(UPDATED) Protecting Life? New Bill Says Its OK to Let Women Die

One hundred members of Congress (so far--list included below) have cosponsored a bill introduced by far right Congressman Joe Pitts (R-PA) that would allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortion care when necessary to save a woman’s life.

UPDATE 2: 10:36 PM, February 4th, 2011: Quotes from an article by Talking Points Memo quoting Cong. Joe Pitts on the intention of this bill have been included.

UPDATE, Friday, February 4, 2011. The text of the amendment referred to in this post–an expanded conscience clause–was not included in versions online via Thomas or other sources at the time of this update because amendments were made in the Chairman’s mark, a version of the bill recommended by the committee or subcommittee chair of the measure to be considered in a markup. It may subsequently appear on line. Because I am unable to create a link for the material at this time, I have (rather cumbersomely) pasted the entire thing in a comment below.  This post explains the implications of the legal language included on page 6 and beyond of the Chairman’s mark.

One hundred members of Congress (so far) have cosponsored a bill introduced by far right Congressman Joe Pitts (R-PA) called the “Protect Life Act.” (See if yours is one of them below.)

They want to “protect life” so much that they have written into the bill a new amendment that would override the requirement that emergency room doctors save every patient, regardless of status or ability to pay.  The law would carve out an exception for pregnant women; doctors and hospitals will be allowed to let pregnant women die if interventions to save them will kill the fetus.

Yesterday, according to a report by NARAL Pro-Choice America, lawmakers inserted the  new provision onto page six of H.R.358, a bill that is already jam-packed with misogynistic anti-choice and anti-woman provisions. 

According to the Congressional Research Service, HR 358:

  1. Amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to prohibit federal funds from being to used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services. (Currently, federal funds cannot be used for abortion services and plans receiving federal funds must keep federal funds segregated from any funds for abortion services.)
  2. Requires any qualified health benefit plan offered through an Exchange that includes coverage for abortions to also offer a qualified health benefit plan through the Exchange that is identical in every respect except that it does not cover abortions.
  3. Prohibits a federal agency or program and any state or local government that receives federal financial assistance under PPACA from requiring any health plan created or regulated under PPACA to discriminate against any institutional or individual health care entity based on the entity’s refusal to undergo training in the performance of induced abortions, require or provide such training, or refer for such training.
  4. Creates a cause of action for any violations of the abortion provisions of PPACA. Gives federal courts jurisdiction to prevent and redress actual or threatened violations of such provisions by issuing any form of legal or equitable relief, including injunctions and orders preventing the disbursement of all or a portion of federal financial assistance until the prohibited conduct has ceased. Gives standing to institute an action to affected health care entities and the Attorney General.
  5. Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to designate the Director of the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to receive and investigate complaints alleging a violation of PPACA abortion provisions.
  6. Requires the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to ensure that no multistate qualified health plan offered in an Exchange provides coverage of abortion services.

But for good measure and just to make sure we all understood the deeply misogynistic underpinning of today’s Republican party, the new language would allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortion care when necessary to save a woman’s life.

As noted by Talking Points Memo, the bill, known currently as H.R. 358 or the “Protect Life Act,” would amend the 2010 health care reform law that would modify the way Obamacare deals with abortion coverage.

Much of its language is modeled on the so-called Stupak Amendment, an anti-abortion provision pro-life Democrats attempted to insert into the reform law during the health care debate last year. But critics say a new language inserted into the bill just this week would go far beyond Stupak, allowing hospitals that receive federal funds but are opposed to abortions to turn away women in need of emergency pregnancy termination to save their lives.

As such, the bill goes further than any other bill has in encroaching on the rights of women to obtain an abortion when their health is at stake.

What is Pitts’ response to the complaints from pro-choice groups about the bill? asks Eric McMorris Santoro of TPM.

Nothing to see here.”

“Since the 1970s, existing law affirmed the right to refuse involvement in abortion in all circumstances,” a spokesperson for Pitts told TPM.  [emphasis added by Rewire].

