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“Fighting Bad Science In The Senate”: The Days Of Making A Sport Of Trampling On Women’s Health And Rights Are Numbered

The Senate hearing for the Women’s Health Protection Act shows just how important it is for women’s health advocates to push for the facts.

The propensity of anti-choice advocates to eulogize false science was on full display on Tuesday’s Senate hearing on the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA). That bill is a bold measure that would counter the relentless barrage of anti-choice legislation that has made abortion — a constitutionally protected medical procedure — altogether inaccessible for many U.S. women.

The bill was introduced last year by Senators Richard Blumenthal and Tammy Baldwin and Representatives Judy Chu, Lois Frankel and Marcia Fudge. It prohibits states from applying regulations to reproductive health care centers and providers that do not also apply to other low-risk medical procedures. It would, essentially, remove politicians from decisions that — for every other medical issue — remain between individuals and their providers.

The WHPA is long overdue. For the past three years, conservative lawmakers have used the guise of protecting women’s health to pass more than 200 state laws that have closed clinics, eliminated abortion services, and left women across the country without access to critical reproductive health care. The WHPA would reverse many of those policies and prevent others from being passed.

Tuesday’s hearing was representative of the broader debate over abortion rights. Those in favor of the bill argued that securing unfettered access to reproductive health care, including abortion, is critical to the health and lives of U.S. women and their families.

Those in opposition used familiar canards about abortion to argue that the law would be calamitous for U.S. women. Representative Diane Black of Tennessee had the gall to make the abortion-leads-to-breast cancer claim, one that has been disproven many times over. Others repeatedly cited the horrific cases of Kermit Gosnell, insinuating that all abortion providers (abortionists, in their lingo) are predatory and that late-term abortions are a common occurrence. In fact, if women had access to safe, comprehensive and intimidation-free care, Kermit Gosnell would have never been in business. Given the opposition’s testimony, you’d never know that late-term abortion is actually a rarity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 90 percent of all abortions occur before 13 weeks gestation, with just over 1 percent taking place past 21 weeks.

At one point Representative Black argued that abortion is actually not health care. The one in three U.S. women who have undergone the procedure would surely argue otherwise.

Perhaps the most ironic testimony against the WHPA — and in favor of abortion restrictions – came from Senator Ted Cruz, who hails from Texas, a state with so many abortion restrictions that women are now risking their health and lives by self-inducing abortions or crossing the border to get care in Mexico. Senator Cruz attempted to validate U.S. abortion restrictions by referencing a handful of European countries with gestational restrictions on abortions. This was a popular argument during the hearing for Texas’ HB2 — the bill responsible for shuttering the majority of clinics in that state.

Cruz wins the prize for cherry picking facts to best support his argument. When citing our European counterparts, he conveniently ignored that such abortion restrictions are entrenched in progressive public health systems that enable all individuals to access quality, affordable (often free) health care, including comprehensive reproductive healthcare. Senator Cruz and his colleagues have adamantly opposed similar policies in the U.S., particularly the Affordable Care Act’s provisions for contraceptive coverage and Medicaid expansion. On the one hand conservatives lean on European policies to argue for stricter abortion restrictions at home, and on the other they claim those policies are antithetical to the moral fabric of the United States.

Would Cruz support France’s policies that enable women to be fully reimbursed for the cost of their abortion and that guarantees girls ages 15 to 18 free birth control? Or Belgium’s policy that enables young people to be reimbursed for the cost of emergency contraception? Or the broad exceptions that both countries make for cases of rape, incest, and fetal impairment, to preserve woman’s physical or mental health, and for social or economic reasons? He absolutely would not.

As the House of Representatives seems to be more motivated by suing the president than by voting on – let alone passing — laws that will actually improve the health and lives of their constituents, it’s highly unlikely that the WHPA will become law. But Tuesday’s debate – and the bill itself — is significant and shows a willingness among pro-choice advocates to go on offense after too many years of playing defense.

Bills such as the WHPA — even if they face a slim chance of being passed by a gridlocked Congress — provide an opportunity to call out conservatives’ use of bad science in their attempts to convince women that lawmakers know best when it comes to their personal medical decisions. And they allow us to remind lawmakers and citizens that despite all of the rhetoric to the contrary, abortion is a common, safe and constitutionally protected medical procedure, and that regulating it into extinction will only force women into back-alley practices like those run by Gosnell, costing them their health and their lives.

Those in support of the WHPA showed anti-choice lawmakers that the days of making a sport of trampling on women’s health and rights are numbered.


By: Andrea Flynn, Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute; The National Memo, July 18, 2014

July 21, 2014 Posted by | Senate, Ted Cruz, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“America’s Scariest Doctors”: Meet The GOP Doctors Caucus Where Fetal Masturbation Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

The phrase “fetal masturbation” made an unlikely appearance in the political discourse Wednesday, thanks to a Republican congressman who said the country needs a 20-week abortion ban because he’s seen sonograms that show male fetuses “feel pleasure” when they “have their hand between their legs.”

The science on whether fetuses can feel pain (let alone masturbate) is pretty dubious, which is something one might expect the congressman, Texas Rep. Michael Burgess, to know, considering the fact that he’s an OB-GYN and a proud member of the GOP Doctors Caucus. But a look at the caucus’s roster reveals he has plenty of company from other lawmakers with controversial thoughts on science and women’s health.

Caucus chairman Rep. Phil Gingrey, also an OB-GYN, defended Rep. Todd Akin’s infamous comments about rape and abortion last year. Saying that Akin was “partly right” that a women’s body can shut down an unwanted pregnancy due to rape, Gingrey added that a 15-year-old girl who gets pregnant might accuse her boyfriend of rape because she’s embarrassed, so “that’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus nonlegitimate rape.”

Then there’s Rep. Tom Price, who, when asked what women who can’t afford birth control should do in the absence of insurance coverage, replied “there’s not one woman” who lacks access. “Bring me one woman who has been left behind,” he said, “There’s not one.” A Hart Research survey found that about one in three female voters have struggled to afford the medicine at some point, including 55 percent of young women.

Virtually all of the caucus’s members support defunding Planned Parenthood, even though doing so would be devastating for women’s health issues that have nothing to do with abortion. Co-chair Rep. Diane Black pledged, “I will not rest until we put a stop to Planned Parenthood’s blatant abuse of taxpayer dollars.”

Others have profound respect for science. Co-chairman Rep. Phil Roe thinks there are “many questions surrounding the science” of climate change. While Rep. Paul Broun, who still makes house calls, thinks evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of Hell.”

Then there’s Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a pro-life conservative who “had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion.” Later, the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners found DesJarlais had slept with two female patients in violation of a state law that prohibits “unprofessional conduct.” He was forced to pay a small fine. (He also slept with three co-workers.)

Or Rep. Charles Boustany, who was “has been the defendant in at least three malpractice suits over his two decade career,” according to Politico. (He maintains a medical license in Louisiana under no restrictions and his staff said the suits are common.)

Rep. Ron Paul was a member of the caucus as well before leaving the Congress. And while his son, Sen. Rand Paul, is not a member of the caucus because he’s in the upper chamber, some have raise questions about his war on board certification for his ophthalmology practice.

The GOP Doctors Caucus helped lead the fight against Obamacare, so voters should rest assured that if they had their way to repeal the law, they’d be in good hands.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, June 20, 2013

June 22, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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