Tom Coburn’s Viagra Switcheroo

Tom Coburn/<a href="http://crapo.senate.gov/images/coburn_c_200dpi.jpg">Courtesy US Senate</a>

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Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (or, as his website refers to him, Tom Coburn, M.D.) hates it when his colleagues stuff bills with pork-flavored amendments. But he’s not above doing the same when the matter is one of principles, rather than profits. And oh, what principles.

Coburn announced yesterday that he’s sponsoring nine amendments to the Democratic health care reform bill that’s now back in the Senate for reconciliation. His suggested contributions to this historic legislation include the Congress Should Not Lecture Americans About Fiscal Responsibility amendment and the If You Like the Health Plan You Have, You Can Keep It amendment. And if his website’s listing of the amendments is any indication, none is more important to him than Amendment No. 3556, the No Erectile Dysfunction Drugs to Sex Offenders provision. Good lord, one wonders. Why would anyone oppose a law that prevents molesters from getting Viagra?

That’s exactly what Coburn wants people to think…on first glance. On his website, Coburn says: “This amendment also prohibits coverage of Viagra and other ED medications to convicted child molesters, rapists, and sex offenders, and prohibits coverage of abortion drugs.”

Wait—what? Abortion drugs? Yep, that’s in the the provision’s actual language. Don’t remember hearing that in the name No Erectile Dysfunction Drugs to Sex Offenders. But sure enough, it appears Coburn is using the bogus issue of Viagra to rapists as a Trojan horse subterfuge to ban coverage of RU486 and possibly morning-after pills.

If you follow the link on Coburn’s page to “additional background” on the amendment, you’ll learn that the Viagra-for-rapists issue is a non-issue, and has been since 2005, when federal Medicare and Medicaid administrators told the states to put the kibosh on covering ED drugs for sex convicts. But that’s not the real issue here. In his backgrounder, Coburn tackles abortion more directly, exposing it as the real matter of concern in his amendment. “There is no prohibition on abortion coverage in federally subsidized plans participating in the new health care exchange,” he asserts, adding that the “abortion pill” costs more than an average American’s routine visit to a general practitioner. “When many Americans are struggling to afford basic doctor for medically necessary care, taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize abortion pills provided by health care exchanges.”

The only question now is: Will pro-choice senators have the cojones to vote against the measure, knowing fully well that conservative challengers in future elections will accuse them of “being soft” on sex offenders’ hard-ons?

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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