Friday, August 22, 2008

Oh God DHHS no.

The Bush administration has officially proposed a rule to the Dept. of Health and Human Services that doctors can refuse to treat patients if their consciences protest for any reason. Basically if they dunwanna, you don't get medical care.

Send an email to, with the subject line "provider conscience regulation." They are publishing these comments right now, because it is in a 30-day public comment period. This is an absolute emergency. Don't let the misogynist religious whackos be the only voices DHHS hears. Say something. Just send an email. Otherwise, after thirty days, this rule goes into effect.

Really. It does. This is going to happen. Please tell them you are NOT falling for this bullshit, and that you are NOT going to let fundamentalists speak for you. Forward this to anyone you know who doesn't believe that women should be forced to breed on anyone's timeline or by anybody's rules but their own.

Here's what I'm saying.

Doctors do and always have had the freedom of conscience to choose not to provide certain kinds of medical care. This is the choice they make in medical school when they're investing tens of thousands of dollars to become educated and licensed. If they are not ready to fulfill the obligations of their chosen profession, then just like anyone else who doesn't want to do their job? They shouldn't be doing it. Doctors need to provide patients with medical care. End of line.

Here's the problem. Doctors should not be the ones to decide which patients "deserve" the standard of care they are coming to receive. Those who say that this ruling is not about denying women access to birth control are either gullible or lying. Here's how I know it's about denying women health care.

One: This is clearly about allowing doctors to refuse to perform abortions for patients who request them. Considering that 87% of counties in America don't have an abortion provider, this puts rural women at a serious disadvantage when they need medical care. Why does this statistic matter? Because if the one doctor within reasonable range of a woman in need refuses to treat her, she may not be able to find another, particularly considering that this proposed rule does not include provisions for women who have been refused. Not only can her doctor say no, but he is not obligated to refer her to a physician willing to provide her with an abortion.

Two: This becomes truly scary when you think about the fact that DHHS wants to change the definition of "life" to "at fertilization" rather than "at implantation." These are both pretty damned arbitrary classifications considering that a fertilized egg is less of an independent organism than the gut flora living in my large intestine (and which I am allowed to slaughter at will with every antibiotic treatment I undergo). Why is this scary? See point three.

Three: Non-barrier methods (basically anything but a diaphragm or condom) works at least partly by preventing implantation. It prevents the fertilized egg from sticking to the inside of your uterus so that it never has a chance to start getting nourishment from your body. It's flushed out like any unfertilized egg, and your body does this on its own. What this means is that any non-barrier method that interferes with implantation will be classified as an abortion, giving doctors a perfect airtight legal excuse to deny women these prescriptions because a moral imperative the patient obviously does not share (or she wouldn't be asking for contraceptives) dictates that she doesn't need contraceptives after all.

If you are not ready to provide the services of a physician, don't become one. If it's against my religion to dance in public, I should not dream of Broadway. If I believe that rum is the devil's poison and that Prohibition should be re-established, I should not aspire to become a bartender. If it's against my conscience to provide medical advice or procedures to certain people or for certain reasons, I should not dream of a medical career.

Medicine is about service. You are doing a disservice to half the population of this country by codifying an appalling belief: that women's LIVES are not as important as the FEELINGS of doctors who should never have gone into that practice in the first place.

And yes, this is about a woman's life versus the feelings of her doctor. If a woman cannot control her reproduction, she cannot control any aspect of her life. If a woman cannot delay pregnancy she is at a serious disadvantage compared to a man when it comes to getting an education, maintaining a career, and supporting herself. If at any time she could be railroaded into halting her life to bear a child at someone else's will, then her life as she know it can end at any time.

Anyone reading this, I'm begging you to think about this. Think about what effect having a child really has on women. In third world countries early pregnancy and single motherhood are one of the chief reasons that women and their children are economically and socially the biggest victims of poverty, disease, and hunger. Do you want that here? Are you ready for those consequences? Because that's where we're going.

If you love even a single woman in your life--mother, sister, daughter, friend, lover, anything--please protect her. Say no to this. Treat them like human beings, with wills and lives of their own. Let the women you love control their reproduction, instead of breeding on someone else's timeline and by someone else's rules. You owe them that much.

The right to choose. Women may choose to bear children from these "surprise pregnancies," and they may choose to delay childbearing. But they have the right to choose for themselves on their own terms.

No comments: