Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday night homework: please help Georgia!

Can't you see my crazy eyes? Don't make me a law! 

Friends, readers, countrypersons: lend me your eyeballs! I have an important piece of evening reading for you, followed by a super-quick writing assignment. Scroll down if you want to skip my navel-gazing and discover your mission.


Lately I've been feeling like I can't even keep up with the onslaught of legislation designed to prevent would-be abortion patients from getting the care they need and to make their providers give up, board up the clinic and retire or something.

Not tryna brag, but in previous years I was pretty damn knowledgeable about the status of abortion legislation, regulation and jurisprudence at the federal level and in most states. If you asked me about a state-level bill I could usually tell you what its language really meant or what stage in the legislative process it had reached so far or what its practical implications might be.

This year, though? This year, if you told me "I saw on facebook that Hawaii is going to require married women to get a permission slip signed by their mother and their boss and then wait 7 to 10 business days before having an abortion," well idunno, maybe they are! Who am I to say, "No way, no way would lawmakers ever try to do something so awful and insane"? Recent evidence points to the contrary!

Honestly, it was difficult just now to dream up an example that's plainly absurd, because real-life happenings have been so goddamn absurd. But when a bill becomes law, whether or not it is too crazy to exist doesn't matter -- because suddenly it does exist, period. Suddenly you can't get the care you need. Suddenly your doctor has to decide between following her duty to care for her patients' needs, or obeying a law she knows is unjust.

That moment when the laughably absurd bill becomes the terrifyingly absurd reality has happened to me before, most starkly in 2006 when the Supreme Court decided Gonzales v. Carhart. The ruling allowed Congress's so-called Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act to take effect, via an unprecedentedly patronizing position on the part of Justice Kennedy that the government has an interest in protecting "mothers" (any pregnant person) from making decisions they might "come to regret." On the day of that ruling, I was at work, speaking with a woman whose baby was dying in utero; she asked if it was possible to remove the fetus relatively intact so she and her husband could hold it and "say goodbye." I found myself telling that woman, and others like her later, that we could not attempt to honor her request because Congress had just outlawed it. Your representative called; he says to tell you tough titties, crybaby.


Those terrible moments will happen again and again unless we refuse to feel helpless and instead move to take action. Your assignment is to foment urgent last-minute opposition to Georgia HB 954, yet another insane proposal to outlaw certain abortions. Georgia has seen and defeated similar bills in past years; but this one has gotten quite far in the legislative process -- meaning it's in grave danger of passing.

I once lived in Georgia. I still feel a strong connection to it, and I really hate that it feels like the rest of the country considers Georgia a lost cause when it comes to rights and liberties, or thinks such legislation won't make that much of a difference for that many women. They're wrong. Many people don't know this, but Georgia has several providers who currently care for patients with later pregnancies and patients with severe or complicated health conditions. Without appropriate providers in Georgia, these patients would have to travel clear across the country or receive care in less well-equipped facilities.

There are three days left to the legislative session, and that's when the crazy backdoor shit goes down. If you have any connection to Georgia, please contact the state representative in your area and ask them to OPPOSE HB 954; if you have no connection to Georgia, please spread the word to others ASAP.

Here's the update (and news item clarification) that I received today from the organizers on the ground with Planned Parenthood Southeast:
Today, the Atlanta Journal Constitution covered the bill in an irresponsible piece of reporting and on the front page no less. Contrary to the story, last night the bill was not stripped and was not killed for the session. The bill is not based on sound science and seeks to intrude on the doctor-patient relationship of women facing some of the most difficult medical circumstances. 
Among other things, here's what's still wrong with HB 954:
  • The bill is still unconstitutional. It still has only a narrow health exception and includes no exception for the mental health of the mother.
  • The bill still requires the physician to use the method most likely to save the life of the unborn child even if that method causes health risks to the mother.
  • The bill still includes no exception for rape or incest.
We know all too well that it isn't over until it's over when it comes to the General Assembly. Session ends on March 29, and we need to keep up the pressure to ensure that private medical decisions are left to a woman and her doctor.

Lawmakers need to look at how similar bills have impacted women in other state and understand that Georgia women deserve better. This bill is an example of the level of government intrusion that takes place in women's health care and we need to let our legislators know that we've had enough. Contact your senator now. Tell them you've had enough of their lack of concern for victims of rape or incest, their intrusion into how doctors practice medicine and their intrusion into women's lives.

UPDATE: Good news, but don't exhale yet! The bill appears to have died after revision by the Senate...because Republican House members refused to accept the addition of an exception for women with "medically futile" pregnancies (i.e. dead or dying fetuses). In other words, House members remain committed to a no-exceptions ban -- and there are 48 hours left in the session for them to try to revive one. A few years ago, this was more than enough time for them to pass a last-minute mandatory-ultrasound law right under everyone's noses. PLEASE stay on top of this until the session is officially over.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. What a great way to get people informed and moving. Thanks!


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