“The Protect Life Act simply extends these provisions to the new law by inserting a provision that mirrors Hyde-Weldon,” the spokesperson added, referring to current federal law banning spending on abortion and allowing anti-abortion doctors to refrain from performing them while still receiving federal funds. “In other words, this bill is only preserving the same rights that medical professionals have had for decades.”

But as TPM notes, currently, all hospitals in America that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding are bound by a 1986 law known as EMTALA to provide emergency care to all comers, regardless of their ability to pay or other factors. Hospitals do not have to provide free care to everyone that arrives at their doorstep under EMTALA — but they do have to stabilize them and provide them with emergency care without factoring in their ability to pay for it or not. If a hospital can’t provide the care a patient needs, it is required to transfer that patient to a hospital that can, and the receiving hospital is required to accept that patient.

Pitts’ new bill would free hospitals from any abortion requirement under EMTALA, meaning that medical providers who aren’t willing to terminate pregnancies wouldn’t have to — nor would they have to facilitate a transfer.

The hospital could literally do nothing at all, pro-choice critics of Pitts’ bill say.

“This is really out there,” Donna Crane, policy director at NARAL Pro-Choice America told TPM. “I haven’t seen this before.”

Crane told TPM she’s been a pro-choice advocate “for a long time,” yet she’s never seen anti-abortion bill as brazenly attacking the health of the mother exemption as Pitts’ bill has.

Pitts’ office told TPM they’re “unmoved” by NARAL’s concerns. They say the goal of their bill is to codify existing legal protections for medical providers who do not want to perform abortions, such as the Weldon Amendment. Pro-choice advocates say that the new provisions in the Pitts effectively eliminate the right of critically ill women to obtain an abortion to save their lives. That goes beyond the commonly accepted understanding of “conscience protections” for pro-life health providers.

“I think a majority of Americans would agree with us that saving a woman’s life should be every hospital’s first priority,” Alexa Kolbi-Molina, an attorney with the ACLU’s reproductive freedom division told TPM said. “We all know a woman who has faced a complication in her pregnancy … we would hope that when that woman goes to a hospital she would be protected and get the care that she needs.”

“I think a majority of Americans would believe that a hospital should not be imposing their religious beliefs when providing care, especially life-saving care,” she added.

Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America stated, “Anti-choice politicians have gone from redefining rape to denying abortion care to women who will die without it.”

“When it comes to attacking women’s freedom and privacy, these politicians know no bounds. This debate is just getting started. Any member of Congress who has signed his or her name to this agenda must be held accountable for such extreme attacks against women’s reproductive-health services.”

The Pitts bill effectively turns all hospitals into arms of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  In other words, your health care is now fully subject to fundamentalist religious ideology.

The so-called Protect Life Act is one of a slew of pieces of legislation that seek to effectively ban abortion in the United States, establish personhood of fertilized eggs, and outlaw contraception.

In short: Fertilized eggs are people; women are not.

Cosponsors as of this writing:

