My Turn: 'Medically necessary' bill disrespects Alaska's women

It was with great dismay that I read about the recent signing of the “medically necessary” abortion bill, SB49, by Gov. Sean Parnell. I find this bill deeply troubling on a number of levels.

In the first place, Gov. Parnell has demonstrated unyielding opposition to Obamacare yet here has championed a measure that is far more invasive than any provision in Obamacare in terms of government insinuating itself into people’s personal medical decisions.

More to the point, there is something fundamentally flawed about the notion that the government employees who crafted this bill are the best judges of what constitutes a “truly medically necessary” procedure, to use the words of Sen. John Coghill.

It would be quite straightforward to test the validity of Sen. Coghill and Gov. Parnell’s implied assertion that they are the appropriate arbiters of “medical necessity” with regard to Alaska women. We could simply commission a random survey of Alaska women and ask them the following question: You need to make a decision about the necessity of a particular medical procedure; who would you most trust to help you with your choice: a) John Coghill, b) Sean Parnell or c) your doctor?

My guess is that about 100 percent of women would choose option c.

Sen. Coghill and other supporters of this bill have argued that it is not about being pro-choice vs. pro-life. What is it about? Saving public funds?

If that is the case why don’t we pass a bill defining under what circumstances women on Medicaid can have double mastectomies of the kind popularized by Angelina Jolie. That is an extremely expensive procedure and there is a legitimate debate in the medical community about whether pre-emptive mastectomies based on genetic predispositions are actually medically necessary.

In contrast to Sen. Coghill and others, our representative from Juneau, Cathy Muñoz, was quite straightforward with regard to justifying her vote for this bill.

When questioned about her swing vote to move SB49 out of committee, she stated her belief that there are too many abortions.

While I respect her honesty, I disagree with her that the solution to this problem is to have our state government start making medical decisions for Alaska women rather than to address the primary cause of abortions — a lack of access to and/or knowledge about contraceptives.

By putting government in the business of defining “medical necessity,” the bill that Gov. Parnell signed essentially dictates which Alaskan women should have the right to make their own medical decisions. Consider the following cases: 1) a women is raped by a stranger who is convicted of the crime, 2) a woman is date raped by an acquaintance who is never indicted for the crime, 3) a woman has a one night stand, and 4) a married woman’s birth control fails.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that all of these women have the same constitutionally protected right to right to make their own medical decisions with regard to terminating their pregnancies. In contrast, Gov. Parnell and Sen. Coghill are telling us that the women in cases two through four who are on Medicaid should not have the right to make their own medical decisions.

The absurdity of this legislation becomes even clearer when you realize that from now on, when a woman on Medicaid asks her doctor about terminating her pregnancy, this bill essentially mandates that a doctor’s response be, “You seem pretty healthy, can you show that you were raped?”

For myself and my family, I’d feel a lot more comfortable if our state government stayed out of the medical profession and let Alaska doctors do their jobs.

As someone who respects women if for no other reason than self-preservation in his own household, it is amazing to me that Gov. Parnell does not seem to understand that you can’t just “choose respect” for women, you also have to show respect for them.

Most of the women I know feel that this bill is extremely disrespectful because it codifies the notion that some women should not be allowed to make their own medical decisions.

However, it is not just women that should feel threatened by this bill as it sets a precedent that our state government has the right to make and/or limit the personal medical decisions of Alaskans.

• Eran Hood lives in Juneau with his wife and three daughters.


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