conception.

But that is the biggest problem of them all. If you’re trying to determine whether there is a selective advantage to a woman having an orgasm, why focus exclusively on the mechanical effectiveness of getting her pregnant? Humans are psychologically and sociologically complex, responsive to all kinds of subtle and not-so-subtle cues, and with a huge amount of individual variation. Looking at what is essentially the very last step in an elaborate courtship dance and declaring that that is the critical thing that evolution is looking at tends to kind of minimize an intricate behavioral complex that is also subject to evolutionary forces.

This reductive, narrow approach to a tiny aspect of a question is a common approach in some disciplines. Another subset tends to view programmed female responsiveness to male signals as the mechanistic goal of evolution. Evolutionary psychology, I’m looking at you.

King R, Dempsey M, Valentine KA (2016) Measuring sperm backflow following female orgasm: a new method. Socioaffect Neurosci Psychol. doi: 10.3402/snp.v6.31927

Why do women menstruate?

Menstruation is a peculiar phenomenon that women go through on a roughly monthly cycle, and it’s not immediately obvious from an evolutionary standpoint why they do it. It’s wasteful — they are throwing away a substantial amount of blood and tissue. It seems hazardous; ancestrally, in a world full of predators and disease, leaving a blood trail or filling a delicate orifice with dying tissue seems like a bad idea. And as many women can tell you, it’s uncomfortable, awkward, and sometimes debilitating. So why, evolution, why?

One assumption some people might make is that that is just the way mammalian reproduction works. This isn’t true! Most mammals do not menstruate — they do not cycle their uterine linings, but instead only build up a thickened endometrium if fertilization occurs, which looks much more efficient. Of the mammals, only most primates, a few bats, and elephant shrews are among the lucky animals that menstruate, and as you can see from the phylogeny, the scattered diversity of menstruating mammals implies that the trait was not present ancestrally — we primates acquired it relatively late.


Phylogeny showing the distribution of menstruation in placental mammals and the inferred states of ancestral lineages. Menstruating species/lineages are colored in pink, non- menstruating species/lineages in black. Species in which the character state is not known are not colored, and lineages of equivocal state are represented with black lines. Monodelphis represents the outgroup. Inference of ancestral states was performed in MacClade 4 by the parsimony method. Note that there is strong evidence for three independent originations of menstruation among placental mammals.

I suppose we could blame The Curse on The Fall, but then this phylogeny would suggest that Adam and Eve were part of a population of squirrel-like proto-primates living in the early Paleocene. That’s rather unbiblical, though, and what did the bats and elephant shrews do to deserve this?

There are many explanations floating around. One is that it’s a way to flush out nasty pathogens injected into the reproductive tract by ejaculating males — but that phenomenon is ubiquitous, so you have to wonder why only a few species bother. Another explanation is that it’s more efficient to get rid of the endometrium when not using it, than to maintain it indefinitely; but this is a false distinction, because other mammals don’t maintain the endometrium, they just build it up in response to fertilization. And finally, another reason is that humans have rather agressive embryos that implant deeply and intimately with the mother’s tissues, and menstruation “preconditions” the uterine lining to cope with the stress. There is, unfortunately, no evidence that menstruation provides any boost to the ‘toughness’ of the uterus at all.

A new paper by Emera, Romero, and Wagner suggests an interesting new idea. They turn the question around: menstruation isn’t the phenomenon to be explained, decidualization, the production of a thickened endometrial lining, is the key process.

All mammals prepare a specialized membrane for embryo implantation, the difference is that most mammals exhibit triggered decidualization, where the fertilized embryo itself instigates the thickening, while most primates have spontaneous decidualization (SD), which occurs even in the absence of a fertilized embryo. You can, for instance, induce menstruation in mice. By scratching the mouse endometrium, they will go through a pseudopregnancy and build up a thickened endometrial lining that will be shed when progesterone levels drop. So the reason mice don’t menstruate isn’t that they lack a mechanism for shedding the endometrial lining…it’s that they don’t build it up in the first place unless they’re actually going to use it.

So the question is, why do humans have spontaneous decidualization?

The answer that Emera suggests is entirely evolutionary, and involves maternal-fetal conflict. The mother and fetus have an adversarial relationship: mom’s best interest is to survive pregnancy to bear children again, and so her body tries to conserve resources for the long haul. The fetus, on the other hand, benefits from wresting as much from mom as it can, sometimes to the mother’s detriment. The fetus, for instance, manipulates the mother’s hormones to weaken the insulin response, so less sugar is taken up by mom’s cells, making more available for the fetus.

