Physicians Versus Fantasists
moiv printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 05:24:12 AM EST
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOn April 2, both House and Senate committees of the Texas Legislature will begin considering a number of bills affecting a woman's medical privacy, her control over her own bodily integrity and other aspects of reproductive rights. As always, the position taken by the medical community differs dramatically from that of organizations and politicians serving the Christian right. In fact, it's often hard to tell that they're even talking about the same legislation.

While the practice of medicine has undergone fundamental changes during the last 500 years, the religious doctrines inspiring and promoting anti-woman legislation currently pending in the Texas House and Senate have not.

Texas physicians who dwell in 21st century reality are coming forward to defend a woman's right to reproductive health care. But since many Texas lawmakers and their supporters on the religious right still seem to inhabit a world of fantasy, those doctors are going to need all the support they can muster.

The cognitive disconnect between politico-religious fantasy and the realities of women's lives is illustrated perfectly by the political exhortations of Andrew Smith, formerly travel coordinator for operations conducted by Fr. Frank Pavone's Priests for Life, and now Communications Director for the Catholic Pro-Life Committee of North Texas (CPLC). Smith's abject refusal to deal in reality may account for the CPLC blog's utter lack of comments; perhaps readers are simply left speechless.

(HB 21) Relating to Informed Consent to an Abortion - This bill would close the loophole in the current Women's Right to Know Act that allows abortionists to not give the women entering an abortion mill information that the State of Texas has deemed they should have.

The crux of the bill is that women who enter an abortion mill should be getting this booklet, which contains great information about abortion procedures, the risks of abortion, fetal development and other information. We know that when women have this kind of information (information that the other side fights tooth and nail to not give them) and can make a fully informed choice, the numbers show they decide to not have the abortion.

Since January 1, 2004, the approximately 230,000 women who have gained access to abortion care in Texas did so only after being provided with this information, either in its printed form or online. Far from fighting "tooth and nail" to keep women from seeing this publication, physicians in Texas make very sure that  a woman is provided with it at least 24 hours before an abortion procedure -- if only because a doctor is subject to criminal charges if he or she doesn't duly propagandize a patient as the law requires.

Abortionists have found loopholes around giving women this book by having them either listen to a pre-recorded message about it or encouraging them to not take it because it is "not well written" or "contains bad information."

Well, no. The decision that recorded information is perfectly sufficient wasn't made by physicians, who of course have no power over interpretation of a law whose sole aim is to criminalize them. That determination was made by the Texas Department of State Health Services, the enforcement agency which specifies precisely how a doctor must go about complying with its mandates. Additionally, the statute specifies that the physician "may comment or refrain from commenting." Since the information is medically inaccurate, the law otherwise would compel malpractice. That is why Corte told a San Antonio reporter at the time that his bill had gone "as far as we could without getting sued."

When was the last time you went to a doctor for a medical procedure and had to listen to a pre-recorded message about the procedure?

Good question. Unless the medical procedure in question was an abortion, no one in Texas ever has been subjected to state-mandated propaganda or waiting periods at all.

This bill would simply mandate that the book be physically handed to the women (sic) as she enters the abortion mill. Very simple and yet, pro-abortionists are bitterly opposed to it.

Corte's latest version of his own law doesn't "simply mandate" anything of the kind. HB 21 says that "consent to an abortion is voluntary and informed only if" a woman both speaks to a physician and takes physical possession of the state's "printed materials" (including mythical warnings about breast cancer) at least 24 hours before her abortion is performed.

When he drew up the current law in 2003, Frank Corte and his co-believers on the Christian right claimed to believe online access to his "informed consent" materials was a fine idea. In fact, that bill directed the state to create a website for that very purpose. Now they say that letting a woman read them online instead of obtaining printed booklets 24 hours beforehand is a "loophole." Why? Because anti-woman religionists always come back for more.

Aside from compelling a woman to accept propaganda even when she says that she doesn't want it, Corte's current bill would force her to wait even longer for an abortion procedure than she does now.

Even if a woman lives hundreds of miles from the nearest doctor who will provide her with abortion care -- and since 93% of Texas counties have no such doctor, many women do -- she would be forced either to make two round trips to a clinic or spend at least one night in the city where the clinic is located. In either case, she would lose an additional day's work, and have to arrange for an additional day of child care. For many women -- those who already risk losing their jobs because of pregnancy-related absences, who cannot afford extra expenses for hotels and child care, or who have no transportation and must rely on friends who cannot afford additional time away from their own jobs -- such a change in our already stringent law would mean that they couldn't manage access to abortion care at all. Which is, of course, the only reason the Catholic Pro-Life Committee thinks it's a good idea.

That can be said with complete assurance because Andrew Smith and the CPLC think it would be an even better idea if abortion was a crime.

(HB 175 / SB 186) The Trigger Ban - This is a great law and 4 other states have already done it. This would effectively ban all abortions in the state of Texas (with the exception of the imminent death of the mother) if the US Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade or otherwise decides that the states have the right to regulate abortion.

