Why Health Exceptions Aren’t Enough

I made the mistake once again of arguing about abortion on Facebook. I pointed out that SB5, if passed, would harm or kill women who have unhealthy pregnancies. (And gave a couple examples of issues that can occur.) The guy I was arguing with waved that off because he’s talked to more than one doctor who says he’s never seen any reason a woman would need an abortion to save her life, and that it’s just an “excuse.” (I’m sure he’s operating with *no* personal biases whatsoever.)

Well, there you have it. These two medical professionals (and no, he didn’t say that they were even OBs) said it, that must settle it. I’m glad I never have to worry about having an ectopic pregnancy, or pre-eclampsia or hyperemesis gravidarum (extremely severe morning sickness that causes malnutrition, dehydration, and weight loss) because they apparently don’t exist. Though, I’d love to know what Savita Halappanavar actually died of, since it totally couldn’t be the pregnancy.

This is why, even if you think that abortion is immoral if the pregnancy isn’t going to kill or seriously injure the mother, abortion for any and all reasons still needs to be legal. (That’s not my position, but for this particular post, I’m going to focus on health only.) Because if you just have a health exception, those same doctors will be the expert witnesses testifying at some woman’s trial when she ends her pregnancy so she can have chemo. Or speaking to Congress about how those exceptions should be worded.

Not to mention, limiting abortion to only “medical necessity” does not mean that every woman whose pregnancy is likely to kill or cripple her will have an abortion. What it means is that you need to:

  1. Find a doctor willing to bet his medical license and his freedom that not only are you really at that much risk, but that a court of law will back his decision. (That’s a much higher bar than just a doctor’s opinion that it’s necessary.)
  2. Jump through all the hoops set up by a legal system that doesn’t want you to get an abortion—maybe a waiting period, maybe multiple doctors’ sign-off, maybe a court order.
  3. Get all that done and actually have the procedure while there’s still actually time, before the condition that made an abortion necessary in the first place worsens.

I bring up Savita very deliberately, because it was supposed to be legal, even in Ireland, for doctors to complete her miscarriage and save her life. And yet, that didn’t happen, and she died unnecessarily. Just the fact that something is technically legal is not enough to mean that it really is available when it’s needed.

Edit: I added a couple more examples of fatal pregnancy complications, because putting “ectopic pregnancy” and Savita in the same sentence made it sound like that was the condition she had, when in fact it was septicemia that resulted from the hospital’s refusal to complete her miscarriage.

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The Boundaries of Religious Freedom

So, when the GOP and the Catholic bishops started screaming that Obama had “declared war on religion,” he announced that if employers had religious objections to birth control, insurance companies would pay for it directly instead. Sounds good to me. And yet, for many, that still wasn’t good enough. “What about the insurance company’s freedom of religion?” I’m sorry, if paying for health care is against your religion, methinks you should not be in the insurance business. (Plus, pretty much every health insurance company out there has finally figured out that BC is cheaper than abortions or pregnancy and would much rather insure a woman who has access to contraception than one who doesn’t.)

I’m a really strong supporter of religious freedom, but I don’t think it means the freedom to force your beliefs on other people, or the freedom to not do your job and continue to be paid. I mean, I have every right to convert to Quakerism tomorrow and decide I don’t want to support the military anymore, but I don’t have a right to expect a defense contracting company to keep paying me while I sit around playing Solitaire or rearrange my job so I don’t have to participate in the company’s main business.

My big argument with the outrage about requiring Catholic schools and hospitals to cover contraception is that if a religious organization wants to be an employer, they should be held to similar standards as secular employers. There are already *lots* of concessions to religious freedom for religious employers. Like the church school that got to ignore the ADA and fire a teacher for having a medical condition. Because it was a religious position, they don’t even have to pretend with a straight face that they had religious reasons for firing her.

But secular employees should be treated like…secular employees. If the church doesn’t require someone to be of the same faith to serve in a particular role, that role should be subject to all the rules of employment law.

Let’s not even get into the fact that what the President mandated has already been required by the EEOC for any employer that offers prescription coverage, on the basis of equal treatment of the sexes. Lots of Catholic schools and hospitals already comply with this rule, but it’s convenient to ignore that for political purposes.

Another issue with the whole idea is that there are Catholic-approved uses of hormonal birth control. Have PCOS and take the pill so that you don’t get cysts, or so you actually have periods? That’s not considered a sin. Similarly, as I understand it, married Catholic women who have severe health risks from pregnancy can generally talk to their priest and have him okay contraception. (The second is according to my Catholic sister-in-law.)

So, we aren’t even talking about something that automatically violates their religion, just something that can. Meaning they want to not only deny employees something because it violates their employer’s religion, but that they’re okay with denying it to good Catholics* who need it for other reasons (either that or they think you should have to reveal private health issues to your employer to get insurance coverage).