Within the mammals, there is variation in how deeply the fetus sinks its placental teeth into the uterus. Some species are epithelochorial; the connection is entirely superficial. Others are endotheliochorial, in which the placenta pierces the uterine epithelium. And others, the most invasive, are hemochorial, and actually breach maternal blood vessels. Humans are hemochorial. All of the mammalian species that menstruate are also hemochorial.

That’s a hint. Menstruation is a consequence of self-defense. Females build up that thickened uterine lining to protect and insulate themselves from the greedy embryo and its selfish placenta. In species with especially invasive embryos, it’s too late to wait for the moment of implantation — instead, they build up the wall pre-emptively, before and in case of fertilization. Then, if fertilization doesn’t occur, the universal process of responding to declining progesterone levels by sloughing off the lining occurs.

Bonus! Another process that goes on is that the lining of the uterus is also a sensor for fetal quality, detecting chromosomal abnormalities and allowing them to be spontaneously aborted early. There is some evidence for this: women vary in their degree of decidualization, and women with reduced decidualization have been found to become pregnant more often, but also exhibit pregnancy failure more often. So having a prepared uterus not only helps to fend off overly-aggressive fetuses, it allows mom a greater ability to be selective in which fetuses she carries to term.

The authors also have a proposed mechanism for how menstruation could have evolved, and it involves genetic assimilation. Genetic assimilation is a process which begins with an environmentally induced phenotype (in this case, decidualization in response to implantation), which is then strengthened by genetic mutations that stabilize the phenotype — phenotype first, followed by selection for the mutations that reinforce the phenotype. They make predictions from this hypothesis. In species that don’t undergo SD, embryo implantation triggers an elevation of cyclic AMP in the endometrium that causes growth of the lining. If genetic assimilation occurred, they predict that what happened in species with SD was the novel coupling of hormonal signaling to the extant activation process.

If either of these models were correct, we would expect an upregulation of cAMP- stimulating agents in response to pro- gesterone in menstruating species like humans, but not in non-menstruating species such as the mouse.

Results from experiments like those described above will elucidate the evolutionary pathway from induced to spontaneous decidualization, allowing us to answer long-unanswered questions about the evolutionary significance of menstruation. In addition, they will provide mechanistic insights that might be useful in the treatment of common reproductive disorders such as endometriosis, endometrial cancer, preeclampsia, and recurrent pregnancy loss. These disorders involve dysfunctional endometrial responses during the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Thus, clarifying mechanisms of the normal endometrial response to maternal hormones, i.e. SD, will facilitate identification of genes with abnormal function in women with these disorders. An analysis of how SD came about in evolution can aid in identifying these critical molecular mechanisms.

Evolution, genetic assimilation, a prediction from an evolutionary hypothesis, and significant biomedical applications … that all sounds powerful to me.

Emera D, Romero R, Wagner G (2011) The evolution of menstruation: A new model for genetic assimilation: Explaining molecular origins of maternal responses to fetal invasiveness. Bioessays 34(1):26-35.

(Also on FtB)

Catholic compassion

I guess the Catholic church is concerned about the rights of breast cancer tumors: they probably identify too much with a deadly metastatic disease, and don’t want to seem them hindered. At least, that’s the only way I can interpret the decision of the Toledo, Ohio diocese to ban all support for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Or maybe it’s just because breast cancer primarily affects women, so letting them die is of minimal consequence to them.

Their published reasoning is almost as ludicrous as that. Church officials say they won’t support Komen because 1) some of the money might go to Planned Parenthood, and we all know how much sanctioned church doctrine hates rational family planning, and 2) some of the money might someday support stem cell research. The Foundation doesn’t have any specific programs funneling money to stem cell research right now, but they might, someday, so let’s cut ’em off for something they don’t do!

I’m also rather peeved about another thing. The head of the Ohio Komen affiliate said, to persuade the church to reverse its declaration, that the local affiliate had not used any of its money to support Planned Parenthood. Screw that; maybe you haven’t, but you ought to be willing to do so if appropriate, and don’t throw an ally under the bus like that.

Something has stirred up the anti-circumcision brigade

It’s been a rough weekend. It was a rough night, with little sleep. This morning I had the double whammy of a doctor’s appointment and a dentist’s appointment. So I’m feeling a little cranky, and my teeth are all coated with this gummy gritty cherry-flavored fluoride goop. You don’t want to cross me today.

And then some idiot going by the name ‘eident9’ charges into a year-old thread and first demands an audience with me, and then demands an apology. WTF? This is a blog. Just post your comment and be done with it. And what bug has crawled up his butt suddenly? He says, “Recent matters have reminded me of this board.” Which had me wondering. What matters?

