Thursday, September 16, 2004

I Don't Believe It

Update: I've seen the proof. Unfortunately, it's not good news.

"Forced referral is stupid," she [Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life] said. "If we're not going to kill a human being, we're not going to help the customer go do it somewhere else."

I had no idea this was going on. And I still can't, and quite frankly don't want to, believe it. However, since personal beliefs, mine included, shouldn't enter this discussion [apparently, such beliefs should be strictly reserved for the care of female patients!] I decided to go for the facts.

I called the House of Representatives (202-224-3121) and I asked them for the text of the provision, the one mentioned in the CNN article as one that would prohibit local, state or federal authorities from requiring any institution or health care professional to provide abortions, pay for them, or make abortion-related referrals, even in cases of rape or medical emergency.

The gentleman from the clerk's office was very helpful. He pointed me to a government search site for House Floor proceedings. I was going to try and find the Bill myself, but he called back ten minutes later with the information. Based on his research, the Bill is HR 5006, titled Making appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005, and for other purposes; Sponsor: Rep Regula, Ralph [OH-16] (introduced 9/7/2004). The Bill went to the Senate for consideration and a decision could be reached by next week.

According to the clerk, the pertinent sections are 212, 507, 508, and 509. Here's the summary:

(Sec. 212) Prohibits use of funds under this Act to carry out the Medicare+Choice program if the Secretary of HHS denies participation in such program to an otherwise eligible entity (including a Provider Sponsored Organization) because the entity informs the Secretary that it will not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or provide referrals for abortions.

...

(Sec. 507) Prohibits the expenditure of funds appropriated under this Act, or in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated under this Act, for abortions or for health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion, with exceptions specified in section 509 of this Act.

(Sec. 508) Provides that the prohibition in section 508 shall not apply to an abortion: (1) if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; or (2) in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed. Provides that nothing in section 508 shall be construed as: (1) prohibiting the expenditure by a State, locality, entity, or private person of State, local, or private funds (other than a State's or locality's contribution of Medicaid matching funds); or (2) restricting the ability of any managed care provider from offering abortion coverage or the ability of a State or locality to contract separately with such a provider for such coverage with State funds (other than a State's or locality's contribution of Medicaid matching funds).

(Sec. 509) Prohibits the use of funds made available in this Act for: (1) the creation of a human embryo for research purposes; or (2) research in which a human embryo is destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero under specified Federal regulations and the Public Health Service Act. Defines "human embryo or embryos" to include any organism, not protected as a human subject under specified Federal regulations as of the date of the enactment of this Act, that is derived by fertilization, parthenogenesis, cloning, or any other means from one or more human gametes or human diploid cells.


Now, compare the summary with the text from CNN's article:

A little-noticed provision cleared the House of Representatives last week that would prohibit local, state or federal authorities from requiring any institution or health care professional to provide abortions, pay for them, or make abortion-related referrals, even in cases of rape or medical emergency.

Something is not right here; the article doesn't accurately reflect the Bill's provisions. The obvious explanation: HR 5006 isn't the Bill referenced by CNN. So, I e-mailed CNN for clarification. [This was a CNN.com article. Would it have been sooo hard for CNN to include a link to the Bill.] As soon as I receive a reply, I'll let you know.

Bottom line: the idea that the government and the politicians would even *consider* legalizing refusal-of-care for the approximately 60 million American women of reproductive age is inconceivable to me. The only way I will believe it is if I see actual proof. So far, I haven't seen it.


(via annejumps)

Note: For some reason, the direct links to the Bill don't work. So, go
here, click on Bill Summary & Status. On the new page, enter HR 5006 in the Bill, Amendment, or Public Law Number search box, then click Search. This brings you to the Bill's page. Click CRS Summary for the summary.

4 Comments:

At 9:46 PM, Blogger lucia said...

Thanks! I added a note to my article. Hopefully the major news sources have this wrong. (Which would then make my a dupe to their wrong-ness! But, I'd prefer that).

 
At 10:02 PM, Blogger ema said...

Ha, lucia, I had the exact same reaction. On this one, I'd rather be wrong.

 
At 3:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a DC politico very interested in reproductive rights issues, perhaps I can be of some help here.

Sadly, CNN isn't really wrong. And the federal law is actually not as awful as a law currently in effect in Mississippi, and one that was passed in Wisconsin last year but vetoed by the governor.

I can't seem to find the measure in the approps bill it's supposedly in, but to read the language in its original stand-alone verson, go to the THOMAS search engine you were using before and enter "HR 3664" in the bill number search box. It's called the "Abortion Non-discrimination Act", sponsored by Rep. Bilirakis.

But reading the bill text doesn't make much sense without context, so here's what it does:

Current law says that physicians (and only physicians) can refuse to participate in training or licensing for abortion procedures if they are morally opposed to the abortion. The law would change it so that "other health care providers" (e.g., nurses, pharmacists, etc.) and "a hospital, a provider sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, a health insurance plan, or any other kind of health care facility, organization or plan" can also refuse to do things based on moral objection. Additionally, the things that doctors or other entities can refuse to do is expanded from just training and licensing to include "perform, provide coverage of, or pay for induced abortions".

So this means that insurance companies can refuse to pay for abortions, companies can choose health insurance that won't cover abortions, hospitals can refuse to provide facilities for abortions, etc., etc., etc...

And now, ema, for the pretty darn scary part, that I suspect you missed due to the fact that you're an actual doctor, and not a politician.

In medicine, definitions mean things. And they mean consistent things. And people can't arbitrarily change definitions to fit their personal needs and desires.

These things are not true in politics.

Read this, which you quoted: "Defines "human embryo or embryos" to include any organism, not protected as a human subject under specified Federal regulations as of the date of the enactment of this Act, that is derived by fertilization, parthenogenesis, cloning, or any other means from one or more human gametes or human diploid cells."

This largely restates a portion of something that's already federal law: that, as far as Congress is concerned, a "human embryo" is anything that is derived from human gametes or cloned from human diploid cells. Notice there is nothing about implatation in a uterus in this definition. Yes, I realize (and you, as a doctor, probably assumed) that the real definition of "embryo" is some stage of fetal development that occurs after the implantation of the egg in the uterus. But not in Congress-land.

Congress' definition of an embryo is basically a fertilized egg. Also in Congress-land, hormonal birth control causes abortion, because it can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. So, yes, this little law of ours means that doctors, pharmacists, etc., can refuse to provide normal old hormonal birth control because they think it causes abortions and they are opposed to abortion.

Sorry for the extraordinarily long comment. But I hope this clears things up a little. If you're interested, I can also give you some information about the proposed Wisconsin law, that also covers things like voluntary sterilization, End-of-Life orders (including DNR directives) and assisted reproductive technology.

Maya
capitolhilldem@hotmail.com

 
At 5:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Provides that the prohibition in section 508 shall not apply to an abortion: (1) if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; or (2) in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed."I notice that they take great care here to exclude mental health problems. I find that very disturbing. I guess that's because they think large numbers of women would fake mental illness to get an abortion, and that to prevent that, it's ok for a suicidally depressed woman, for example, to be forced to give birth.

Or maybe they think mental health issues aren't *real* illness. Either way, this is unbelievable. I hope I'm misunderstanding this.

 

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