How Not to Respond to Constituents | Vol. 5 / No. 14.1

Wyoming: home to bison, mountains, and godawful politicians | Photo: CAJC: In the Rockies, CC BY-SA 2.0

I don’t make much of a secret of the fact that I’m from Wyoming, and I also don’t make much of a secret of the fact that I detest my federal level representatives with a hate that I normally reserve for internet trolls and people who don’t turn off their turn signal for five miles. It’s incredibly frustrating that something that should be good—both of my state Senators winding up on powerful committees and subcommittees—is actually one of the worst things that can happen to both my state and to the country. I dutifully write and call Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi and Representative Liz “She Doesn’t Even Go Here” Cheney, knowing full well that it has the basic effect of shouting into the Wyoming wind; it makes me hoarse and tired, and I’m the only one who is ever actually going to listen to what I say. But I keep doing it, if only to make them spend money on paper for their replies, and to prove that even though all of their seats are, unfortunately, perfectly safe despite their staggering incompetence and the presence of a rotten bologna sandwich where their consciences should be, at least one person in Wyoming can articulately call them jackasses.

Normally, the responses I get from them, while infuriating, are at least somewhat reasoned, and a few paragraphs long. They thank me for my opinion, explain what exactly caused them to stick their heads so far up their assess they can perform self-ventriloquism, and say something trite about how hard they are working for the people of Wyoming. So even though I’m not happy, I’m somewhat mollified that they at least have a somewhat-reasonable intern who can write a letter.

I just got a response back from Senator Enzi that not only didn’t mollify me, it sent me into a brand new stratosphere of anger.

But first, some backstory.

A friend tipped me off to the existence of a little “gem” of a Senate bill that would criminalize abortion after 20 weeks. It had already passed the House, because of course it had. The chances of it passing the Senate weren’t great (it was mostly intended as a power play to make Democratic Senators in reddish states admit that they supported abortion rights so that SuperPACS could call them devil worshippers later.) But it still had enough support I was worried, and I decided to write to my Senators like a good citizen. I’ve actually done quite a bit of research on this nonsense, because it keeps coming up in the local senate and house as well. Because my home state, the Equality State, actually really, really hates women. We’re funny like that. So I wrote the following:

 

I urge you to vote against S. 2311, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which amends the federal criminal code to make it a crime for any person to perform or attempt to perform an abortion if the probable post-fertilization age of the fetus is 20 weeks or more.

This bill is dangerous and ridiculous for a number of reasons.

First, the name of the bill is an obvious attempt to gain sympathy through the use of unscientific language. Medical literature reviews say that a fetus doesn’t develop the ability to process painful stimuli until about 29-30 weeks, or roughly the third trimester. Stating that a bill outlawing abortion after 20 weeks is an attempt to protect “pain-capable” children instead of “not-yet-viable fetuses” is a gross deception.

Second, this bill aims to criminalize something that is already a rare, and often very heartbreaking, event. Only about 1.2% of abortions are performed at or after 21 weeks. If you are having a third trimester abortion, it is likely because something is terribly, terribly wrong. Third trimester abortions are expensive, arduous procedures that are rarely undertaken. To criminalize them would be to make an already painful process even worse.

Third, and most obviously, this is a clear attempt to undermine Roe V. Wade, and an attempt to undermine women’s bodily autonomy in general. We must protect the rights and lives of women, and you must uphold your directive to protect and follow the laws of the land.

Please prove that you are a fair, logical, and reasonable individual, and ensure that this intrusion into personal autonomy goes no further.

 

I felt I had done pretty well—I brought up medical research, statistics, the whole shebang. I knew that I would probably get something mealy mouthed about protecting children. What I got was so, so much worse. So far Mike Enzi is the only one who has bothered to reply, which is probably for the best. There are only so many letters I can set on fire before my landlord gets twitchy. Enzi sent me the following:

 

Dear Elle,

I recently co-sponsored the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 2311) and hope this bill will move forward. I have maintained a consistent pro-life record throughout my political career and I firmly believe life demands our respect as a special gift from God and it should be treasured as such. The Senate is expected to vote to end debate and move forward to considering this legislation this week.

Thanks for contacting me.

Sincerely,
Michael B. Enzi
United States Senator

 

…… a couple things.

First, I have gotten longer breakup texts. Seriously? I am writing to you about plans to invalidate women’s bodily autonomy, and you write back with the equivalent of a two-post Twitter chain? If you’re going to have absolute disdain for women, please at least hide it better. This is embarrassing.

Second, you co-sponsored this shit? Really? That is what you are spending your time on? Our state economy is metaphorically on fire, our wildlife areas are often very literally on fire, and we have insanely high rates of suicide, teen pregnancy, meth use, and domestic violence, and this is what gets your attention to co-sponsor? So much for “live and let live,” huh Mikey?

Third, a twenty-week-old fetus cannot live outside of the womb. To call a fetus at this stage a “life” is to drastically misstate the case.

Fourth, we have this thing called separation of church and state. You’ve maybe heard of it. You’re more than welcome to have whatever faith fits you, but you aren’t allowed to use that faith to interfere with my own rights. I’m no constitutional scholar, but I’m pretty sure that my First Amendment rights should prevent you from using your faith to control my uterus.

Fifth, you believe that “life demands our respect?” Really? Really? Then why did you vote for that terrible tax bill that will hurt millions of citizens? Why did you vote against additional disaster relief for people hurt by the various hurricanes this fall? Why did you vote for (hell, why were you on the committee that created) the disastrous repeals of the ACA? Why did you approve of dozens of cabinet appointments for inherently unqualified individuals, something that will hurt Americans for generations? Why did you vote against additional gun control measures? Why did you vote to deprive sanctuary cities of federal grants? Why did you co-sponsor an approval of the Keystone Pipeline? I can only assume that this concern for life is a sudden development, because you sure as hell haven’t shown it up until now.

What frustrates me most is that my ire means jack to Enzi. The ire of many Wyomingites means nothing to Enzi, because there aren’t enough Democrats to form a majority, and there aren’t enough solid Democratic candidates with deep enough pockets to be a real challenge to most of our federal-level representatives. The best I can hope for most of the time is a slightly less bad Republican.

But in order to keep myself from dying of repressed rage, I’ll keep writing to them. Even if these are the terrible replies that I get.

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Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not writing letters to her representatives apparently just screaming into the void, she studies gender in popular culture.

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