I’ve found out. It seems Russell Crowe had a twitter tantrum over circumcision. He’s against it. So am I. But apparently, I am not sufficiently angry about circumcision, and I belittled people who make it an obsession. I’m not going to apologize for that; I consider circumcision to be needless cosmetic surgery and a barbaric practice, and I’m not going to condone it, but neither am I going to go off the deep end like that guy and consider my life ruined by it. A majority of American males have been circumcised, and we’re a randy, raunchy, sexed-up lot who don’t seem to be suffering from an epidemic of sexual inadequacy. Well, maybe eident9 is, but one frustrated guy does not an epidemic make.

Now Salon has followed up with an article that suggests that circumcision may actually have some health benefits. I am not impressed. They cite a couple of incomplete epidemiological studies in African populations for HIV infection, and they come up with some astounding figures: a 50-60% reduction in infection rates. Wow, with that kind of advantage…sign me up.

However, these are deeply flawed studies. None of them were completed: they all abandoned the protocol and stopped the research as soon as preliminary results gave them positive values. This is like shooting craps and announcing that all your dice throws were practice…until you get a good roll, and then, yeah, that was the real deal. That one counts.

They all overstate their results. That 50-60% reduction was in relative rate, in comparison across the two groups. The actual calculated protection in absolute terms conferred by circumcision was a 2% reduction in the likelihood of infection. That doesn’t dazzle me, either, and given that the studies were terminated when they got their best results, I’m not persuaded.

And finally, give me a plausible mechanism for how circumcision would achieve these remarkable gains. Tell me how it is supposed to work. If it’s something to do with hygiene, it seems to me that better sex and health education should have the same or better effect than lopping off bits of skin.

So to my crackpot complainer, I say no apologies. I also say as I always have that I oppose circumcision, think it is a pointless and petty bit of suffering to put children through and ought to be discouraged, but I also don’t think it’s as hideously damaging as the obsessive nuts want to claim. Also, in the context of the original post, I consider it a prime example of selfish privilege to invade discussions of female genital mutilation, which does cause serious sexual and medical problems, with demands that we pay more attention to the lesser concerns of males getting lightly scarred penises.

Abortion needs to be taught in our medical schools

Read this horror story of a failed pregnancy.

I was taking an afternoon nap when the hemorrhaging started while my toddler napped in his room when I woke up to find blood gushing upward from my body. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I was experiencing a placental abruption, a complication my doctor had told me was a possibility. My husband was at work, so I had to do my best to take care of me and my toddler on my own. I managed to get to the phone and make arrangements for both of my children before going to a Chicago hospital.

Everyone knew the pregnancy wasn’t viable, that it couldn’t be viable given the amount of blood I was losing, but it still took hours for anyone at the hospital to do anything. The doctor on call didn’t do abortions. At all. Ever. In fact, no one on call that night did. Meanwhile, an ignorant batch of medical students had gathered to study me — one actually showed me the ultrasound of our dying child while asking me if it was a planned pregnancy. Several wanted to examine me while I lay there bleeding and in pain. No one gave me anything for the pain or even respected my request to close the door even though I was on the labor and delivery floor listening to other women have healthy babies as the baby I had been trying to save died in my womb.

Fortunately, a nurse called in a competent doctor to abort the fetus and stop the bleeding — or this woman would have been dead.

My two kids at home almost lost their mother because someone decided that my life was worth less than that of a fetus that was going to die anyway. My husband had told them exactly what my regular doctor said, and the ER doctor had already warned us what would have to happen. Yet none of this mattered when confronted by the idea that no one needs an abortion. You shouldn’t need to know the details of why a woman aborts to trust her to make the best decision for herself. I don’t regret my abortion, but I would also never use my situation to suggest that the only time another woman should have the procedure is when her life is at stake. After my family found out I’d had an abortion, I got a phone call from a cousin who felt the need to tell me I was wrong to have interfered with God’s plan. And in that moment I understood exactly what kind of people judge a woman’s reproductive choices.

The story also highlights the subversive strategy the right wing has followed: there is now a serious dearth of doctors trained to do abortions, so when a necessary abortion case shows up in an emergency, you’ve got a muddle of the self-righteous and the ignorant, all incompetent to do anything, milling about with their thumbs up their asses. She might as well have stumbled bleeding into a church and asked for help…which is exactly what the Coathanger Coalition wants them to do.

Imagine if someone showed up in an emergency room having a heart attack, and for religious reasons, no one had any training in using a defibrillator, and the only one available was in an underfunded clinic across town. That’s the direction we’re going, only we’re suppressing information and skills that would help just women’s lives. Which makes it OK, I guess. No men will die of a placental abruption, so it’s a low priority.

The power of faith

It’s amazing what religion can do. In this case, it motivated some dim old fart who ought to have been loafing about watching Glenn Beck and drowning his anger with a six-pack of Bud to go out and try to murder gynecologists. He didn’t actually succeed, fortunately: he was playing with his gun in his cheap room at the Motel 6 when it went off and sent a bullet flying into the room next door…so bad-ass that he is, he called up the front desk to mention that he was worried he might have hit someone else.