If passed, although it would not have an immediate effect, it would tell the world that Texas is a pro-life state and that we are opposed to the legal reasoning imposed on us by the Roe decision and that the people do not want it.

Right you are, Andrew: "the people do not want it" -- not unless you count women as people, since almost 80,000 women seek abortion care in Texas each year.  How many women would qualify for that merciful "exception of the imminent death of the mother" when they were wheeled into a hospital emergency room? Even if they should qualify, it would be far too little and, for some, far too late.

There is no mercy to be found on the Protestant side of the Christian right, either. Martin Luther dismissed the horrendous maternal death toll among the women of his own time with "If they become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that's why they are there." Rep. Warren Chisum seems to harbor the same sentiment about women dying from unsafe abortion, since he has teamed with Sen. Dan "Texas Baby Purchasing Act of 2007" Patrick in encouraging them to do so.

Texas physicians with a firmer grip on reality have submitted the following testimony to the legislature in opposition to the Chisum-Patrick "Trigger Ban" being considered by both the House and Senate.

From the beginning of recorded history, no society has existed in which abortion was not a part of women's reproductive lives. Although sound public health policy--including comprehensive sex education and access to affordable  family planning services--can and does reduce the incidence of abortion, it is not possible to abolish abortion by governmental edict. Such policy can only eliminate safe, professional abortion care, exposing women to the risks of illegal, and therefore unsafe, abortion.  

According to reports published by the World Health Organization's Department of Reproductive Health and Research, the Guttmacher Institute, The Lancet and other sources, illegal and unsafe abortions currently kill 68,000 women a year worldwide, and lead to the hospitalization of at least five million others for infection and other complications. In countries where abortion is illegal, about 19 million unsafe abortions take place each year, and one in eight of all pregnancy-related deaths result from unsafe induced abortion. In Latin America alone, at least 800,000 of the estimated four million women who have induced abortions each year require hospitalization for the treatment of abortion complications.

Many of us remember a time when unsafe abortion posed the same dangers to women in the United States.

From "The Epidemiologic Foundations of Abortion Practice," 2004, by Warren M. Hern, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.

Abortion mortality ratios have ... declined precipitously since 1967 to 1970, the years in which state abortion laws, beginning in Colorado, were liberalized. Prior to that time, deaths due to septic abortion, especially, were a serious health problem, especially for the poor and minorities. In 1967, the mortality rate (per 100,000 live births) due to septic abortion was 1.5 for whites and 10.2 for non-whites. In 1965 ... nearly 50% of all maternal mortality in New York City was due to complications arising from abortion during some periods, and this figure exceeded 60% for Puerto Ricans.

Harry Jonas, M.D., formerly dean of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and Assistant Vice President for Medical Education at the American Medical Association, has written of his own experiences as a physician faced with the aftermath of illegal abortion.

When I was a first-year intern at the Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, the first patient I had was a woman who'd had 11 children and had self-aborted herself, because she couldn't get a legal abortion, with some instrument of some kind. And I was in charge of her case, as a young intern, with her intestine coming out of her vagina because she'd perforated the vagina with the instrument. And she had massive infection, multiple abscesses in all the vital organs in the body and she died.

I still remember that patient. I remember exactly what she looked like. I remember the bed she was in on Ward 1418 in Barnes Hospital. I remember seeing her in the emergency room when she came in, and she told us that she was desperate ... and she could not raise another child. She could not feed another child. She had not been able to find any doctor that would help her. I'll never forget that.

Many [women] ended up with illegal abortions, and many of them died. And for 25 years prior to Roe v. Wade in my state of Missouri, the most common cause of death in women of childbearing age was death due to infected, illegal, self-induced abortion.

Mexico and other countries to our south are seeking to end their own toll of needless injury and death by moving to make safe and professional abortion care a reality, while our own country creeps back toward a lethal fantasy of abolition. In Latin America, as here, the only societal factions advocating the sacrifice of women's health and lives are those insisting that their own religious beliefs be institutionalized as law and governmental policy.

As a physician with my own indelible memories of the needless death and suffering of women in Texas, I recognize any proposal that we return the women of our own state to such a condition in the name of "defending life" as the barbaric and unconscionable horror that it is.

 

The doctors of conscience who signed their names to that letter speak with the voice of 21st century medical science and earth-based reality.

This was a medieval school of medicine.

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This is the Texas Capitol.

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It's time that some of the people who claim to represent us there learned the difference.

[Images from the Index of Medieval Medical Images at UCLA]

This story also is posted at Texas Kaos and Culture Kitchen




Display:
watching the House State Affairs Committee hearing. It lasted 12 hours. They wanted to get an early start on Theocracy Weekend.

by moiv on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 05:41:13 AM EST

Amarillo's Catholic bishop, John Yanta, invited Pavone to settle his road show in Amarillo. Pavone plans to build a rather elaborate edifice for his planned new religious order. He has received a lot of (justified) criticism for this.


by khughes1963 on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 07:15:09 AM EST


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