Taking Liberties
moiv printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Apr 23, 2007 at 10:21:13 PM EST
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe deadline for filing new bills in the Texas Legislature passed some weeks ago, but State Senator Dan Patrick is so very special that he's been granted a very special suspension of the rules to file yet another of his very special anti-abortion bills. His Texas Baby Purchasing Act of 2007 drew more snickers than sponsors, and his co-effort with Rep. Warren Chisum to ban abortion entirely remains in committee, but the legislative session's not over yet. And the religious right never gives up.

Women in Texas already are denied abortion care until after a doctor warns them of nonexistent risks of breast cancer and mental illness, after which they must spend at least 24 hours pondering misinformation that no responsible physician would have given them, nor ever did, until forced by law to do so. Patrick's SB 920 adds yet another moralistic barrier by denying a woman abortion care unless she examines an ultrasound image of her pregnancy, whether she wants to see it or not.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPatrick (left), a Christian conservative talk show host and first-term senator who broadcasts his radio show from the Capitol, had his own vasectomy performed live and on the air. Had a compulsory ultrasound viewing been a part of that procedure, we would all be grateful that the fact-challenged Patrick is one publicity hound who didn't have a television gig.

Women who seek abortion care deserve to have much more medical privacy than that, along with a lot more respect for their constitutional rights.

Anti-choice lawmakers seem universally enamored of the strange notion that women seeking abortion care -- women who already have navigated numerous and intrusive hurdles placed in their path by the ilk of Dan Patrick -- are coerced into having abortions that they don't really want. However, in agreement with Justice Kennedy's morality manifesto, such politicians also believe that it is perfectly acceptable to coerce women into compliance with their own religiously motivated desires.

In Texas, groups representing the religious right, along with their money men, control most of the legislative agenda. Legislation restricting reproductive freedom for women is at the top of their "to do" list.

Patrick's SB 920 is a copycat version of a South Carolina measure that legislators were forced to modify when Attorney General Henry McMaster advised them that while doctors could be required to show women seeking an abortion an ultrasound image of their fetus, the bill likely would be unconstitutional if it forced an unwilling patient to view the image. McMaster wrote, "In my opinion, it would be illegal and improper for the state to force a person seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound image against her will." In Georgia, another last-minute mandatory ultrasound bill to "(p)rotect unborn children from a woman's uninformed decision to have an abortion" stops short of legally compelling a woman into compliance.

But anti-choice politicians in Texas are trail-blazers. Anticipating last week's Supreme Court ruling by two years, the Texas Legislature abolished exceptions for a woman's health in 2005 with the bill famously signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry at a Fort Worth church.

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Appended to Senate Bill 419 was Rep. Will Hartnett's firm conviction that despite the imminent failure of any other vital organs she might possess, a woman can live without "anything but a brain." Both houses of the legislature voted with Hartnett that "impairment to a woman's health" is no justification for late abortion when "we could be killing off Einstein" just because "a woman might have some organ damage."

(a)  A physician or an applicant for a license to practice medicine commits a prohibited practice if that person:
[:::]
(18) performs an abortion on a woman who is pregnant with a viable unborn child during the third trimester of the pregnancy unless:
            (A)  the abortion is necessary to prevent the death of the woman;  
            (B)  the viable unborn child has a severe, irreversible brain impairment; or
            (C)  the woman is diagnosed with a significant likelihood of suffering imminent severe, irreversible brain damage or imminent severe, irreversible paralysis.

In the wake of last week's ruling by the Supreme Court, many legal scholars "were startled by the implicit suggestion that women need to be protected from abortion."

Columbia University law Professor Gillian Metzger said this paternalism collided with previous rulings acknowledging women's right to choose for themselves the course of their pregnancies.

Jack M. Balkin, a Yale Law School professor, had a similar reaction to Kennedy's embrace of the Justice Foundation's argument.

"The new rhetoric of pro-life forces is no longer just rhetoric. It's now part of Supreme Court doctrine," the professor wrote on his blog Balkinization. "That is the big news about Gonzales v. Carhart."

Perhaps the most noteworthy reaction came from Kennedy's colleague, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who wrote a stern dissent complete with a footnote that filled an entire page.

The footnote lists eight studies that claim to debunk the assertions that abortions often wound women emotionally.

But never mind. Religious right activists across the country have recognized this decision as a green light for further repression. South Dakota activist Leslee Unruh, architect of her state's 2006 abortion ban, says, "We're brainstorming, and we're having fun."

The Texas Legislature's anti-abortion forces -- medical experts such as Warren Chisum, Frank Corte, Geanie Morrison, Florence Shapiro and Dan Patrick -- think they know best, too.  What they don't know is anything at all about the provision of abortion care. Perhaps they will allow someone who does know about it to enlighten them.

Obstetrical sonography is a diagnostic procedure performed for indicated medical reasons, not as a tool for emotional manipulation. A woman is free to decide that she would like to observe the screen during the ultrasound examination itself, or she may decide to accept our offer to review the image with her later, during a private counseling session. Despite anti-choice delusions, we encourage women to do so, because most women feel relieved to know that a seven-week pregnancy actually looks like this ...

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... instead of this.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

If a woman decides that she would like to have a copy of the image to take home, we are more than glad to provide one for her.

