There are so many things that worry me about the current war against women waged by religious fanatics that I don’t know where to start. Some reasons are philosophical, political, and scientific. Others are quite personal. I am a woman and a mother of two daughters. I’ve had one very dicey pregnancy that had a good outcome. It could’ve turned out differently, however. I am also the mother of an ob/gyn living in a state that wants to make shooting abortion doctors justifiable homicide. I’m certain my daughter’s practice will never be based solely on provision of abortions, but I’d like to think she could provide the service when needed without any state interfering with patient/doctor privilege or her medical opinions.
The legislation, LB 232, was introduced by state Sen. Mark Christensen, a devout Christian and die-hard abortion foe who is opposed to the procedure even in the case of rape. Unlike its South Dakota counterpart, which would have allowed only a pregnant woman, her husband, her parents, or her children to commit “justifiable homicide” in defense of her fetus, the Nebraska bill would apply to any third party.
“In short, this bill authorizes and protects vigilantes, and that’s something that’s unprecedented in our society,” Melissa Grant of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland told the Nebraska legislature’s judiciary committee on Wednesday. Specifically, she warned, it could be used to target Planned Parenthood’s patients and personnel. Also testifying in opposition to the bill was David Baker, the deputy chief executive officer of the Omaha police department, who said, “We share the same fears…that this could be used to incite violence against abortion providers.”
Baker’s concern is well-grounded: Abortion providers are frequent targets of violent attacks. Eight doctors have been murdered by anti-abortion extremists since 1993, and another 17 have been victims of murder attempts.
When my second pregnancy looked to be a very difficult one, I got a nice Jewish neonate–who is now working with my daughter–and delivered in a Methodist Hospital. I freaked when I thought I was going to have to deliver at a Catholic Hospital and sent my husband off to Mutual of Omaha to get the insurance to give us an alternative. Like I said, everything went well in the end but there were lots of complications and issues.
You have to have a doctor you can trust to tell you exactly what they know these days. Michelle Goldberg–writing for The Daily Beast– provides some really incredible stories of women whose doctors withheld vital information from them to ensure they’d give birth. Many of these women eventually sue for wrongful birth. These stories are like reading one pregnant woman’s nightmare after another. You’d like to think the doctor would be on the side of the woman giving birth but evidently you cannot depend on it in these days of religious fanaticism and laws that basically reward medical malpractice.
Cases in which doctors deliberately deceive their patients to stop them from getting abortions aren’t common, but they do happen. Abbott Brown, a lawyer who has been trying wrongful-birth cases for 34 years, says he had one case in which an anti-abortion family doctor overseeing a woman’s pregnancy never performed an ultrasound; the child was born without arms. Speaking to The Washington Post in 2009 after the murder of George Tiller, a doctor who performed late-term abortions, his colleague LeRoy Carhart described a case in which a woman learned, very late in her pregnancy, that her fetus had no brain. “Her doctor knew the problem all along but just never told her,” he said.
Kansas’s bill would mean that such a doctor would have the right to keep such crucial, devastating information to himself. “It’s explicitly about preventing women from getting the information that they need to make their own personal and private decisions,” says Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “Does this incentivize people to act in a particular way? For the vast majority of physicians, the answer is going to be no. The question is, what about those few cases where it does?”
The concerted effort to remove the ability to make health decisions from women and place them with the state–in many cases giving the doctor the ability to lie or withhold information–comes from the party that supposedly supports small government. Kansas and Arizona–two hellhole states–have decided that the doctor should be held free from liability for doing this and are legislating away the right to sue doctors for ‘wrongful birth’.
In some states, though, anti-abortion activists are pushing legislation to protect doctors who don’t give women all available information about their pregnancies. Arizona and Kansas are considering bills that would ban lawsuits in cases where doctors fail to warn their patients about birth defects. The Arizona law, which is similar to legislation that exists in a handful of other states, would apply only when doctors make a mistake. But the Kansas provision, part of a sweeping, 69-page anti-abortion bill, would allow physicians to lie to women who might otherwise terminate their pregnancies. It is similar to a law in Oklahoma passed two years ago—in concert, ironically, with mandatory ultrasound legislation
We’ll likely see more such laws in the future, spurred in part by widespread conservative outrage over a recent so-called wrongful-birth case in Oregon. Indeed, to understand the reasoning behind the push to disavow a woman’s right to know about her pregnancy in certain circumstances, you have to understand the tricky, ethically ambiguous legal concept of wrongful birth. A type of legal claim, it allows parents to sue when they aren’t given information about a pregnancy that would have caused them to abort. In the Oregon case, Ariel and Deborah Levy sued after a botched chorionic villus sampling test failed to reveal that their daughter had Down syndrome, something they learned only after she was born. On Friday, a jury awarded them $2.9 million.
As some one who has gone through a life threatening pregnancy followed directly by life threatening cancer, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to know that your doctor is not on your side and is deliberately feeding you lies. Just about the time I think these legislators have sunk to some new low, these scum suckers find a newer one. Warn every one you know with a functional uterus about these developments and tell them to interview their doctors carefully. That’s about all I can say at this point.