Michael Burgess: We Should Ban Abortion Because a Fetus Can Masturbate

Things got freaky on the Congress floor today when Representative Michael Burgess from Texas went on a curious tangent about "baby" masturbation to make a point about fetal pain. I know ... freaky was an understatement.


The congressman, who's also a former OB/GYN (believe it or not), was debating HR 1797, the federal bill that would make abortion illegal after 20 weeks. Apparently, having a medical background can give you license to make nonsensical remarks on fetuses. Behold, the first fetus masturbation reference you will ever encounter in your life (hopefully):

"Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful. They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?" Burgess said on the House floor.

Can someone please tell me how we began talking about women's right to abortion and got onto the topic of fetuses wanking off? Moreover, why is a former OB/GYN making statements that aren't actually backed by any science? The "fetal-pain" myth has been disproved by a legion of rigorous research performed by medical experts who have maintained that the fetus can feel no pain before 24 weeks of gestation. That makes the 15-week masturbation comment essentially irrelevant to the abortion debate (or any other debate for that matter).

So before we start wandering off into weirder realms of conversation than fetal self-satisfaction, let's get back to the real debate, which is may I remind you, women's autonomy over their own body.  Denying women their right to abortion after 20 weeks would need a better justification than "fetuses can sorta masturbate at 15 weeks."

For more Republican slip-ups, follow me on Twitter: @feministabulous

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Elizabeth Plank

Elizabeth is a Senior Correspondent at Mic and the host of Flip the Script.

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