Let’s take a moment to look at a different sort of March madness — the sort featuring state-level politicians who butt into personal decisions about sexual and reproductive health.
Kentucky: Bill to Interfere With Patient Access Advances
Following a lightning-fast January move to enact a 20-week abortion ban in the state — advanced as “emergency” legislation, in order to allow it to take immediate effect — reproductive health opponents in the state legislature moved to limit patient access even more with a measure meant to effectively block patients from the care they rely on at Planned Parenthood health centers. The proposal would set up a tiered system for the nation’s family planning program, with Planned Parenthood at the back of the line to receive grants — effectively ensuring Planned Parenthood would not receive any benefit.
Having won Senate approval in late February, the bill awaits consideration by the full Kentucky House. Women’s health supporter State Senator Denise Harper-Angel of Louisville called into question her State Senate’s priorities: “With all the issues facing Kentucky,” she said, “I don’t understand why we spend our time just taking away services for the women of Kentucky.”
Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin: not a doctor, but he plays one in the governor’s office.
Utah & Indiana: Lawmakers Attempt to Put Words in Doctors’ Mouths
Venturing into the realm of alternative facts, members of Utah’s House of Representatives voted in late February to force doctors to offer a misleading, unscientific state-mandated script to patients seeking safe, legal medication abortion.
The specific variety of hocus-pocus in this bill is the notion that a medication abortion “may be reversed.” The claim has been emphatically dismissed by experts — the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said it’s “not supported by the body of scientific evidence.”
Proposals to force doctors to make such claims have nonetheless emerged in several states — including Indiana, where members of the House of Representatives recently passed a measure similar to Utah’s dubious bill.
(Medication abortion, widely available in the United States for over a decade, gives patients a safe and effective means of ending early-stage pregnancies. For patients eight weeks pregnant or fewer, research shows that medication abortion works 98% of the time.)
Dr. Jessica Shepherd of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago told Self magazine that misleading guidance such as what Utah and Indiana proposed “doesn’t benefit the provider or the patient.”
For his part, however, Utah bill co-sponsor Rep. Keven Collins summed up the merit of his medical opinion with this remark to the Deseret News: “We're not doctors.”
Image source: Giphy
These are also not doctors.
Arkansas: Lawmakers Vote for Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers
In the latest salvo from Arkansas politicians against access to safe, legal abortion, state senators voted to authorize regulations that would single out health centers where abortions are performed. In a 28-to-5 vote on Feb. 27, senators moved to require annual inspections, to conducted without prior notice, of health centers that perform abortions — inspections that would include review of informed consent signatures, parental consent signatures, and medical records.
The bill, HB 1428, is the latest in the surge of targeted restrictions on abortion providers (also called TRAP laws) in states across the country since 2010.
Image source: Lucasfilm, via Giphy
We know, Admiral Ackbar; we know.
Despite how gynoticians often describe them, TRAP bills have nothing to do with women’s health and everything to do with extremists’ ongoing campaign to outlaw abortion. Abortion is a demonstrably safe procedure, with 99% of women experiencing no significant complications. Imposing medically unnecessary restrictions does nothing to help women— which is why doctors and medical experts oppose TRAP laws.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed HB 1428 into law on March 7.