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Friday, April 30, 2010

Choices

A good while back I wrote a post supporting the right of pharmacists to not dispense birth control medication if they had an ethical problem with such medicines. My logic was that this was somewhat akin to civil disobedience and therefore a form of communication. This was not the most popular position I've ever taken- even with myself- but I think there was a certain necessity about it. And really, that post has stood the test of time in the sense that looking back on it six years later, I don't think I would have chosen not to right it.

Yet, in the present day I find myself confronted with, perhaps, the most recent iteration of this phenomenon and I find that my reaction is not nearly so positive. In fact, I find the most recent move in the ongoing war between pro- and anti-choice factions in the U.S. to be utterly revolting. I refer, of course, to the state of Oklahoma, where the legislature recently voted to override the Governor's veto on two pieces of legislation that pertain to abortion. The first, HB2780, which was authored by Lisa Billy, requires that before a woman can receive an abortion she must be shown an ultrasound of the fetus. Or, to quote the bill:

B. In order for the woman to make an informed decision, at least one (1) hour prior to a woman having any part of an abortion performed or induced, and prior to the administration of any anesthesia or medication in preparation for the abortion on the woman, the physician who is to perform or induce the abortion, or the certified technician working in conjunction with the physician, shall:

1. Perform an obstetric ultrasound on the pregnant woman, using either a vaginal transducer or an abdominal transducer, whichever would display the embryo or fetus more clearly;

2. Provide a simultaneous explanation of what the ultrasound is depicting;

3. Display the ultrasound images so that the pregnant woman may view them;

4. Provide a medical description of the ultrasound images, which shall include the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, if present and viewable, and the presence of external members and internal organs, if present and viewable; and

5. Obtain a written certification from the woman, prior to the abortion, that the requirements of this subsection have been complied with; and

...

C. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent a pregnant woman from averting her eyes from the ultrasound images required to be provided to and reviewed with her. Neither the physician nor the pregnant woman shall be subject to any penalty if she refuses to look at the presented ultrasound images. [emphasis added]


So, basically, what we're seeing here is a woman who is seeking an abortion being forced to- at the least- listen to a description of the fetus. Furthermore, while there is an exception for cases of "medical emergency", it's important to note how a medical emergency is defined:

5. “Medical emergency” means the existence of any physical condition, not including any emotional, psychological, or mental condition, which a reasonably prudent physician, with knowledge of the case and treatment possibilities with respect to the medical conditions involved, would determine necessitates the immediate abortion of the pregnancy of the female to avert her death or to avert substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function arising from continued pregnancy; [emphasis added]


So, in other words, if the procedure could kill or cripple the woman it can be skipped, but not if it would cause emotional or psychological trauma. Now, put all this together: in the state of Oklahoma, if you are raped and become pregnant, you will be forced to listen to a description of an ultrasound of the product of that rape and, if it would provide a clearer image, will have to undergo said ultrasound via a device inserted into your vagina. And your only defense against this- since your mental and emotional wellbeing is irrelevant- is to close your eyes and hope it's over quickly. Or, you know, to carry your rapist's little present to term, thereby dragging the whole rape experience out for the better part of a year. Maybe it's just me, but the only word that seems to describe something like this is "barbaric." It's not as bad as South Dakota's previous attempt to ban abortions, but it comes pretty close. Yet, amazingly, this bill isn't even the one that upsets me the most. No, that bill is HB2656, authored by Daniel Sullivan, that makes it legal for doctors to lie to their patients. And no, I am not f-ing exaggerating:

A. It is the intent of the Legislature that the birth of a child does not constitute a legally recognizable injury and that it is contrary to public policy to award damages because of the birth of a child or for the rearing of that child.

B. For the purposes of this section:

1. “Abortion” means the term as is defined in Section 1-730 of Title 63 of the Oklahoma Statutes;

2. “Wrongful life action” means a cause of action that is brought by or on behalf of a child, which seeks economic or noneconomic damages for the child because of a condition of the child that existed at the time of the child’s birth, and which is based on a claim that a person’s act or omission contributed to the mother’s not having obtained an abortion; and

3. “Wrongful birth action” means a cause of action that is brought by a parent or other person who is legally required to provide for the support of a child, which seeks economic or noneconomic damages because of a condition of the child that existed at the time of the child’s birth, and which is based on a claim that a person’s act or omission contributed to the mother’s not having obtained an abortion.

C. In a wrongful life action or a wrongful birth action, no damages may be recovered for any condition that existed at the time of a child’s birth if the claim is that the defendant’s act or omission contributed to the mother’s not having obtained an abortion.

D. This section shall not preclude causes of action based on claims that, but for a wrongful act or omission, maternal death or injury would not have occurred, or handicap, disease, or disability of an individual prior to birth would have been prevented, cured, or ameliorated in a manner that preserved the health and life of the affected individual. [emphasis added]


So what do we have here? Well, let's say that you're pregnant and get screened to find out if your fetus has any disorders. In the event that it does have something severe and debilitating you intend to abort it. Your doctor runs the tests and discovers that your fetus DOES have a serious disorder but decides to tell you that it doesn't. You then, believing your fetus is healthy, eventually give birth to a severely disordered child. Congratulations! In the state of Oklahoma, the doctor has legal protection because you cannot sue him or her for damages! And the darkly humorous part of this is whereas HB2780 is justified as an aid in order that "the woman [can] make an informed decision", HB2656 provides legal protections that shield doctors who deprive women of that same right. It's not even the case that this only applies to women who would consider abortion, because once your doctor is legally permitted to lie to you, how can you trust anything he or she says? And if that isn't enough for you, keep in mind that the bill requiring an ultrasound includes a section detailing how a woman could sue the abortion provider for damages if they DON'T compel the ultrasound, whereas the second bill prevents the awarding for damages if a physician flat out lies to a patient.

It has never been more clear to me that pro-choice and anti-choice really are the correct labels.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Jonas Wisser said...

This comment is not meant to detract from the absurdity or unfairness of these laws in any way, but at least in the first instance, it seems like a woman could take earplugs and a sleep visor and then just sign the damned paperwork afterwards.

Friday, April 30, 2010 9:48:00 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

Oh, sorry. Those bits of goo on the screen now? That's what remaind of my head since it just exploded.

Sunday, May 02, 2010 5:55:00 AM  

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