Nobody this ignorant should be making laws anywhere

I usually avoid commenting on the stupid things people say when crafting laws at the state level.  It seems like a cheap way of making snarky comments when someone in a state legislature says something dumb and everyone across the country gets to cover their mouths and titter.

But as God is my witness, I cannot help myself right now.  From Texas (via TPM):

One Texas GOP state representative is apparently confused about what “rape kits” are used for.

While the Texas House debated an anti-abortion omnibus bill for 15 hours Sunday night, Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D) called for an exemption for victims of rape and incest, the Associated Press reported. Rep. Jody Laubenberg (R) objected, saying “rape kits” make that exemption unneccessary:

“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out,” [Laubenberg] said, comparing the procedure to an abortion.

This woman should not be making laws.

If you are going to speak from a position of authority about a matter, particularly about a matter germane to a law you are trying to pass, the very least wee little bit you should do is learn what all the words and phrases mean in the sentences you are about to speak.  If, for example, you are going to talk about a “rape kit,” you should learn what that is.  Because it is your job, and your job is important.

As it happens, I know a lot about rape kits.  In my capacity as a resident physician in the emergency department of a major city hospital and later a fellow in adolescent medicine, I have used such kits when patients have come in after being victims of sexual assault.  The kits have an entirely forensic purpose, and there is nothing therapeutic about them.  One uses them to collect physical evidence of a crime, and one must exercise extreme sensitivity when doing so, as it involves attention to a woman’s most intimate body parts in the immediate aftermath of incredible trauma.

Nothing gets “cleaned out.”  Quite the contrary.  If a woman has bathed before the kit is employed (at least as far as I was taught), evidence is often lost and the kit’s value in building a case is compromised.

Rep. Laubenberg owes it to the people of Texas to know these things.  It is her job, just like an electrician should know how to wire your house in such a way as to provide power without burning it down.  If she does not know these things and is not only crafting laws in ignorance but misinforming her constituents to boot, she has no business keeping her job and should find something else to do where being flagrantly misinformed isn’t a hazard to the people she’s meant to serve.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Far be it for me to argue, doc, but in Alaska at least Rape Kits were also stocked, as a standard, with a “morning after pill” that was supposed to be used as an emergency abortion medication. I recall a very lively debate when then-Governor Palin wanted to suspend funding for the Rape Kits because they amounted to a tax payer funded abortion.

    • 1) Emergency contraception is often offered to rape victims, as is preventive treatment for HIV and other STIs. It does not actually comprise part of the actual kits, at least not any that I have ever seen, which are packaged and sealed for storage prior to use by law enforcement.

      2) “Cleaned out” implies a mechanical process as part of these imaginary kits, wholly separate from the well-known morning-after pill.

      • I suspect it’s not A Teacher who is confused about the mechanism of action of Plan B.

        Many opponents of emergency contraception premise their opposition on the belief that it works by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. (It doesn’t.) For people with a very, very strict pro-life viewpoint who believe that life begins at conception (which is not the medical definition of when pregnancy begins, which is at implantation), this is a kind of abortion, and denying that it causes abortion was a kind of hair-splitting.

        Now, it’s all moot because that’s not how emergency contraception works. (At least, it’s not for people who are inclined to believe scientists.) And most people don’t have such an incredibly doctrinaire perspective on when life begins. But for people who didn’t (or don’t) know (or believe) how the medication works and who do hold such a view, Plan B causes abortions and should thus be opposed.

        • BTW Russell – if you’re up for lunch in July sometime, let me know. I’ll be in the seacoast area of NH for most of the month!

          • That would be lovely! July is very busy for me, but if it would be workable it would be great to meet you.

            I assume corresponding via the e-mail address I see attached to your comments would be the best way to be in touch?

    • I would imagine it’s probably the same kit? But having never performed a forensic exam on a male patient following alleged sexual assault, I am speaking from a position of some ignorance.

  2. At least she didn’t think it was a kit for raping. The comedian in me thought for sure that is where this was going.

    “Rape kits?!?! Surely we’re not going to arm them with a tool box with which to carry out their dastardly plan!”

  3. This should make you more skeptical of lawmakers generally. For every lawmaker who believes things that strike you as stupid because of your expertise in medicine, there are many more who believe things about other fields that would strike you as stupid if you were an expert in the relevant field.

    • Word.
      The stupidity of lawmakers is limited mostly by the range of topics.

    • It’s not because Russell’s a doctor. You knew that was incredibly stupid and so did I. If she’d said they’re called Thinkpads because they don’t have keyboards, they come with a pad that reads your thoughts, it wouldn’t take someone in our line of work to know how dumb that is.

    • Quite probably true, Brandon. In which case, I would hope their stupidity would be decried by others with expertise in fields beyond my own. However, given that this lawmaker saw fit to speak with authority about something of which she is clearly ignorant and with which I am quite familiar, I used my own blog to criticize it. I will leave it to lawyers and engineers and botanists and physicists etc etc etc to use whatever platforms available to them to do likewise when other lawmakers speak on matters in their wheelhouses.

    • Brandon, I’m not sure why you’ve limited this insightful quote to lawmakers.

      Isn’t this is the human condition?

  4. “If you are going to speak from a position of authority about a matter, particularly about a matter germane to a law you are trying to pass, the very least wee little bit you should do is learn what all the words and phrases mean in the sentences you are about to speak. ”

    Truer words were never spoken, but when has that ever prevented a politician from doing so? We saw this most recently with the whole gun law stuff. Remember the politican who throught that magazines were consumed in the firing process?

    This just goes to reinforce my view that politicians are not the “best and brightest”, only the most power hungry.

    • I go a step further… most of the best and brightest are keenly aware that politics is a pisspoor way to put their talents to work in service of their passion.

      • Unless their passion is screwing over their fellow man.

    • Remember the politican who throught that magazines were consumed in the firing process?

      Well, if you use copies of Guns and Ammo as targets …

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