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QUICK HIT: On Abortion, #DearJohn, and What To Do When Congress Wants to Legalize Your Murder

I wrote a bit for you at Global Comment, on HR3, HR358, and how they represent a staggering new level of violence against women and trans people. Passed into law, backed by certain Democrats who are so comfortable with exploiting their base that they’re fine with killing some of them (dudes, we are not going to show up at the polls if we’re dead. And the live ones aren’t going to vote for you. Aside from some truly Nixonian maneuvers, I don’t see this as doing anything but permanently ending your career, and ending it in public disgrace). For example:

I admit it: I probably wouldn’t have protested HR3, had it not included the rape clause. That clause rewrote the standard exemption which allows federal funding for pregnancies resulting “from rape or incest.” The new clause was a complicated, deceptive barbed-wire fence of a sentence, only allowing for federal funding exemptions when pregnancy resulted from “an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest.” Which eliminates coverage for the survivors who are most often denied legitimacy by society: People raped while drugged or intoxicated, people raped while unconscious, statutory rape survivors. That made me very angry. It made a lot of other people angry too. I worked with other feminists to fight it, and we won.

But, by the time that happened, I had been educated by several feminists who’d spent a major portion of their lives protesting and organizing for the right to abortion, and was aware that striking the bad exemption language wasn’t actually a win. Not for survivors, not for anyone else. In fact, the process around this bill is a bait-and-switch. We protested one violent outrage, but the rest of the bill represented several different forms of violent outrage, and HR358 was more violent still.

Click through to read! And to think about how we can stop this. We can’t sacrifice momentum. And we can’t accept this. This isn’t even a political thing any more: This is people being straight-up, openly killed. In the name of “protecting life.”


  1. PJDee wrote:

    This is a great article. I’ve re-posted and passed it on. I admit to having been a bit complacent in the last few years (focused on other issues) but this is a call to action. We can’t let it happen.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink
  2. a.b. wrote:

    What can we do? I’m sitting at work, reading this, trying to send an email to the ass-hat Democrat in Arkansas who is supporting this bill, and how effing futile is it that it is 2011 and we are having to fight for the right not to be left to die by a doctor?

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
  3. Keep up the pressure. Keep talking about how Hyde is open economic discrimination and a violation of women’s civil rights. Women in poverty cannot access a legal medical procedure that is easily available to women of means. What do you get when you frame the debate around “choice”? Kermit Gosnell.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink
  4. Faith wrote:

    So where does birth control stand in all of this—the pill, the morning after pill, etc–now that these people are willing to let you die should you need a theraputic abortion?

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink
  5. LeftSidePositive wrote:

    Could we all start organizing for a counter-bill that in effect says:

    1) Doctors may not maintain their licenses nor hospitals their accreditation if they refuse to perform to the standard of care set by their peers.
    2) Patients have the inalienable right to receive comprehensive health care and education that respects their personal goals and bodily autonomy without regard to real or perceived race, age, physical/chromosomal/social gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual activity, pregnancy status, religion, nationality, language, education level, or disability.
    3) Doctors or hospitals who withhold care, referrals, or medically accurate information from their patients are criminally liable, regardless of the doctor’s personal feelings or the hospital’s institutional attitude regarding standard of care.
    4) Hospitals that refuse to facilitate, or doctors who refuse to perform to, the standard of care for personal, religious, or economic reasons may be held financially and criminally liable for all damages related to the delay of care to the patient even if the doctor or hospital seeks to have the patient transferred to another provider.
    5) It is the responsibility of the physician who refuses to provide the standard of care to avoid situations wherein their refusal would cause any physical, financial, or emotional trauma to a patient.
    6) A hospital may not be accredited if it refuses to provide the standard of care for which it is equipped. This shall not be construed that a secondary care center would be liable for its inability to provide the resources of a tertiary care center, but a secondary care center must provide ALL procedures that fall under the heading of the fields in which said hospital is a secondary care center.
    7) Hospitals are responsible, and may be liable for financial or criminal repercussions, if their wards are staffed such that a refuser of the standard of care is in a position to deny or delay care to a patient in need of it.
    8) Hospitals may take refusal to perform the standard of care in one or many procedures into consideration for hiring, scheduling, and remuneration purposes.

    What do you all think? Let’s call it the “Put Patients’ Human Rights First” Act.

