Friday, January 16, 2015

The Busy Beavers of Uterus Legislation

That would be the Republicans in the US Congress.  The new Congress hasn't been open for business very long, but the House and the Senate already have at least six proposals about the proper ownership and use of uteri.

I glanced through those six proposed acts and found, to my great delight, that at least two of them were sponsored by Senator David Vitter (R) of Louisiana.  Yes, the man famous for the prostitution scandal.  I have to work hard to get my head around the idea that Senator Vitter can view the area around uteri as both his general playground and the area in which values about "unborn babies" should be determined by Republican principles.

The two proposed acts on which I have something useful to say are HR 36 and S 50.  The former states this:

Prohibits the abortion from being performed if the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn child is 20 weeks or greater, except: (1) where necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury, excluding psychological or emotional conditions; or (2) where the pregnancy is the result of rape, or the result of incest against a minor, if the rape has been reported at any time prior to the abortion to an appropriate law enforcement agency, or if the incest has been reported at any time prior to the abortion to an appropriate law enforcement agency or to a government agency legally authorized to act on reports of child abuse or neglect. Permits a physician to terminate a pregnancy under such an exception only in the manner that provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive, unless that manner would pose a greater risk than other available methods would pose of the death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, excluding psychological or emotional conditions, of the pregnant woman.
Subjects individuals who violate this Act to a fine, imprisonment for not more than five years, or both. Bars prosecution of a woman upon whom an abortion is performed in violation of this Act for violating or conspiring to violate this Act.
Defines "abortion" to mean the use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance or device to intentionally kill an unborn child or to intentionally terminate a pregnancy with an intention other than: (1) after viability, to produce a live birth and preserve the life and health of the child; or (2) to remove a dead unborn child.

The usual stuff.  You can have an abortion after twenty weeks only if you are otherwise going to die or if you have been "legitimately raped" or if the pregnancy is due to incest and you are a minor and the authorities have properly been informed.  Permanent severe health problems are no excuse.

All this is aimed at stopping abortions, naturally, and psychological health problems are excluded for that reason.  Also, everybody knows that women lie about these things, and a pregnant mentally ill woman can always be kept in a straitjacket, right?  To protect the fetus.

Then there's the part where the pregnant woman is barred from prosecution.  That's illogical, by the way.  If you are going to go the whole hog about fetal civil rights exceeding the rights of the pregnant persons, the aquaria of the fetuses should be every bit as prosecutable as anyone else.

I suspect that if all this comes to pass, the incentive for health care providers could  be to err on the side of not performing even medically necessary abortions, given that it is they who will be fined or imprisoned in case they cannot prove that, yes, the patient would have died otherwise.  I'm also a bit concerned about the possible impact of this on prolonged miscarriages of the kind which caused a woman to die in Ireland.

The other interesting proposal is S 50:

Amends the Public Health Service Act to prohibit the federal government and any state or local government receiving federal financial assistance from subjecting an institutional or individual health care entity, including any health professional, facility, organization, or insurance plan, to discrimination on the basis that the entity refuses to participate in abortion-related activities.
Creates a cause of action for any violation of the abortion discrimination prohibition. Gives federal courts jurisdiction to prevent and redress actual or threatened violations by issuing legal or equitable relief, including injunctions and orders preventing the disbursement of all or a portion of federal financial assistance until the prohibited conduct has ceased. Gives standing to institute an action to affected health care entities and the Attorney General.
Requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to designate the HHS Office for Civil Rights to receive and investigate complaints alleging a violation of abortion discrimination prohibition.

Note that the proposed act is made into something resembling anti-discrimination legislation!  It's called Abortion Non-Discrimination Act of 2015, and that last bolded bit in the above quote expressly identifies it with civil rights.

But this is not about discriminating against people who wish to get an abortion!  It's about "discriminating" against people who don't want other people to get an abortion!  The unfairness seems to be that all sorts of employees and organizations cannot currently tell pregnant women what they should do:

“Refusal bills,” such as the just-introduced S. 50, allow health care professionals to refuse to provide an abortion to a woman based on their personal religious beliefs, even in an emergency. The bill applies not just to doctors and nurses, but also pharmacists and non-medical personnel including insurance company representatives and company-based human resources employees.

Is it really true that not even emergencies would  tip the scale towards proper medical care for the pregnant woman?  If that is the case, the proposal is an example of extreme callousness.

I'm sitting here thinking how many times I've written about the Republican appetite for various uterus-controlling laws.  Whatever they campaign for, their first actual steps in power are always about the wombs.

But they use files on the edifice of reproductive health laws, not saws and hammers, because the party is truly dependent on the forced-birthers contingency and doesn't actually want to completely repeal Roe v. Wade.  

Nevertheless, it's hard for me to see this as anything but part of the Republican war on women (and yes, I know that Islamic extremists do much worse things to women elsewhere), given that the survival of a twenty-one-week old fetus is deemed more important than the long-term health of its container (because even a severe illness is no excuse unless terminal) and given that there are no emotional or mental illnesses which would qualify someone for a later-term abortion.  It's a pretty clear ethical scale that is being used here, and tells much about the way how the role of women is viewed.