Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gail Riecken for the Win

Some of you may have heard me going on and on about Senate Bill 89, which I discussed in more detail here. To pull out the bill specifics from that entry as background info:

SB 89 is a bill that the Republican-controlled Senate handed over to the House that originally stated that physicians performing abortions must have admitting privileges at their local hospital. This is ostensibly to ensure that physicians performing abortions have gone through the extensive background checking and whatnot that hospitals do, which is not a bad idea in itself.

The reason this is a problem is that hospitals are loathe to give admitting privileges to physicians who don't live in the area, and most abortion doctors don't perform abortions where they live, because it'll get your family harassed by anti-choicers. The other reason this is a problem is that it isn't necessary. The only thing admitting privileges really gains the woman is being able to have the same doctor at the hospital in case of a complication that she had performing the abortion. (...)

The real reason for handing this over is, of course, to shut down all but one clinic in Indiana that performs abortions by requiring doctors to jump through a meaningless hoop with no penalties for a hospital that refuses them admitting privileges simply because of why they want them. (...)

The House put language in it which accepted the premise that those performing [invasive] surgical procedures should have local admitting privileges as long as we apply it to all [invasive] surgical procedures. (...)

Senator Patricia Miller (R-Indianapolis) evidently doesn't like the fact that the bill would now cover all surgical procedures, and also disapproves of the amendment giving funding for preventative health care for women. That's right! These amendments strengthen the case of SB 89 being a bill about women's health, rather than an attempt to shut down most of Indiana's abortion clinics.

So the very things that make it viable as anything more than an imposition of an unconstitutional undue burden are the very things that might kill it in conference committee. If they want to say it's not germane to apply this to all surgical procedures, and if they want to say that it's not germane to amend other considerations of women's reproductive health, they're going to have to admit that the bill is attempting to do something else--something unconstitutional.
Well, guess what? I don't think they got a report out from committee last night, and those have to be out for 24 hours before they can be heard for the final vote today and... I don't think it was. So now that the bill has died, it was safe for me to talk to a Rep who really really earned my respect and gratitude through this.

I found the session video archive for April 15th (starts at 4:50), and here's what she said. To my knowledge this is the only transcript, but the damn thing is public record right on the State House website if people thought to look.
Let me say first that I am well aware that this bill is popular and will probably pass this evening. My intention in speaking is to put on record what I think is a major flaw in this bill. A disappointment, a great disappointment, to me in my first year in this House. It is the inclusion of the statement that a fetus might feel pain. The fetal pain requirement is simply medically unsound.

I had the occasion to talk with Representative Tim Brown this evening just before we convened, and he told me that he believes that life begins at conception, and I am not arguing that point. What I am arguing is that pain does not begin at conception. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, it is not physiologically possible that a fetus feels pain before 29 or 30 weeks gestation. Medical experts acknowledge that awareness of pain requires the involvement of the cerebral cortex, which is not yet developed at 20 weeks' gestation. Now understand that I am not a physician. But I believe that we must pay attention to good, sound, scientific and medical advice. According to the Indiana State Department of Health roughly 90% of Indiana Abortion patients have their abortion in the first trimester. That same data reports no abortions past 20 weeks.

My fear in this bill is the thought of what lengths we will go as a House to get a bill passed. I am not advocating the use of abortion as a method to halt or avoid pregnancy. I do believe in a person's right to have an abortion, however, I do not believe in abortion. I have raised my two daughters to make responsible decisions and I do not believe that they believe in abortions. I cannot accept this bill that is, under the surface, a pathway to denying women control over their own bodies.

I have seen, I have lived, and served women in another country where authoritarian control over women and their reproductive health produced only two things: shame and guilt. Finally, I believe in this bill we have climbed the hill to a very slippery slope. A slippery slope that will only result to restrict women and our right to be responsible adults, determined with our husbands and our doctors our reproductive health.

I will not be voting for this hypocrisy.
I felt really really good when she said that, because in Indiana those views often don't get heard. So when she said it... I felt heard. I wanted her to know that, and I think it made her happy to get that feedback. This is particularly true since this is her first term and a lot of people were probably urging her not to say anything because it would endanger her re-election prospects if Right to Life starts fanning the fires of misogyny in her district.

I hope she gets re-elected. There are a few Reps that I truly feel have both the insight and the conviction to actually stand up for my best interests as a voter in Indiana. Gail Riecken is one of them, and quite frankly I trust our legislature a lot more with her in it.

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