    And I say this as a medical student–it just makes me sick to think this is the kind of behavior they’re enabling with laws like these!! It undermines the most fundamental values of our profession to neglect the suffering of our patients in this manner. It is also grossly unfair to those of us who DO treat our patients with basic human dignity, and have to pick up after these abusive, manipulative, self-entitled charlatans.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Permalink
  6. LeftSidePositive wrote:

    I meant, of course, point 8 with an end-parenthesis, but Mr. Cool is welcome, too!


    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Permalink
  7. Catgalaxy wrote:

    I wanted to comment on your tumbler, but, I don’t have a webpage. I know what you’re going through…I found out two days ago that my ex-husband, from 20 years ago mind you, is stalking me on facebook. He put up a fake page with my address on it, and, you can guess what else…I’m in the same boat.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 12:48 am | Permalink
  8. Lu wrote:

    Leftsidepositive, excellent ideas! Why can’t Democrats in Congress introduce some fairly radical legislation of their own (like this) and get people talking about it, instead of just reacting to whatever the latest atrocity is from the Republicans?

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink
  9. rebekah wrote:

    hey sady, I don’t know if you’ve already seen this today but I figured I’d give you the heads up if you hadn’t. Are we allowed to add this to dear john? Or if you would rather could we please start another about this please? Personally I call myself a survivor but I think that to legislate away the term victim in this case is the opposite of empowering. Thanks

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
  10. LeftSidePositive wrote:

    @Lu, yeah, isn’t it beyond scary that “Do your job and don’t let your patients die on purpose” is somehow “radical” in this world in which we’re living?! I would dearly love to call the bill the “Show Some Fucking Professionalism; You’re A DOCTOR For Fuck’s Sake Act of 2011” but I think the “Put Patients’ Human Rights First Act” will do.

    And, Democrats should push for legislation like this not just because it’s strategic or whatever, but because protecting patients from fatality or injury from bigoted & neglectful “doctors” IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
  11. GallingGalla wrote:

    Leftsidepositive @10: Yes, that is scary.

    Regarding your proposed bill, it hasn’t a snowball’s chance on the sun to pass, but I suspect that this isn’t (solely) the point: Even if only a few congresscritters sponsor this and it goes down on a 432-3 vote, it will still put out there in the public eye what decent, humane, caring health care looks like.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Permalink
  12. c wrote:

    Thanks for writing something I could link to on facebook. As much as I love the writing style here on Beatdown, it’s kind of daunting for a lot of people I know who aren’t already feminists. After I linked to your article I got a few shocked and horrified reactions from people I really didn’t expect to. Thanks for writing something more accessible, as well as your usual stuff. I’m not in the US, but hopefully my friends know people over there and they’ve spread the word.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Permalink
  13. I got together with friends to make this crowdsourced video response to HR3 and HR358: The message is simple — not as in depth as the amazing coverage here — but I wanted to make noise in my own little way for women’s rights and bodily autonomy.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Permalink
  14. Lu wrote:

    Leftsidepositive, yeah, it felt weird to write “radical.” I guess what I meant (besides the fact that, for the current “left,” your proposal would be radical–sigh!) was, hey, let’s INTRODUCE some ideas and start a dialog about things that matter to us. Even if they’re as obvious as “Let’s make it illegal to kill your patients, even if your ‘conscience’ dictates you let them die.”

    again, *sigh* 🙁

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Permalink
  15. Leftsidepositive, I think you *really*, seriously have something there. May I repost your comment as a framework at Obsidian Wings and/or Daily Kos? One of the crucial things lobbyists do is draft bills for Congresspeople to use, and I think maybe we should do our own lobbying. For real.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink
  16. rebekah wrote:

    maybe contact the PIRG in your area? Their national website is here.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  17. Lu wrote:

    If a lobbying effort gets going, a good point to add to item #2 would be something about the patient’s weight or perceived weight (I can’t think how to phrase it just at the moment). For the reason, see the website “First, Do No Harm” (http:// fathealth-dot-wordpress-dot-com) (don’t know how Sady feels about links, which is why I put the URL like that).

