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In a word, they're maddening

Rep. Scott Randolph was trying to make a point about abortion last week when he used the word "uterus" on the floor of the Florida House.

It's a pretty common word when talking about reproductive rights — one that probably wouldn't even make your average middle schooler giggle.

And yet it set off a firestorm in Tallahassee.

House Republicans sent word to Randolph, a Democrat from Orlando, that he should no longer say the word without first warning those who might be offended.

"Actually, they said I was no longer allowed to say any body parts," Randolph said.

Holy fallopian tubes, Batman.

We're living in a state run by lawmakers who have filed at least 10 bills to further regulate or restrict abortions — and then throw hissy fits over people who use the proper terms when debating them.

Here's a good rule of thumb: If you can't say a word, don't try to regulate it.

When I first heard this story, I wondered if perhaps House Speaker Dean Cannon genuinely didn't know what uterus meant.

Maybe he was that kid from second grade who always teared up and ran to hide in the bathroom when some other kid said: "Hey Dean! Your epidermis is showing!"

But, no, Cannon's office confirmed that the speaker did, in fact, understand the word.

Cannon, it seems, was concerned that anyone who might be offended by the word "uterus" wasn't given fair warning to clear the chamber before the offending word was uttered.

And that's where this story goes from simply silly to seriously maddening — because there are a lot of truly offensive things coming out of Tallahassee right now … but this word isn't one of them.

For those who don't know, uterus is another word for womb.

And if lawmakers want to further regulate what happens in that part of a woman's body, they had better be willing to talk about it … like adults.

Randolph used the word in trying to make a point about what he considered to be hypocrisy in the Republican Party alleged commitment to de-regulation.

"We constantly talk about not putting more regulations out there," Randolph told his peers. "Yet, when it comes to my wife's uterus, more regulations. When it comes to my friends' bedrooms, more regulations. When it comes to unions, more regulations. Don't practice an ideology of convenience! Look into your heart and practice what your preach!"

According to Cannon spokesman Katie Betta, Randolph's major crime was bringing up abortion when it wasn't the topic scheduled for discussion.

"The speaker was concerned about the remarks," Betta said, "because they were not related to a debate on abortion, and were made within the context of a debate on labor unions within earshot of young children."

To that, Randolph suggested that his Republican peers' worries about upsetting children was both newfound and selective: "I don't remember this party caring much about the kids whose parents were between jobs on the day they described the unemployed as lazy bums looking for a handout."

Personally, I'd rather these politicians spend less time fretting over terms that might offend children — and more time developing an agenda that's less offensive to humanity.

Because right now, we have politicians trying to slash school spending while defending tax loopholes to special interests.

We have proposals to cut spending on veterans, so that we can give new breaks to out-of-state corporations.

There are indeed obscene things happening in Tallahassee.

But the uttering of the word uterus isn't one of them.

Scott Maxwell is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. He can be reached at smaxwell@orlandosentinel.com or (407) 420-6141. © 2011 Orlando Sentinel

In a word, they're maddening 04/06/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 8:00pm]

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