Blog for Choice 2009: My Top Pro-Choice Hopes

It’s Blog for Choice Day and I encourage everyone to visit the blogroll of bloggers taking part and to visit their blogs, if only for this one post. Also, feel free to revisit my posts from ’07 and ’08. This year’s topic is “What is your top pro-choice hope for President Obama and/or the new Congress.”

I always find these kinds of things difficult. I don’t have a favorite band/book/movie, but I could give you a top five. So I think I’ll take that approach. These aren’t in any order except the order they come in, but they’re all up there.

1. Repeal of the Bush doctrine of the “conscience clause”. This is near the top of my brain right now because I recently read (and was subsequently incensed by) this, the story of a woman whose IUD was removed by a religious nurse, who then proceeded to lecture her about why she was morally opposed to it and then refused to put it back in. The nurse stated, “Everyone in the office always laughs and tells me I pull these out on purpose because I am against them, but it’s not true, they accidentally come out when I tug,” which suggests to me that she’s a serial assaulter.

The medical profession is different from most professions (it’s usually lumped in with the legal profession) in the sense that certain things are required of medical professionals that are not required of anyone else. I’ve likened conscience clauses before to a vegetarian working at Subway and refusing to serve meat. That was probably a wee bit flippant, but I do believe that, since the medical profession is so specialized, when one goes to an doctor, one is entitled to the best medical care that doctor can provide. Having an surgeon refuse to provide a patient with an appendectomy because the surgeon is a Christian Scientist should be illegal. Sure, where it is possible, allow the surgeon to find another surgeon who can provide this (often emergency) procedure. Where none can be found, the trained surgeon employed in the capacity of a surgeon at the hospital the patient has been admitted to may be expected to provide that surgery, regardless of the surgeon’s religious beliefs. The fact that it’s even being considered is repulsive and baffling to me. We require attorneys to provide legal service to criminals, regardless of the attorney’s belief of guilt or innocence. Where attorneys don’t want to face that kind of situation, these attorneys choose a different area of practice.

Replace “appendectomy” with “abortion” and my views do not change.

2. Codification in some way of the right to reproductive health services nationwide. This probably involves both the Congress and the President, since we all know Bush would have vetoed anything that allowed women to have a shot at doing anything for themselves. Roe v. Wade objectors are working their way up the courts inch by inch in an effort to get it repealed. Many states have laws-in-waiting that will go into effect as soon as it is repealed. With a Supreme Court stacked against reproductive rights and a rabid base who routinely files cases intended to make it to that Court regardless of the success of the last case, having a statutory law, rather than a common law, is a necessity.

The oft-quoted fact that Viagra is covered by many insurance companies that do not cover birth control pills is proof positive that there is a problem in this country with treating women as full humans when it comes to health care. Codification of this right would solve the insurance issue as well as the access issue. It may even solve the education issue, since more and more medical schools are removing certain reproductive health care procedures from their required curriculum making them instead optional.

3. Age-appropriate sex-ed classes that have a medical, rather than a religious, basis. How are we even having this conversation?! If I want to learn about god, original sin, or hell, I will go to a religious teacher. If I want to learn about oil, the periodic table, or sulfuric acid, I will go to a chemistry teacher. This is not rocket science, folks: if we want our children to learn about penises, ovaries, and menstruation, what is required is a biology course. Perhaps a sociology course to cover things like “no means no” and the etiquette of being sexually active in a world of STDs. And yes, abstinence should be included in a sex-ed course; but not exclusively. Options and consequences should be truthfully (I know that’s hard for religionists…and some parents) and openly discussed, explored, even debated. Each person will then be able to decide for him or herself what choices will be made. But choices cannot be made if options are not given.

And yes, as indicated above, I think that a rudimentary course in how men and women should act toward one another in a sexual context (“no means no” and epithets like “slut”) should be included.

4. Support for parents in the workplace. Note the plural. Women may well need some physical time to recover following childbirth, but the child itself requires more attention when it is first born than later in life. Whether the parents are two gay men adopting, a het couple having a natural child, or a lesbian couple with a sperm donor (or any of the myriad other options and combinations), both parents should be assured of paid leave to care for the new addition to their family. And, upon returning to the workplace, they should be assured that they have a job.