I think that if an employer has decided to provide insurance to its employees, what they do with that coverage is between them, their doctor, and the insurance company. It’s a benefit that belongs to the employee in exchange for work performed, and the employer has no more right to tell you what to do with it than they do to tell you how to spend your paycheck.

And if we can’t have a public option for health coverage because “oh no, socialism!” then it’s reasonable that the government set some standards on what actually counts as insurance in order to get the crazy costs and lack of care under control. Requiring all insurance to provide cost-saving preventive care free of charge (as part of the coverage that the employee and employer are paying for) is reasonable based on that. While insurance companies save money from birth control, that doesn’t mean they won’t charge for it too if they’re allowed because, hey, they can.

I like the proposed solution; I just don’t think it should have been necessary. I also don’t think it will be enough to satisfy people who think their freedom of religion means that no one should get to have contraception.

*I’m neither Catholic nor opposed to birth control, so please don’t take that as my saying that the ninety-some percent of Catholic women who use birth control are bad Catholics.

How I became pro-choice, part 3 of ? – Unplanned but not unwanted

Previous posts in this series are here:
How I became pro-choice, part 1 of ?
How I became pro-choice, part 2 of ?

Also, now that I have 3 posts, I’m going to actually subtitle them for easy reference from here on out.

I used to be pro-life in part because I’d been an “oops” baby. I felt that my parents had taken an unintended and not necessarily happy situation and made the best of it, and I’d turned out all right, and if they could, other people could too, right? That was a little naive. My parents had a rough time early on, but there were also hardships plenty of other couples face that they never did. For example, there was never a point when either of them was unemployed, other than my mom staying home for a short time after I was born, and again after my brother was born. There were times when money was tight, and times when their jobs sucked, but there was always at least a steady income. So, what they did, not everyone could have done.

And even with that, I wonder if things might have been different if “continue this pregnancy and start a family now” hadn’t been a choice my mom made, but something she’d been legally forced into. Would it have been harder for her? Would she have felt trapped? Even if it had been the decision she was going to make anyway, what would it have done to her if it hadn’t been her choice.

And what would it have meant to me if my mom had been legally forced to give birth to me. Knowing that I was unplanned was hard enough to swallow–what would it have done to my self-esteem if I’d had to wrestle with the idea that I might not have been wanted.

I’m pro-choice because I think people should get to make ethical decisions for themselves, not be forced into what someone else decides. *Especially* not by people who value the life of a fetus or even a zygote infinitely higher than the life of a pregnant woman.

All those bumper stickers that say “Choose life”? Yeah, there’s something ironic about using that word when you don’t want women to be able to choose anything at all.

In which I rant about HR 3

Say no to the GOP's attack on survivors. Call your Representatives and ask them to vote NO on H.R. 3.

In the next few days, I hope to make a couple more thoughtful posts about abortion, women’s rights, and the religious implications of those things. But at this point, I really don’t have a whole lot of thoughtful in me.

Trigger Warning–lots of disturbing stuff about rape and abuse.

So, here’s what HR 3 does and why I’ve already written to my representative saying I hope he votes no on it, and have started writing to the Democratic sponsors of the bill to say basically “Um, guys, what the heck???”

  • Prevents any federal money paying for abortion unless the woman was “forcibly raped.” So just being raped–by drugs, by threats, by being too young to legally consent–isn’t enough. “Forcible rape” is also never defined, so the exemption is pretty much unenforceable.
  • Prevents “discrimination” against health care facilities that don’t provide abortion. In other words, a Catholic hospital that lets a woman die on the operating table rather than abort a pregnancy that’s killing her is still welcome to get taxpayer money.
  • Prevents tax breaks for companies providing health insurance if the coverage pays for abortion.
  • So, if an abortion is medically necessary, but the doctor isn’t 100% sure the pregnancy will kill you? Better hope you’ve got a healthy savings account. Not only will Medicaid not cover it, your insurance probably won’t either. Oh, and while you’re arguing with a dozen bureaucrats to try to prove that your life is in danger from the pregnancy–not only are your risks going up, but the clock is ticking on your ability to actually get that abortion. You probably have a decent chance in the first trimester, but push it to the second, and there are fewer providers who will perform that procedure. Go past the 21-week point and there’s pretty much no one. Probably having something to do with the fact that domestic terrorists tend to murder the doctors who do perform these abortions.

    And if you’re a pregnant victim of incest who just turned 18? Or a minor who was raped by someone not a relative? Or a rape victim who decided not to fight back against a rapist who was larger and stronger? The official position of the Republican Party is apparently “Sucks to be you.”

    The “conscience” BS also makes me angry. What it means is that hospitals can deny emergency health care and still get government money. An example of how messed up this is is St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix–the doctors did the right thing by saving the woman’s life, and as a result, the hospital lost its Catholic status. They were supposed to let her die, apparently. But that’s cool–you go right ahead and ignore the health of pregnant women and you can still qualify for government money.