Living in Downtown Houston offers many bonuses, and the occasional irritant. The latter invariably involves locomotion. Whether the insistent baaaarp, baaaarp of a train approaching the level crossing near our loft, or the customary hold up as traffic snakes along a main arterial road into the 4th largest city in the States, waiting for a train nearly a hundred carriages long to trundle pass. On the bonus side are the surprising nuggets I continually learn about this place I call home.
Walking home from Discovery Green recently, a route I have taken many times in the last seven years, I came across one such gem. How I have missed it I don’t know. Rather than checking on the progress of the newly refurbished courthouse, which I have diligently done for last couple of years, I was eyeing the sidewalk and came across an engraved stone lying embedded amongst the paving slabs. I photographed the inscription and have been smiling since. It read:
“Any male person in the City of Houston who shall stare at, or make what is commonly called “goo-goo” eyes at, or in any other manner look at or make remarks at, or concerning, or cough, or whistle at, or do any other act to attract the attention of any woman, or female person, in an attempt to flirt would be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Goo-Goo Eyes Ordinance 1905”
What a sense of humour the City Councillors must have had to actually come up with such a name for a city ordinance. But underlying the fun in the wording is what might have been the start of government attempting to control our most personal thoughts.
Of course there have to be laws against harassment, violence against anybody, and a raft of other things that keep us safe, but goo-goo eyes? Maybe I am a simpleton but in the days when builders whistled when I walked past their construction site, admittedly rather a long time ago, I wasn’t offended. There is a level of lewdness that cannot be accepted, but a man appreciating an attractive girl from the top of scaffolding, really? Humour, perspective and boundaries go hand in hand.
I truly believe in a safety net for those unable to care for themselves. I think healthcare and education should be under the aegis of the federal government not carved up into little, and not so little bits, by the individual states. But I draw the line at those voted into office to being able, or trying, to control the electorate’s thoughts, words and in some instances, deeds. Particularly when there have been some shaming incidences of State government gone mad. The North Carolina public health practice of eugenics, sterilizing people against their will, springs to mind. A public health act started in 1929, ramped up after the World War II and only officially ended in 1977. That state was not alone in its barbarism, but it is the only one now attempting to compensate those surviving victims.
In Texas we have the ‘sonogram law’ back in force after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an earlier ruling. It requires doctors to describe in detail, including hearing the heartbeat and seeing the images, of the foetus of a woman contemplating abortion. This act of mental sabotage must take place 24 hours before the procedure.
Republican State Senator Dan Patrick called the judgement “a great day for women’s health and the protection of the unborn in Texas.” Governor Perry, the has-been presidential hopeful, called it “a victory for all who stand in defence of life…”
With cuts to education and hospitals closing I wonder what safety net these politicians will put into place to ensure the health and education of a child, maybe conceived through violence. Possibly conceived through ignorance, when abstinence is the only education offered.
Family planning centres rather than being encouraged to help women plan their fertility, to get regular checkups for reproductive health and regular mammograms, to guard against STDs are instead harried. Planned Parenthood, an organisation that does just that, is no longer deemed a worthy beneficiary of funding from the Susan G Komen for the Cure foundation. Despite protestations, surely a political decision.
I call the sonogram law a gross infringement on the rights of women, and the attempt by the Right of the nation, both public and political, to pillory organisations who attempt to help women, and whose abortion procedures are a small part of that help. Improved healthcare and education should be neither Right nor Left but universal.
If the ‘goo-goo eyes ordinance of 1905’ was the start of this slippery slope into the invasion of our thoughts and actions with regard our own bodies, then I don’t find it so amusing.
STOP PRESS – Komen Foundation just reversed their decision about funding for Planned Parenthood!