Friday, February 04, 2011

This Is The Pitts. How Anti-Abortion Politicians Victimize Women

The forced-birthers are really clever about asking us to look elsewhere (Planned Parenthood! Nurses don't physically hand-cuff pimps there!) while ignoring the man behind the curtain. That man right now is one Joe Pitts, a Representative from Pennsylvania and a forced-birther of the highest rank. Here is his picture:

Rep. Pitts has proposed some rather far-reaching legislative changes:
A separate piece of legislation, H.R. 358 – the Protect Life Act, sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R) of Pennsylvania – also seeks to bar use of federal funds for abortion under the new health-care law but is less far-reaching than Congressman Smith’s bill. Still, abortion-rights advocates are equally concerned about its provisions. On Wednesday, NARAL Pro-Choice America highlighted a new version of Congressman Pitts’ bill that they said would allow hospitals to refuse to provide an abortion to a pregnant woman even if her life was in danger.


But there is no chance Obama would sign either the Smith bill or the Pitts bill. Still, abortion-rights foes are trying to portray Obama as a hypocrite on the issue of federal subsidies for abortions.
“If President Obama seeks to obstruct these bills, that will provide additional glaring evidence that his professions of opposition to public funding of abortion are phony,” Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said last month.

Sure, Obama won't sign those bills. But it's still worth noting that 1. while the Republicans were supposed to fix unemployment (remember?) and perhaps government deficit, we are instead directly taken into the old arguments about whether women are aquaria or not, and 2. this is what a Republican majority in the House means: Stuff about abortion day in and day out for the duration of their reign.

Now that I have gotten that off my chest I'm ready to be a bit more analytical. I couldn't find the bit in H.R. 358 which would allow hospitals to let pregnant women die. Perhaps I'm not smart enough to spot it (unless it's the bit about discrimination) or perhaps the available version is not the most recent one.

But this is what TPM says :
A bit of backstory: currently, all hospitals in America that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding are bound by a 1986 law known as EMTALA to provide emergency care to all comers, regardless of their ability to pay or other factors. Hospitals do not have to provide free care to everyone that arrives at their doorstep under EMTALA -- but they do have to stabilize them and provide them with emergency care without factoring in their ability to pay for it or not. If a hospital can't provide the care a patient needs, it is required to transfer that patient to a hospital that can, and the receiving hospital is required to accept that patient.
In the case of an anti-abortion hospital with a patient requiring an emergency abortion, ETMALA would require that hospital to perform it or transfer the patient to someone who can. (The nature of how that procedure works exactly is up in the air, with the ACLU calling on the federal government to state clearly that unwillingness to perform an abortion doesn't qualify as inability under EMTALA. That argument is ongoing, and the government has yet to weigh in.)
Pitts' new bill would free hospitals from any abortion requirement under EMTALA, meaning that medical providers who aren't willing in terminating pregnancies wouldn't have to -- nor would they have to facilitate a transfer.
The hospital could literally do nothing at all, pro-choice critics of Pitts' bill say.
Given that Catholic hospitals are pretty common in this country, a proposal like that as an actual law could indeed mean that a pregnant woman would be allowed to die even if her life could be saved with an abortion. That Pitt's proposal will not become a law is comforting. But that this is what the forced-birthers advocate is not at all comforting. It tells me that in their eyes women will never be anything more than aquaria for potentially more meaningful life-forms.

The ironic aspect of what's taking place in the public debate about abortion is the way we are told that reproductive choice hurts women. Planned Parenthood clinics don't adequately fight sex trafficking! That sex trafficking is ultimately possible because of the customers to the trade is not part of this discussion, and neither is the fact that the women, girls and boys who are trafficked are victims, not because of reproductive choice, but because they are used in the sex trade.

So we must protect women and girls by de-funding Planned Parenthood clinics! Not by fighting sex-trafficking, mind you, but by making sure that the victims of trafficking cannot get safe abortions or cheap contraceptives or STD checks.

But if Joe Pitts had his way pregnant women could be allowed to die by hospitals who disapprove of abortions. Suddenly the victimization of women matters not a whit!

You can express your disagreement with Pitt's proposal here.
Added later: Jodi Jacobson discusses the new amendment proposals in the comments to this post. It seems that those are not yet included in the version available on the net.