Georgia HB 954 and big government

People are all of a sudden starting to hear about Georgia State Rep. Terry England’s comparing of women to livestock, and using his statement to rally people against HB 954, the “fetal pain” bill. This is old news. Rep. England made his comments last month; here’s coverage from the Huffington Post.

In the ensuing weeks, the bill has been rewritten, and there are now allowances for the health of the mother, thus rendering the current rallying cry inaccurate and possibly damaging. The real issue with this bill is not the fact that one man said something ludicrous. It is that this legislation would give the Georgia government control over the relationship between doctor and patient, leaving the doctor essentially impotent and the patient with no input into her medical care whatsoever.

The text of the bill can be found here.

Section 1 is the justification for the bill. Its main claim is that there is “substantial evidence” that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks. I would say this is the argument on which the entire bill depends. However, I am having trouble finding this “substantial evidence”.

This is the most recent study I can find concerning fetal pain. Unfortunately, it’s from 2005. (I do find the summary interesting in respect to the claims made in HB 954’s Section 1.) This particular study’s results indicate that fetuses aren’t capable of feeling pain until the third trimester.

If someone has a medical journal link (not an opinion piece, blog, online petition, or even a “news” story, unless it has references) with more updated information, I’d be glad to see it.

From the get-go, the bill begs the question–a logical fallacy. Section 2 is just as problematic. Note how all the provisions allowing physicians to do their jobs have been stricken. The decision is not in the hands of patients and the medical professionals who actually know what they’re doing; lawmakers are instead giving them a blanket rulebook to follow.

Section 2 also contains the new language that will supposedly protect women from carrying dead fetuses or from endangering their own lives and/or health. However, check out this bit:

No such condition [permitting an abortion] shall be deemed to exist if it is based on a diagnosis or claim of a mental or emotional condition of the pregnant woman or that the pregnant woman will purposefully engage in conduct which she intends to result in her death or in substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function

Mental health is not considered a part of “real” health under Georgia law, apparently.

Then there’s this:

In any case described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) of this subsection, the physician shall terminate the pregnancy in the manner which, in reasonable medical judgment, provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive unless, in reasonable medical judgment, termination of the pregnancy in that manner would pose a greater risk either of the death of the pregnant woman or of the substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman than would another available method. No such greater risk shall be deemed to exist if it is based on a diagnosis or claim of a mental or emotional condition of the pregnant woman or that the pregnant woman will purposefully engage in conduct which she intends to result in her death or in substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function. If the [“product of the abortion” is struck here and replaced with “child”] is capable of [the phrase “meaningful or” is struck here] sustained life, medical aid then available must be rendered.

The bill does not go into who would then pay for the continued medical needs of the fetus, which at this point obviously could not survive outside a medical facility…nor who would take the child in if he or she somehow managed to live through this ordeal. Note the striking of the word “meaningful” in the text. We all know how hard it is for premature babies–this would be so much worse. Who can imagine what physical and mental damage the child might suffer? And then to not even have parents who want him/her? To become a ward of the state? Do you really think such a life would be “meaningful”? No wonder the word was stricken.

A huge issue with this sort of legislation is that it completely ignores the impact on the rest of society and the rest of life after the event it’s trying to prevent. “Save the babies” sounds like a wonderful cause…until you start to wonder, save them for what, exactly?

Please note, I am, in general, opposed to abortion. I think that life is a wonderful and amazing thing. Longtime readers know how I’ve struggled with my infertility, how I’ve always wanted to have children. The idea of abortion for convenience’s sake makes me sick. But that’s what contraception is for, so you don’t get into that situation in the first place. And of the very few people I have heard of who’ve actually had an abortion, none of them have said the choice was “easy” or “convenient”.

I believe there are times when a woman can and should get an abortion, and that should be between her, her partner, and her physician. I think places like Planned Parenthood, which help educate women on birth control, health, and reproductive issues, are important not because they push an “abortion agenda” (they don’t) but because they help women to take ownership of their own lives, to make choices that are good for them, their families, and their communities. And because that assistance is optional.

The issue with HB 954, the real truth behind the “pro-choice”/”pro-life” debate, is not abortion at all. It’s about the government making choices for private citizens. I don’t want the government telling me I can’t get birth control or an abortion any more than I want them telling me I can’t have weight loss surgery or a heart transplant. It’s none of their business. And once they start dipping their toes into that water, it’s not long until they’re all-in. Have you heard about the banning of religious garments in European schools, how everyone thought it was a great idea until suddenly people couldn’t wear cross necklaces anymore? Not so great when it affects you. And men, this sort of legislation will get around to something that affects you eventually. [Edit: Come to think of it, Florida’s Stand Your Ground law affects everyone in that state, doesn’t it?]

HB 954 has not yet been signed into law by Gov. Deal. There are a couple of petitions against it on Change.org, but I don’t know how effective those actually are. If you feel as I do, I’d recommend writing or calling Deal yourself.

3 thoughts on “Georgia HB 954 and big government

  1. Here’s the letter I sent:

    Dear Gov. Deal,

    I am writing to urge you not to sign HB 954 into law. There are serious issues with the bill as written, including a fundamental flaw that I believe would lead Georgia down a slippery slope of big government.

    The main justification of the bill, fetal pain, commits the logical fallacy of begging the question. It assumes something to be true in order to justify the need for the law. I have not found the “substantial evidence” cited in the bill that fetuses are capable of feeling pain as early as the bill claims. In fact, the most recent study I can find on fetal pain (http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/294/8/947.short, 2005) refutes many of the claims made in HB 954 Section 1.

    Section 2 dictates to physicians the exact circumstances under which they may perform abortions, even requiring them to try to save the aborted fetus’s life if at all possible, without explaining who will pay to keep the fetus alive until it is viable and who will then take in the child, if he/she manages to survive. It also completely removes mental health problems as acceptable reasons for abortions, speaking to a deep misunderstanding of mental health’s place in medicine. True health cannot exclude mental health.

    This legislation would give the Georgia government control over the relationship between doctor and patient, leaving the doctor essentially impotent and the patient with no input into her medical care whatsoever. Medical decisions should be between those involved–in this case, the patient, her partner, and her doctor–and no one else.

    No one I’ve heard of who has had an abortion has ever thought it was an easy decision, something they wanted to happen. What we need is good education and resources to help women empower themselves so they don’t get to that point. If we wait until the damage is done and then step in with strong-arm legislation, we’re not going to solve the problem…we’re just going to allow the government more and more access to and control of people’s private lives.

    We need strong messages of support for women, so they respect themselves and stand up for their bodies instead of giving in to men who won’t wear condoms (for example). We need to provide easy access to all different kinds of birth control for women who can’t use certain kinds. We need better education as to the physical, social, community, and personal consequences of sex. We don’t need a father figure saying “Don’t do this”; when has that ever worked?

    Let’s come together and solve this as a community united, not as angry groups tearing each other down.

    Thank you.

    Heather Meadows

  2. Pingback: Equal rights for women | p i x e l s c r i b b l e s

Comments are closed.