politicizing women’s health, again

I really thought I was done writing about politics, at least until inauguration day. But news like this infuriates me, serving as a reminder that when it comes to women’s health and reproductive freedom, the personal is always political. 

I don’t care what anyone’s personal views on abortion are. As long as they are not imposed on others. Especially if you’re a medical professional. Those who work in the medical field pledge to uphold patient care as paramount (or support those who do). There is no room for personal or religious beliefs to interfere with that care. If you don’t believe in the care, find another area of work.

It may come as no surprise to many that the lame duck Bush administration — in a last ditch attempt to expand protection of health professionals who refuse medical treatment based on their personal beliefs — plans to issue a last minute rule to take effect later this month, just before a new administration takes office. 

The rule will further minimize the ability of women to secure safe abortions even when medically necessary to protect their health. But it doesn’t just protect the views of doctors and nurses (at facilities that receive federal funding). It applies to all health care employees including technical and administrative staff. It doesn’t just apply to procedures such as abortion, but even allows staff to withhold information about such procedures. Even where a procedure could save your life. 

What’s more, the rule’s interpretation can easily be expanded to apply to fertility treatments such as IUI, IVF, and birth control. Or treatment sought by singles, gay men and lesbians. And it will, no doubt. This past summer, a California appeals court ruled that doctors could not refuse fertility treatment based on their religious beliefs regarding sexual orientation. But this new regulation would expand their “right of conscience” to do just that. 

While there are already laws in effect (from the 1970s, known as the “Church Amendments”) stating that no one can be compelled to perform procedures that conflict with their religious or moral beliefs, the new rule will go far beyond what is already on the books.

Timing is critical of course. It’s no accident that the rule was snuck in just before the election and will take effect just before Bush leaves office. Of course this means instant controversy should Obama consider taking action, and unfortunately it may not even on his radar even if he were ready for such a fight. My fear is he is not. 

Recognizing this as an ethical issue that will compromise patient care, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) urges that a “patient’s well-being must be paramount” in such conflicts. Because these conflicts wrongly impose personal beliefs on patients and can adversely affect their health, are often based on “scientific misinformation” or “create or reinforce racial or socioeconomic inequalities,” ACOG has rightfully called for limits of “conscientious refusal” in reproductive medicine. As part of their primary duty to the patient, “All health care providers must provide accurate and unbiased information so that patients can make informed decisions.”

This raises so many issues for me. First and foremost, get the church out of my fucking doctor’s office. It just doesn’t belong there. Period. Second, out of my politics. Stop politicizing women’s health, family-building, and “moral values.” Third, stop calling yourself “pro-life.” No one is pro-death. No one cheers abortion. Yet it is a medical necessity for the health of certain women. Not “air quotes” health. A real fucking heartbreaking necessity. And it is a personal private right for women who should have the freedom to choose if, how, and when to build their family. 

This is not a debate about whether abortion is right or wrong. Reasonable minds can differ of course, and I will not have that debate here. This is about being able to hold those views as your own. (We are a pro-choice family seeking to adopt, after all.) Everyone is entitled to their own “rule of conscience.” But don’t pretend to fulfill your primary duty to the patient if your personal beliefs stand in the way. This is about the ability to seek and receive unbiased medical care with patient health as paramount. So get out of the way.

Perhaps hitting closest to home today is this very point. You know if those embryos sitting in frozen storage were capable of creating life in me, I’d be the last person in the world to destroy them. But they have not, and they are not likely to. So don’t even think of trying to tell me that they are precious life. Those cells don’t equal a child. 

Fuck (edited in the interest of civility) Screw you, W, and the stupid mule you rode in on. (Better?) I think you’ve done enough damage, don’t you? You can go now. Don’t let the door slam your ass on the way out. 

One more thing, how come “conscientious objectors” and veterans of military service aren’t afforded the same respect, rights and protection? Will someone please explain this to me, or perhaps to the politicians in Washington?

~ by luna on December 2, 2008.

22 Responses to “politicizing women’s health, again”

  1. I’m with you. . . .

  2. Right on, as always! Reason # 1,364,356 why I love you so much!

  3. This “rule of conscience” is too broad. A doctor could refuse to do bypass surgery to a current smoker. Heck, they could even withhold behind the counter cold medicine if they thought I was an agnostic. Lame Duck powers are too scary…

  4. That is frightening and maddening. As if W hasn’t done enough damage already, he’s making certain to entrench his “legacy” (such as it is) in these last few months. I am also sick of health issues being politicized like this.

  5. Right on!

    You know, when I saw the air quotes, I was so effing mad. But I was thinking of Cecily, for example. I didn’t think of the fact that it was very much about me, what with two instances of infection in pregnancy now…

  6. I’m glad I haven’t alienated * everyone*…

    I should clarify that I really dislike the term “abortion.” Especially with late term issues, the only viable option, literally, to protect the woman’s health is to terminate the pregnancy. This includes bringing on early labor before viability, unfortunately. Women I know have travelled across state lines to do this safely, in search legal and compassionate care when they’ve had to end much wanted pregnancies and say goodbye to babies they already loved. They were shunned by their doctors and their churches at the time they needed support the most. Politics, medicine and religion failed them in a crisis. They were judged.

    Again, no one in that position feels as if they ever had much of a “choice.” No parent should ever be in that position. But by all means, that decision is between the woman, her family, and her medical team. NOT politicians, NOT the church, not anyone else.

