Tom Coburn's Viagra Switcheroo

| Wed Mar. 24, 2010 1:50 PM EDT

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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