Virtual reality allows WWII fighter pilot to travel the globe from his chair

Uninformed advocacy is hurting U.S.

York Dispatch editorial board

A pair of Pennsylvania House Republicans are proposing a law that would restrict classroom instruction of gender identity and sexuality instruction. As experts on neither gender identity nor sexuality, they embody one of the biggest problems with present-day legislating: the lack of informed lawmaking.

It’s not that the lawmakers, Lancaster County Sens. Ryan Aument and Scott Martin, aren’t educated. Quite the opposite: the former has a college degree in education, the latter in sociology/criminal justice. But their areas of expertise run far afield of the specialties their bill would presume to legislate.

Nowhere is this disconnect more glaring than at the national level, where lawmakers in the House and Senate, overwhelmingly male and with nary a gynecological degree among them, are proposing a slew of restrictions on reproductive health rights.

Abortion-rights activist Jamie McIntyre reacts to the 6-3 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization which overturns the landmark abortion Roe v. Wade case in front of the Supreme Court on June 24, 2022, in Washington, DC. The court eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images/TNS)

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Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan made this very point on the House floor last week — forcefully — while defending her Solid Start Act, a bill that would help veterans transition back into civilian life.

Although the bipartisan measure swept through the Senate by unanimous consent, a group of House Republicans withdrew their support because it included a provision ensuring the Veterans Administration would provide women veterans with “information that is tailored to their specific health care and benefit needs.”

Slotkin called out the bill’s opponents for seeking to make decisions about the lives and medical rights of women when “not one of you is a medical doctor.” (The critics backed down and the bill passed.)

Reproductive rights are hardly the only political battlefield on which lawmakers presume to know better than the experts. We’re just emerging from two years of elected officials — absent any medical or virological expertise — loudly protesting educated medical advice on how to minimize the effects of the coronavirus pandemic or, worse, offering cockamamie alternative treatments of their own.

Nor does it end there. The nation’s failure to address the potentially existential threat of an increasingly warming global climate lies largely at the feet of lawmakers who, lacking any climatological training — or, evidently, understanding — refuse to acknowledge, let alone respond to, the crisis. Their preference for grandstanding, rather than understanding, is illustrated by silly displays like throwing a snowball on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

From non-educators attempting to dictate classroom instruction to non-readers attempting to limit the materials available in public libraries, America is awash in inexpert interference.

Does this mean lawmakers or members of the public must limit their advocacy to only those topics in which they’re formally trained? Of course not. But advocating or legislating on an issue should be preceded by a good-faith effort to investigate all side of that issue.

Have the lawmakers now promising to pursue a national ban on abortion examined the implications of preventing treatment of pregnant women who are actively miscarrying or carrying a fetus with genetic abnormalities that will not survive until, or long after, birth?

Have the activists behind the tidal wave of book-banning initiatives read the works they oppose?

Educated discussions would be far more beneficial, in individual cases and to society at large, than the high-volume proclamations that attempt to compensate with passion what they lack in comprehension.

Unfortunately, the motivation for efforts such as opposing public-health directives, or proscribing classroom instruction, or dictating women’s reproductive choices is too often solely political. This makes for harmful, uninformed and even dangerous public policy.

Those deigning to dictate a course of action on divisive issues ought to have a responsibility to first educate themselves.

Book-banners should read “The Bluest Eye.” Lawmakers should pursue a deep understanding of gender identity. Climate-change skeptics should familiarize themselves with scientific, rather than political, treatises.

Debating issues armed not just with opinions but with educated opinions could elevate discourse, promote understanding and very likely lead to more all-encompassing and equitable legislation that recognizes the rights of marginalized segments of society.