Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Virginia Government Violates Doctor-Patient Relationship

There are laws that regulate the doctor-patient relationship that are helpful, like the legal requirement to report possible child abuse, but proposed Virginia law HB462 interferes with a doctor's ability to make the best medical decision for patients.  In addition, this law affects women only -- no man will ever undergo an ultrasound to determine pregnancy. 

The bill was passed by the Virginia Senate (21-19) and now goes to the House of Delegates for a vote.  According to the Virginia Pilot, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell will sign the bill and said,
"I think women have a right to know all of the medical information before they make decisions." (Virginia Pilot article)
Obviously, Gov. McDonnell knows nothing about early pregnancy or ultrasounds.  According to Dr. Ralph Northam, a Virginia Senator, an abdominal, or non-invasive, ultrasound will not provide a clear picture of the fetus in early pregnancy.  Sen. Northam, a Democrat, views HB462 as an invasion of privacy.
"...the last thing our society needs is a bunch of nonmedical politicians mandating invasive medical procedures and telling doctors that their extensive medical training does not qualify them to do what is in the best interest of the individuals under their care. This isn't about whether you're pro-choice or opposed to abortion; it's about having less government in our lives and trusting women and their doctors to be the best protectors of life and health." (Link)
This legislation is not about denying women access to information about her pregnancy.  Women have the option of an ultrasound prior to having an abortion.  HB462 is about government encroaching on the doctor-patient relationship and demanding an expensive test that, in most cases, is not necessary.  According to the American Pregnancy Association, doctors are more likely to use hormone levels than an ultrasound to determine the age of the fetus.

By voting for HB462, Virginia legislators are forcing their personal, moral, and/or religious beliefs on citizens.  Virginia legislators are creating a slippery slope that could lead to other forms of interference between doctor and patient. 

Here are the Virginia State Senators who voted for and against the bill to regulate the doctor's ability to provide care for patients:

Voting for HB462:

Richard Black (R-13)
Harry Blevins (R-14)
Charles Carrico (R-40)
Charles Colgan (D-29)
Thomas Garrett (R-22)
Emmett Hanger (R-24)
Stephen Martin (R-11)
Ryan McDougle (R-4)
Jeffrey McWaters (R-8)
Stephen Newman (R-23)
Thomas Norment (R-3)
Mark Obenshain (R-26)
Phillip Puckett (D-38)
Bryce Reeves (R-17)
Frank Ruff (R-15)
Ralph Smith (R-19)
William Stanley (R-20)
Walter Stosch (R-12)
Richard Stuart (R-28)
Jill Vogel (R-27)
Frank Wagner (R-7)

Voting against HB462:
George Barker (D-39)
R. Creigh Deeds (D-25)
Adam Ebbin (D-30)
John Edwards (D-21)
Barbara Favola (D-31)
Mark Herring (D-33)
Janet Howell (D-32)
Mamie Locke (D-2)
L. Louise Lucas (D-18)
David Marsden (D-37)
Henry Marsh (D-16)
A. Donald McEachin (D-9)
John Miller (D-1)
Yvonne Miller (D-5)
Ralph Northam (D-6)
J. Chapman Petersen (D-34)
Linda Puller (D-36)
Richard Saslaw (D-35)
John Watkins (R-10)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dana Milbank's Wrong Male Thinking

Dana Milbank, an opinion writer for the Washington Post, responded to the Democrat's hearing on contraceptives and religion, and testimony from Sandra Fluke, with wrong male thinking.

First, Mr. Milbank called the Democrats meeting to hear Ms. Fluke a "pseudo-committee".  Pseudo means false, fake, or sham.  
"Now Democrats are turning Fluke into a feminist martyr. On Thursday, the student was surrounded by dozens of cameras as she sat before a pseudo-committee chaired by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a rump session designed entirely to exploit the Republicans’ mistake." (Milbank at WaPo)
Mr. Milbank might view this as a sham committee hearing, but I doubt women did.  However, he, being a man, would not view reproductive health as important because it's not important to him.  A committee convened for the purpose of hearing a woman talk about the importance access to affordable contraceptives is to women's health is a sham to Mr. Milbank.

Second, Democrats did not make Fluke a martyr.  Fluke was already working to improve access to contraceptives before Democrats asked her to speak.  They chose her because she has the expertise -- she's the boots on the ground, so to speak, and has done the research.  The Democrats gave her a platform, but she was already committed to changing how women's health is handled (or not) in religious affiliated schools.  Democrats are not turning her into a martyr.  They simply chose a knowledgeable person who could speak for women.

Third, you called the hearing a "spectacle" and a "performance" and said Democrats were "putting on a show."
"It was just the spectacle the lawmakers had planned. “If we had gone to central casting to find a representative to speak for American women,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) told Fluke, “we could not have done better than you.” Moments later, the lawmakers joined the audience in the unusual act of standing to applaud a witness.

It was quite a performance. The question is why Republicans keep giving their opponents so many opportunities to put on a show." (Milbank at WaPo)
This so-called "performance" and "spectacle" was convened to defend women's rights.  Again, Mr. Milbank, your insensitivity to women's issues is most evident.  For women across the country, this was no performance.  Most of us know what it's like to be denied something that we needed because we are women.  This hearing may have seemed frivolous to you, but it was important to women, which makes it important.  Period.