  7. Just when I’d gotten complacent and assumed that we were out of the reproductive woods by electing a Democrat…

    You’ve outdone yourself with a particularly eloquent post, Luna.

  8. I just don’t get why people would choose to go into a profession where there was even a chance they might violate a closely-held tenet of their faith. I think if you’ve chosen to work at a hospital and are involved with obgyn, you best be ready to deal.

    Bush is doing all sorts of disgusting stuff over at the EPA, too. I hate what’s still happening to our country. I hate that everyone’s always screaming about freedom of choice, but only for those who can afford to make choices (i.e. see a doctor, find another hospital that will do a life-saving D and E, etc.).

  9. Shinejil is absolutely right, about EPA, but also about freedom of choice belonging only to those that can afford it. That’s why the ACOG report on the ethics and socioeconomic impact of denial of care is so important.

    People need access to quality information and medical services. Yet even with good information, some will still be denied care without the ability to find and get to another doctor or hospital (try it without the internet), including money for transportation (car, gas, bus), a job they won’t be fired from if they need to take time off work to travel across state lines, child care, lodging, etc.

    There is no question that poor and disadvantaged women and families will continue to suffer disproportionately under this expansion of the “rule of conscience.”

  10. (standing & applauding) Bravo, Luna & thank you. I find it very scary that under our current Bush-friendly government, we in Canada may be headed down a similar path.

  11. Glad you highlighted this issue Luna. I think that there should be a new”rule” outlawing lame duck last ditch efforts to get your way even when the majority of Americans have already voted in a different direction.

    Related to this issue is the policies of some pharmacies, allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control and emergency contraception. Not a problem if you live in an area with multiple pharmacies, but what if you don’t? What if you don’t have a car to gets somewhere else? Planned parenthood was able to put enough pressure on major companies to reverse their policies, but women are still refused these medications at other pharmacies.

    A couple of years ago, I was on FF, and a women there was posting about how her husband, a pharmacist, was resisting the policy shift of his company. As the person in charge of ordering, he made sure that his pharmacy never had certain medications in stock, and he placed others in locations where they would not be accessible.

    I feel the same as you Luna. Believe what you want, but do not don’t infringe on my rights in the process. Someone else’s rights to their own opinions and beliefs END at my right to my own opinions and beliefs. And vice versa. And I agree, if you can’t put the rights and needs of the patient first, don’t go into health care!!

    BTW: you are tagged!

  12. P.S. And we don’t ever see anyone passing laws or rules about the use of viagra, do we? Why don’t we hear anyone saying that access to viagra can be restricted by doctors who believe that you can only get a hard-on if its God’s will? That will be the day!

  13. I agree with you — keep church and politics out of health care. A woman deserves the right to do what she chooses with her body. At the same time, as a health care professional, I continuously have to examine my personal views as they relate to my patients and their care. I consider myself an open-minded, empathetic, kind person, but I would be lying if I said there are no situations that would be hard for me, ethically speaking, to bring an unbiased mind into my work place. Can I shut it out and do my job? So far, yes, I can. And if I ever find that I can’t, I’ll find a way to politely exit the scene. But please, everyone, remember that we are human, too.

  14. Agree!

  15. Irish Girl is right that of course it can be hard to check your personal views and ethics at the door. I imagine as a health care provider you often encounter situations that force you to question your commitment. When my step-brother was an ER doc, many times he was called to care for people who had done some horrible things — drunk drivers, abusive men, pregnant drug users, violent gunshot criminals, etc. My point is only that if you cannot provide the care, stepping aside and ensuring that someone else can is the ethical thing to do. Denial of information or care is not.

  16. And people wonder why I absolutely despise – and I do mean despise – Catholicism which underwrites most of this nonsense. Christ, Himself, would condemn these people. I’m one of those people who am willing to say I am PRO ABORTION because of what it really means to be anti-choice. May all anti-choice people face these horrible decisions. I have lost all compassion for them. All compassion.

  17. I can only hope that we emerge triumphant — and soon — from the dark ages that the Bush administration has wrought.

  18. This issue leaves me shaking with helpless rage. I have a friend who is a resident at a hospital, and she told me that last year a woman came in for a D&C after a mid-term miscarriage, and she had to wait almost a day so that the hospital could assemble the staff willing to perform the procedure. And that baby was dead already! My heart just broke for that poor woman. It’s just so fucking wrong (language not edited for civility).

  19. I completely agree! It always astounds me when this issue comes up and makes my blood boil.

  20. sorry I’m late to this, brilliant post and I agree wholeheartedly. I heard Huckabee on the radio the other day (wow, the ’12 race is starting early, isn’t it?) trying to convince a caller — a retired military republican who left the party because he felt it had been hijacked by prolife wingnuts, and he thought the Republicans were for smaller/less government? — that ONCE THE DNA IMPRINT IS THERE, IT’S LIFE. Um, WHAT? I about wrecked the car. I hate these guys who claim that “ok, you want me to use science? Here’s your science!” and then have absolutely no fucking clue what they’re talking about.

    I want my science back. Sniff. Hope it’s not too late.

  21. […] few weeks ago I wrote about a new rule that W was set to sneak in that could make it much harder for a woman to terminate a pregnancy even […]

  22. […] objection to politicizing women’s rights When I last wrote about this issue, I was furious about one of W’s last power grabs before the White House door […]

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