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink
  18. LeftSidePositive wrote:

    Yes, please feel free to repost as much as you like, Also, please add:

    9)Inherent to the patient’s right of refusal of care is that the patient may not be coerced through withholding of desired care by doctors, hospitals, or legislation, if the patient wishes to refuse a given procedure, medical opinion, or test result, except in the event that providing desired care in the absence of the unwanted entity would make that desired care acutely dangerous for that particular patient, or beyond the hospital’s resources to provide.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink
  19. carovee wrote:

    It might not be super effective but could we push for a pro-choice conscience clause? I know of one doctor who got in trouble because she worked at a catholic hospital and prescribed plan b. If doctors can refuse to give you medical care, why can’t they refuse to not give you medical care? If such clauses don’t work both ways then isn’t the clause unconstitutional on the grounds that it is favoring some religious beliefs over others?

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Permalink
  20. LeftSidePositive wrote:

    Carovee, read post #5–the point is that it’s not just a “conscience clause” that would allow a doctor to provide reproductive healthcare, it’s that hospitals should be REQUIRED to provide reproductive health care. “Religious beliefs” are not a relevant concern when dealing with doctors–we choose this profession and we hold a position of public trust in which people depend on us. Or, shall we just say that a Jehovah’s Witness may be a doctor and refuse his patients blood transfusions? May a Christian Scientist can set up a medical practice and draw a salary for doing NOTHING??

    There is no constitutional right to poke & prod & administer chemicals to others–if we do so, there are certain basic standards of behavior with which we must comply. Not allowing people to die needlessly, not misinforming patients, not withholding valid medical care, are all part of the basic obligations that go with the privileges of our profession.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  21. LeftSidePositive wrote:

    Lu, I agree with you in theory, but there are some sticky wickets when dealing with people’s physical conditions–those *can* be a legitimate contraindication to some procedures. Furthermore, obesity IS a major health issue that we have to deal with, so it’s really difficult to craft language that separates “pompous physician being a total dick” or “I don’t want to deal with you” versus “difficult but necessary medical counseling” and “this procedure actually won’t work given our technical limitations.” All of these things definitely exist, but like pornography, fat phobia is difficult to define, easy to recognize.

    Another pet peeve: I find it **absurd** that we moralize so much about our patients’ weight…and have you SEEN what we serve in hospital cafeterias?!?!?

    (And in general I like to advocate for a more public health approach dealing with the kinds of foods that are available, how they’re priced, and what our society does to make public spaces walkable/bikable etc., than moralizing at individuals.)

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink
  22. Lu wrote:

    That was a worthy rebuttal; I see your point. Though I would argue the point further, I don’t think it would substantially improve upon the theme you’ve developed nor be respectful to the efforts you’ve already made.

    And yes, I often wonder, as a vegan, what the hell I’m going to eat if I ever have to stay overnight in the hospital. It absolutely does not compute for me that hospitals do not serve their patients nutritious, health-giving food. WTF is going on there?

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Permalink
  23. LeftSidePositive wrote:

    Lu, I mean, I definitely agree with you that the way overweight patients are treated is a huge problem, but I think that deals with different issues. The reproductive healthcare issue is about overt discrimination and refusal of care–they don’t even *pretend* to care for these people. In contrast, the poor treatment of overweight patients is more an issue of lack of sensitivity, or of providing care in a disrespectful or painful manner, where unconscious biases (or guardedly expressed ones) impede quality of care or accuracy of diagnosis. That’s not something you can correct with “Do this and you lose your license!” as it is with making a pregnant woman die, lying to her, or forcing her to view an ultrasound.

    Now, if doctors were to say, “I refuse to prescribe you a statin unless you are doing more to lose weight” it WOULD be analogous to the birth control and/or abortion issues…

    Shorter me: I think these forms of discrimination operate by different mechanisms and so they shouldn’t both be addressed in the same way.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  24. Lu wrote:

    LeftSP, I agree with you. Still, as you’re a medical student, I would urge you to read the website I referred to in comment 17 (if you haven’t already) in order to see just how much more than bias or lack of sensitivity it is. I’m talking about outright negligence and malpractice based on incorrect, prejudiced assumptions about the patient. Much like the example you gave in your middle paragraph. The number of patients who have received inappropriate treatment or whose complaints are ignored—MRIs not prescribed, undiagnosed PCOS patients having their infertility explained away as “you eat too much; lose some weight,” etc.—based on the assumption that all their health problems are because of their weight is not inconsiderable.

    But, again, on the topic at hand, I take your point that it is a different sort of an issue that might need to be addressed differently.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Permalink