But Patrick's very special late-entry bill takes all that arduous decision making off a woman's shoulders, so that she won't have to worry her pretty little head about it anymore.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

SECTION 1.  Section 171.012(a), Health and Safety Code, is amended to read as follows:
        (a)  Except in the case of a medical emergency, consent to an abortion is voluntary and informed only if:
[:::]
(3)  the physician who is to perform the abortion or the physician's agent performs an obstetric ultrasound on the woman on whom the abortion is to be performed, provides the woman with an obstetric ultrasound image of the unborn child, and reviews the image of the unborn child with the woman;

(4)  the woman certifies in writing before the abortion is performed that:
              (B)  she has been provided with and reviewed the image described by Subdivision (3); and
              (5) [(4)]  before the abortion is performed, the physician who is to perform the abortion receives a copy of the written certification required ...

And oh yes, as is usual with anti-choice TRAP laws, the physician is guilty of a criminal offense if he or she doesn't coerce a woman on Dan Patrick's behalf.

SECTION 2.  The change in law made by this Act to Section 172.012(a), Health and Safety Code, applies only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of this Act. For purposes of this section, an offense is committed before the effective date of this Act if any element of the offense occurs before this date. An offense committed before the effective date of this Act is covered by the law in effect when the offense was committed, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose.

NARAL Pro-Choice Texas properly says, "Patients are not forced to view x-rays, cat scans, or video of surgeries against their will - they may if they choose, but do not have to if they are not comfortable doing so.  Singling out abortion in this way is purely political.  This bill does nothing to protect the health of women in Texas; it presents an unconscionable intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship."

Most women are receptive to viewing ultrasound images, but it is understandable that others -- women pregnant as a result of sexual assaults, or those ending wanted pregnancies after being diagnosed with severe fetal anomalies -- might prefer not to see them. Dan Patrick and his allies on the Christian right shouldn't be empowered to force women to comply with his desires before they are allowed to have an abortion, and they shouldn't be empowered to force doctors, and patient advocates like me, to do their strong-arming for them.

Little has changed, and nothing has improved, since Ampersand wrote these words on the "Partial Birth Abortion" Ban in October 2003.

Pro-lifers will never escape their reputation as woman-hating fanatics as long as they'd rather see a woman crippled and infertile than permit her to get the medical help she needs for health reasons. And that's as it should be -- opposing the health exemption for women who need it, on the grounds of speculative abuses, is barbaric.

Abuses by the religious right are fast making barbarism toward women the law of the land. And if you are a woman, your body is their battleground.

[Title image: Cyborg Democracy Protest photo: Lifesite]




Display:
in the Senate since his arrival, but when the religious right is on your side, the Texas Lege tends to let you have your way.

by moiv on Mon Apr 23, 2007 at 11:07:49 PM EST

...look to Patrick in that photo. What is his background, anyway? And how likely is it that this abomination, compared with his previous effort now in committee, will pass?

by Meteor Blades on Tue Apr 24, 2007 at 02:22:51 AM EST
...show as a result of some Elmer Gantry past?

by Meteor Blades on Tue Apr 24, 2007 at 02:37:28 AM EST
Parent
when his then-small station was the first to air Rush Limbaugh in Houston. Perfect, no?

Here's the official story.

by moiv on Tue Apr 24, 2007 at 03:00:45 AM EST
Parent



Rep. Fred Hill, who tossed Patrick from a legislative committee meeting three years ago, calls him "morally schizophrenic."

Aside from his animosity toward women, he especially resents immigrants.

Patrick saves his most hard-edged oratory for illegal immigrants. He blames them for a rising crime rate, overcrowded schools, an overburdened health-care system, and runaway growth in the state budget. "The number one problem we are facing," he tells audiences, "is the silent invasion of the border. We are being overrun. It is imperiling our safety."

"The crime rate is soaring," he says, "and most of it can be tracked to illegal immigration. There are terrorists and drug runners coming into Texas and the sheriffs in 15 border counties are being asked to stop them with only a .45 on their hip and a shotgun in the trunk. They'll tell you it's the federal government's responsibility," he adds, "but the cavalry is not coming. It's up to us to protect our borders."

Illegal immigrants, moreover, are walking pathogens. "They are bringing Third World diseases with them," Patrick asserts, citing "tuberculosis, malaria, polio and leprosy."

He doesn't like Muslims much, either. A couple of weeks ago, Patrick walked off the senate floor in protest when an imam was invited to give the invocation.

"We are a nation that is so tolerant of others that we bend over backward to allow others to pray as they wish. ... We are a nation that allows a Muslim to come in with a Quran, but we are a nation that doesn't allow a Christian to take a Bible to school."

Just your basic hater. So yeah, he and Haggard have at least that much in common.

by moiv on Tue Apr 24, 2007 at 02:51:21 AM EST
Parent


I have no earthly idea. We'll have a better idea after the committee hearing tomorrow.

by moiv on Tue Apr 24, 2007 at 03:07:49 AM EST
Parent


He wrote "The Second Most Important Book You Will Ever Read," which urges everybody to read the Bible.

by nogodsnomasters on Tue Apr 24, 2007 at 08:56:10 AM EST


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