Then the police came and found out what he was really up to. He didn’t want to accidentally shoot someone, but he definitely intended to march into Planned Parenthood and murder as many people as he could.

Ralph Lang, 63, told a Madison police officer at the Motel 6, 1754 Thierer Road, that he had a gun “to lay out abortionists because they are killing babies,” according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court.

Lang said he planned on shooting the clinic’s doctor “right in the head,” according to the complaint. Asked if he planned to shoot just the doctor or nurses, too, Lang replied he wished he “could line them up all in a row, get a machine gun, and mow them all down,” the complaint said.

And he’s proudly confessing all this to the police! These religious excuses do attract the dumb ones, that’s for sure. And yes, he had a vague plan to go on a nationwide shooting spree, and he was driven by his religion.

Sgt. Bernie Gonzalez looked around Lang’s motel room and saw a box that contained several documents, including a map of the U.S. with dots in each state and the handwritten words “some abortion centers.”

Also written on the map was “Blessed Virgin Mary says Hell awaits any woman having an abortion.”

I think someone needs to lock up Ol’ Grandpa Gunman in a nice institution somewhere with a chapel and an absence of firearms and a multituded of locks on the doors, for the safety of society.

Support Planned Parenthood on Good Friday

We have a weekend of reason and lunacy coming up. On the reason side, atheists will be gathering in Iowa to discuss science and a sensible interpretation of the universe, taking advantage of a holiday none of us find particularly interesting. On the other side, that holiday celebrating the magical ‘death’ and imaginary resurrection of a weird Jewish mystic is regarded as also a good time to come out and oppress people. As is traditional, mobs of fanatics will turn out on Good Friday to surround local women’s clinics and harass and threaten the patients. Good Friday is not a good day to get a pap smear.

Planned Parenthood is well aware of this nasty tradition, and they are asking people of good will to come out and stand in solidarity with women looking for health care and reproductive freedom. There will be a rally at the Highland Park Clinic in St Paul tomorrow — they are asking people to register for two hour shifts. They are unfortunately marred by a couple of multifaith services, but stand with them anyway.

Your body isn’t yours, it belongs to the conservative Christians

Brace yourselves for a new onslaught of ridiculous Republican anti-woman bills. Alabama is working on bills to declare fetuses ‘persons’ by fiat — they’ll just legally redefine humanity to be a fertilized ovum and all derivatives thereof. They’ll probably get it passed, too.

I suppose if we could get enough dumbass legislators together to declare that vegetables are persons, we’d have to start treating carrots as if they were real people, like laborers and single mothers and college students and Mexicans and all those others the Republicans hold sacred. It won’t make them so, though, not that it makes much difference.

And just to show another tack they’re willing to take, Idaho wants to make all abortions illegal, no exemptions for rape or incest. It doesn’t matter how you got knocked up, lady, you’re having that baby…well, unless you’re the daughter of one of those Republican legislators, in which case you’ll get a ride in daddy’s SUV to that liberal hotbed of sin and perversion, Seattle, where you can get taken care of in a nice clean clinic with caring professionals.

The logic behind this decision is predictable.

“Is not the child of that rape or incest also a victim?” asked Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton. “It didn’t ask to be here. It was here under violent circumstances perhaps, but that was through no fault of its own.”[…]

The Idaho bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, told legislators that the “hand of the Almighty” was at work. “His ways are higher than our ways,” Crane said. “He has the ability to take difficult, tragic, horrific circumstances and then turn them into wonderful examples.”

God is so powerful, he also has the ability to take simple, manageable situations and turn them into tragic, horrific, oppressive circumstances in which the devil’s whores, i.e. all women, can suffer and feel guilt.

By the way, Brent Crane is no more of an authority on this god’s ways than I am, and what he’s really saying is that he can’t think of a rational justification for his evil law, so he’ll just take a shortcut straight to his god the psychopathic joker.

So pregnancy means a total surrender of autonomy?

This is how to handle a depressed person:

On December 23, 2010, Shuai, a 34-year-old pregnant woman who was suffering from a major depressive disorder, attempted to take her own life. Friends found her in time and persuaded her to get help. Six days later, Shuai underwent cesarean surgery and delivered a premature newborn girl who, tragically, died four days later.

On March 14, 2011, Shuai was arrested, jailed, and charged with murder and attempted feticide.

Don’t get pregnant, ladies! It means that every risk you might take becomes a criminal offense! I always thought it was a joke to criminalize suicide, too, but here’s a case where they’re actually prosecuting a woman for the crime.

Next up: every time you kick a man in the balls, you are a mass-murderer.