Apparently, Sen. Bob Onder, a Republican politician in Missouri and an allergy doctor, can't stand when women are able to freely make reproductive choices. Earlier this week, he opposed a tax hike benefitting the St. Louis Zoo in part because the city proposed a common-sense bill to ban employers and landlords from discriminating against women who have had an abortion, use contraception, or are pregnant, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Onder was additionally fired up from the fact that a bill promoting the rights of misleading, anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers in St. Louis was filibustered by Democrats the night before. This resulted in a bizarre speech on the legislative floor against the tax bill, which attempted to draw parallels between the zoo and abortion clinics—and made it clear that he thinks women's health is literally a joke.
Onder suggested, falsely, that the St. Louis Zoo and McDonalds were subject to more regulation than abortion clinics. "Maybe we should send the people that want an abortion to the St. Louis Zoo, because we know it'll be safer," his colleague Sen. Wayne Wallingford replied.
"You know, it's funny that you say that, Senator. That's another line of questioning I wanted to point out," Onder said. He then went on to suggest that the procedure for euthanizing zoo animals is comparable to a woman terminating her pregnancy.
Missouri requires women to wait three days after meeting with their doctor before they can go through with an abortion. This restriction is burdensome and costly, especially for poor women. Onder, however, pointed out that it should be much higher, since zoos have a five-day period for euthanizing animals.
"I believe there's some sort of requirement to notify in case some other zoo wants to adopt that animal," he added with a laugh. "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.
In an amendment to the tax bill, which Onder maintains he drafted as a joke, he also said that the zoo should be required to change its name to "Midwest Abortion Sanctuary City Zoological Park."
Onder's cruel joke might be apt: The restrictions on abortion in Missouri are so onerous that St. Louis is home to the last abortion clinic left in the state.
Yesterday, Onder went on a local Fox News talk radio show to defend his comments against the backlash he quickly received. "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."
Perhaps no one is laughing because Republican legislators in the state of Missouri like Onder have waged a war to stamp out abortion access in the state and shut down the last Planned Parenthood that offers abortion care. Currently, a federal court is in the process of ruling to overturn the major restrictions—including TRAP laws that put impossible requirements on clinics and have been ruled unconstitutional in Texas—that have prevented more clinics from providing abortions.
"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 to the Huffington Post. "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."