Missouri State Representative Kevin Engler doesn't think women are dumb.
After all, says Engler, the Republican representative for Perry, Ste. Genevieve and St. Francois counties, the women in his district aren't so dumb that they can't access food stamps, Medicaid, and other government benefits.
So they should also be able to get a photo ID, he says.
The issue came to a head during a House debate on a bill and a constitutional amendment that would require voters to present photo IDs. Rep. Stacey Newman, a Democrat from St. Louis, argued the bill would put a significant burden on women.
And that ticked Engler off.
"For these districts in urban and in St. Louis city, their women are too dumb," Engler said during the February 26 testimony on the voter ID bill. "They can't get IDs. They are smart enough to decide whether or not to have an abortion, and we want them to have that decision. But they're not smart enough to get an ID. How callous is that?"
There's a reason Engler is tying photo IDs to abortion rights in his rant. The intelligence of Missouri's women has come up in hearings about two recent bills: one that allows medical staff to opt out of a medical procedure because of "conscience rights", and one that requires a 74-hour waiting period before a woman can obtain an abortion.
"This is the body trying to put themselves in our gynecology offices, telling our doctors exactly what they can and can't do," Newman said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "This is one more vagina-specific bill in an election year."
Democrats have also come out against extending Missouri's waiting limit for abortions to 72 hours from 24 hours. Opponents say the delay only increases the risk of problems during the abortion and dismisses a woman's autonomous ability to make her own decisions.
So after all the debate about how Missouri women are intelligent and capable enough to make health decisions without required waiting periods or depending on the conscience of their medical team, Engler says, it is "callous" to say women aren't intelligent and capable enough to get photo IDs for elections.
"One week, you say, 'My people are very bright,' and the next week, 'Nope, they're not smart enough to get photo IDs,'" Engler says. "To say women are not capable of that is a disservice to them."
Engler wants to require ID at the polls to strengthen the integrity of the voting process, which special caveats for the elderly or those who can't afford an ID. The bill is controversial, with critics pointing to Jim Crow laws, literacy tests and other methods to prevent blacks from voting in the South.
Engler rejects the idea that photo ID rules are racist or prejudiced, so he says he gets fed up when other politicians call his opinion derogatory.