Saturday, March 17, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #48 - Part 3

Outrage of the Week: The continuing attack on choice and birth control.

We have seen another week of attacks on women, on women's ability to make choices, on women's autonomy. Attacks, more specifically here, not only on the choice to terminate a pregnancy but on the choice of pregnancy - attacks, that is, on birth control.

This last year, 2011, was a big year for the "keep 'em barefoot and pregnant" crowd. State legislators introduced over 1,000 anti-abortion laws, of which 135 passed. Seven states either defunded or made moves toward defunding Planned Parenthood and GOPpers used Planned Parenthood as a bargaining chip during budget negotiations. They also introduced mandatory ultrasound bills, tried to narrow the definition of rape to include only "forcible rape," whatever the hell that's supposed to mean, and barred the District of Columbia from using its own locally-raised funds to help low-income women pay for abortions.

More recently came the failed attempt to overturn the new mandate for full coverage of contraception under health insurance by way of amendment which would have allowed employers to deny any employee any kind of health coverage for vague "moral reasons." Despite the breathtaking reach of that language, no one on either side denied that the real target was birth control.

But this is the Outrage of the Week, so here are a few recent examples: On March 8, International Women's Day no less, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on bill that would make it illegal for anyone other than a parent to accompany a young woman across a state line to get an abortion - even if her parents are abusive, even if they are absent.

In Kansas, there is a bill making its way through the legislature that would bar women who obtained abortions from deducting the costs on their taxes as a medical expense and - get this - would levy a sales tax on the procedure. There is no exemption even for rape victims.

The sponsor of the bill is one Lance Kinzer. He did not return call for comment from the media. A staffer said he rarely speaks to the press; if this is kind of crap he normally produces I can see why.

But this is what really got me. I admit didn't know about this, I only learned it though reading the articles about the latest developments and I was truly shocked to discover that what I'm about to tell you is already true in nine states.

Last week the Arizona state Senate passed a bill that will prohibit medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors who withhold information from a woman if they think that information could cause her to have an abortion.

I'll say it again: Under this bill, a doctor could knowingly and willfully withhold information from a pregnant patient if that doctor thinks that information might move her to have an abortion - could knowingly and willfully withhold relevant medical information from a patient and be completely free from any possibility of a malpractice suit.

What's more, if as the result of that withholding of information a child is born with a disability, the doctor couldn't be sued on that basis, either. Put more bluntly, to keep you from seeking an abortion, doctors can lie through their teeth to you - and get away with it.

The Arizona legislator who sponsored the bill said it was because claimants shouldn't be able to blame a doctor for a baby born with disabilities. But best way to prevent that is not to hide information but to reveal it, to tell the women that child will be born with these sort of disabilities, so that she - hopefully together with her significant other is there is one - so she can decide whether or not to proceed with the pregnancy. So when the child is born with disabilities, she knew it going in and was prepared for it. This bill is not about sparing doctors frivolous suits. That's crap. It's a lie.

Shockingly, nine states - Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota, and North Carolina - already have such laws on the books. It is also a provision of the Kansas law just mentioned. The Pennsylvania law was upheld by a federal appeals court!

I can't get my head around the idea that it can be lawful, it can be proper, it can be legitimate, it can be decent, to empower doctors to actively lie to patients not to protect the patient but to enable doctors to force their sense of "morality" on their patients no matter what the patient might desire or believe.

So I know some of this not new, but it is still an outrage - this or any other week.


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