I’d like to work into this some sort of acknowledgement that often, one parent quits their job and returns to the workplace some years later (above I was thinking more in terms of months), to find that her (it is most often a woman) marketability as a worker has vastly decreased, but I can’t figure out how to work this into legislation.

5. Repeal of the Global Gag Rule. I would hope that, if the above hopes come to pass, this would be an obvious inclusion. If we secure reproductive rights internally, we have no call to presume to infringe upon them externally. But it may slip through the cracks. Not only does the Gag Rule reek of imperialism and I-know-better-than-youism, it is inherently dangerous to men and women alike, especially in regions beset by an AIDS epidemic. People in need of medical care are entitled to the best medical care that society and current medical knowledge can give them—not the best care that the United State wants them to have (how is it that these are two separate things?!). Not only has the US no right to impose religiously-based medical care upon its own citizens, it has no right to do so for citizens of other countries.

Finally, as an aside that I don’t think either the President or Congress has much, if any control over, I think that (daily) birth control pills should be over-the-counter, since there’s no LD50 for them. For morning after pills, an argument may be made for keeping them behind the counter in the same way that cigarettes are.

6 Comments

  1. KevinW

    I was going to write a long positive comment, but it was turning into a rehashing of what you already wrote, so I’ll leave it at “hear hear.”

    W.r.t. to stay at home parents returning to the workforce, I can think of two legislative solutions. First, support the solution of two parents keeping their job but dropping down to part time status. This would include universal health care, and reworking regulations and fees so employers are not penalized for accommodating job sharing. Second, create incentives for parents to take professional classes to keep their skills current, and for schools to offer classes accommodating them.

  2. Another ‘Hear, hear!’ from me. Like you, xJane, I can’t believe that wish lists like this are still necessary in the 21st century.

    I think one of the main, enduring contributions Obama’s administration could make is a change in the fundamental attitude the government has towards gender issues (and LGBT issues, and “the war on terror,” etc.). I hope they can at least accomplish that.

  3. I agree with all of this with the exception, perhaps, of bc being otc (when a med is available otc, medicare and medicaid won’t cover it). Actually, Medicare won’t cover my bc right now anyway because I can’t take the generic and they only cover the generic, so I’m shelling out a lot of cash for bc.

    The conscience clause is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard of. It just seems certain men are very threatened by the thought of women having control of their own bodies or rights to medical decisions. Unfortunately, these guys end up the ones in charge. It is fucked up.

  4. angryyoungwoman—I did not know that! Although I suppose it makes sense. It just seems to me like tampons: sure, someone should probably teach you how to use it the first time around, but you’re a smart chica, there’s no reason you need an doctor peering over your shoulder each year (or a pharmacist each moth) (and, of course, “you” in the above is not you, but a generic “one”).

    I hope Medicare starts covering it for you (and everyone else)!

    So, I just learned that the Global Gag Rule has been revisited…just like it is every time we get a new president. I guess what I hoped for above was a more permanent solution. Must suck to be the recipient of USAID and have to figure out every four years whether or not you’ll be getting funding.

  5. I agree there are a lot of things we have to go to doctors for that are just stupid–we’re adults, we should be able to just treat ourselves for some things (or use some basic preventatory measures). The problem is more with Medicare and Medicaid, and they are what needs to be revised.

  6. My dad actually fits into that first part of the post – as a Mormon (and a doctor), he refuses to have anything to do with abortions, including referring a patient to someone who will actually provide the abortion. He has told me that when a patient asks him, he tells then that for personal religious reasons he can’t give them any information and that they have to discuss this issue with someone else. When he told me that, (I was about 16), I was rather disturbed and didn’t understand how as a doctor he could do that. He’s also said that he openly his advocates pro-life agenda to his colleagues at work, which seems somehow out of place in a medical environment. It’s up to the patient to choose, not the doctor to determine what is and is not ethical based on their own religious dogma.

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