Be careful, Mr. Milbank.  You're mighty male ego is showing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Virginia Governor McDonnell Blinks on Ultrasound Bill

According to a Washington Post story, some Virginia legislators had no idea how invasive an ultrasound can be.  REALLY????  They didn't even think to Google it?

Some Virginia Republicans are demanding pregnant women seeking an abortion go through a medical procedure that they know nothing about.  They want government to dictate what doctors should do, but are ignorant of medical procedures and have complete disregard for the patients, who, by the way, are all women.

Whether you believe abortion is moral or immoral, government should never be allowed to interfere in the doctor-patient relationship. Years ago, forced sterilizations were the result of government interference in the lives of men and women.  From the 1930s into the 1970s, state governments approved the sterilization of men and women legislators believed would be incompetent parents (Compulsory Sterilization).

Sterilization continued in North Carolina into the 1970s, but in every state government officials targeted not only the mentally disabled, but the poor, mainly people of color, and those the state considered "promiscuous".  This is what can happen when government demands medical procedures based on the religious, moral, or personal beliefs of those in power.

Virginia's Governor McDonnell said he would sign the bill until Democrats noted that doing an ultrasound against a woman's will is equivalent to rape with a foreign object and violates Virginia's object sexual penetration law.  While this may have caused McDonnell to blink, he needs to reassess how this bill violates the doctor-patient relationship and forces big government into the examination room. This bill is simply bad legislation.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Virginia State Lawmakers Cross the Line

The line is a line of protestors, mostly women, who strongly object to legislation that would "define embryos as humans and criminalize their destruction, require "transvaginal" ultrasounds of women seeking abortions and cutting state aid to poor women seeking abortions" (Bob Lewis, PilotOnline). Police estimated the crowd at about 1,000.

HB1, the legislation presented by state lawmakers Robert G Marshall (R-13) and Ben L Cline (R-24), would give "unborn children at every stage of development" the same rights and privileges as "other persons, citizens, and residents of the Commonwealth" (VLIF). The legislation defines life as beginning at conception, which is problematic since conception cannot be measured. According to Medline, the medical dictionary used by the National Institutes of Health, conception is "the process of becoming pregnant involving fertilization or implantation or both" (Medline).

Most women do not know when an egg has been fertilized. It floats around in the fallopian tubes and eventually makes its way to the uterus. If the uterus is prepared, the fertilized egg may attach to the wall of the uterus, then it becomes an embryo. For various reasons, including infections, the uterus may not be prepared and the fertilized egg passes on, eventually leaving the body during the woman's regular menstrual cycle.

Was that fertilized egg a person with all the rights of a citizen? How can anyone possibly enforce such an idea?

This legislation is obviously meant to criminalize abortion. What they fail to take into consideration are religions that believe abortion is morally acceptable. A colleague from Israel informed me that Judaism teaches that life begins with the first breath -- at birth. While individuals in every religion may believe differently (for example, Catholics differ on contraceptives), Jewish law requires an abortion when the mother's life is threatened. In all other cases, abortion is considered a personal choice.

How will the Virginia legislation conflict with the religious beliefs of the state's Jewish population? What happened to the freedom to practice religion that was so important when Catholics protested Obama's health insurance program that required coverage of contraceptives? Shouldn't this also apply to Virginia state law?

Catholics and Contraceptives

To recap the War on Contraceptives (also the War on Women's Rights):

In President Obama's healthcare plan, all health insurance companies would be required to provide coverage of contraceptives. The Institute of Medicine recommended that contraceptives be available free of charge to women as part of preventative health care services. Some religious leaders objected to this requirement on moral grounds. And, as expected, some members of the GOP hijacked the discussion, making it an election year issue.

So Obama made a compromise and said organizations affiliated with religious institutions (like Catholic universities) would not be required to pay for health insurance coverage of contraceptives, but employees would be notified that they were still eligible for free contraceptives. Catholics and others who object to contraceptives on moral/religious grounds do not have to pay for the service with health insurance companies.

Unfortunately, the momentum of this chaotic side show was unstoppable. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) convened a committee to hear testimony on how the availability of contraceptives to women was unconstitutional, immoral, and against the freedom to practice religion. Oddly enough, all of the "expert" witnesses were men, which begs the question as to when they were forced to take or pay for contraceptives against their religious/moral/legal rights. Exactly what experience did they have with contraceptives that made them experts?

Fortunately, women on the committee spoke out, questioning the absence of women from the discussion. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) took Mr. Issa to task for the absence of women on the panel and then walked out of the hearing. (Here is Rep. Maloney's statement and here is the video of Rep. Norton during the committee meeting.)

There is a small piece of history that we need to remember: In 1968, the Conference of Catholic Bishops in the United States voted 180 to 8 that Catholic married couples could use contraceptives and still be an active member of the Catholic church (Daytona Beach Morning Journal, Nov. 16, 1968).

This is not a new problem. Liberal Catholic priests in the US have consistently challenged Rome on moral issues, and the issue of contraceptives is an old issue. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, most Catholics disagree with conservative church leaders on whether contraceptives violate religious principles.

Researchers found that 41% of Catholics believed contraceptives were morally acceptable and 36% said contraceptives were not a moral issue. Only 15% of Catholics polled said contraceptives were morally wrong. Of all people polled, only 8% said contraceptives were morally wrong.

If this is not an issue for Catholics (men and women), why is it an issue for the Catholic hierarchy (all men)? (Did I just answer my own question?) And what made the GOP think joining forces with a group so out of touch with its own membership could possibly help them?

Friday, February 17, 2012