Rep Aderholt, Robert B. [AL-4] – 1/20/2011
Rep Akin, W. Todd [MO-2] – 1/20/2011
Rep Austria, Steve [OH-7] – 1/20/2011
Rep Bachmann, Michele [MN-6] – 1/20/2011
Rep Bachus, Spencer [AL-6] – 1/20/2011
Rep Barton, Joe [TX-6] – 1/20/2011
Rep Bilirakis, Gus M. [FL-9] – 1/20/2011
Rep Black, Diane [TN-6] – 1/20/2011
Rep Blackburn, Marsha [TN-7] – 1/20/2011
Rep Brady, Kevin [TX-8] – 1/20/2011
Rep Broun, Paul C. [GA-10] – 1/20/2011
Rep Buchanan, Vern [FL-13] – 1/20/2011
Rep Buerkle, Ann Marie [NY-25] – 1/20/2011
Rep Burgess, Michael C. [TX-26] – 1/20/2011
Rep Canseco, Francisco R. [TX-23] – 1/20/2011
Rep Carter, John R. [TX-31] – 1/20/2011
Rep Cassidy, Bill [LA-6] – 1/24/2011
Rep Chaffetz, Jason [UT-3] – 1/20/2011
Rep Coffman, Mike [CO-6] – 1/20/2011
Rep Conaway, K. Michael [TX-11] – 1/20/2011
Rep Costello, Jerry F. [IL-12] – 1/20/2011
Rep Crawford, Eric A. “Rick” [AR-1] – 1/20/2011
Rep Critz, Mark S. [PA-12] – 1/20/2011
Rep Davis, Geoff [KY-4] – 1/20/2011
Rep Ellmers, Renee L. [NC-2] – 1/20/2011
Rep Flake, Jeff [AZ-6] – 1/20/2011
Rep Fleming, John [LA-4] – 1/20/2011
Rep Flores, Bill [TX-17] – 1/25/2011
Rep Fortenberry, Jeff [NE-1] – 1/20/2011
Rep Garrett, Scott [NJ-5] – 1/20/2011
Rep Gibbs, Bob [OH-18] – 1/20/2011
Rep Gingrey, Phil [GA-11] – 1/20/2011
Rep Gohmert, Louie [TX-1] – 1/20/2011
Rep Graves, Sam [MO-6] – 1/20/2011
Rep Guthrie, Brett [KY-2] – 1/20/2011
Rep Hall, Ralph M. [TX-4] – 1/20/2011
Rep Harper, Gregg [MS-3] – 1/26/2011
Rep Harris, Andy [MD-1] – 1/20/2011
Rep Hartzler, Vicky [MO-4] – 1/20/2011
Rep Huelskamp, Tim [KS-1] – 1/26/2011
Rep Huizenga, Bill [MI-2] – 1/20/2011
Rep Jenkins, Lynn [KS-2] – 1/20/2011
Rep Johnson, Timothy V. [IL-15] – 1/20/2011
Rep Jones, Walter B., Jr. [NC-3] – 1/20/2011
Rep Jordan, Jim [OH-4] – 1/20/2011
Rep Kelly, Mike [PA-3] – 1/20/2011
Rep Kingston, Jack [GA-1] – 1/20/2011
Rep Kinzinger, Adam [IL-11] – 1/20/2011
Rep Kline, John [MN-2] – 1/20/2011
Rep Lamborn, Doug [CO-5] – 1/20/2011
Rep Lance, Leonard [NJ-7] – 1/20/2011
Rep Latham, Tom [IA-4] – 1/26/2011
Rep Latta, Robert E. [OH-5] – 1/20/2011
Rep Lee, Christopher J. [NY-26] – 1/20/2011
Rep Lipinski, Daniel [IL-3] – 1/20/2011
Rep Long, Billy [MO-7] – 1/20/2011
Rep Luetkemeyer, Blaine [MO-9] – 1/24/2011
Rep Lungren, Daniel E. [CA-3] – 1/20/2011
Rep Manzullo, Donald A. [IL-16] – 1/20/2011
Rep Marchant, Kenny [TX-24] – 1/20/2011
Rep McCaul, Michael T. [TX-10] – 1/20/2011
Rep McClintock, Tom [CA-4] – 1/20/2011
Rep McCotter, Thaddeus G. [MI-11] – 1/20/2011
Rep McKinley, David B. [WV-1] – 1/20/2011
Rep McMorris Rodgers, Cathy [WA-5] – 1/20/2011
Rep Miller, Candice S. [MI-10] – 1/20/2011
Rep Miller, Jeff [FL-1] – 1/20/2011
Rep Murphy, Tim [PA-18] – 1/20/2011
Rep Neugebauer, Randy [TX-19] – 1/20/2011
Rep Nunnelee, Alan [MS-1] – 1/24/2011
Rep Olson, Pete [TX-22] – 1/20/2011
Rep Paul, Ron [TX-14] – 1/20/2011
Rep Pence, Mike [IN-6] – 1/20/2011
Rep Petri, Thomas E. [WI-6] – 1/25/2011
Rep Poe, Ted [TX-2] – 1/20/2011
Rep Pompeo, Mike [KS-4] – 1/20/2011
Rep Roe, David P. [TN-1] – 1/20/2011
Rep Rogers, Harold [KY-5] – 1/20/2011
Rep Rogers, Mike D. [AL-3] – 1/24/2011
Rep Rogers, Mike J. [MI-8] – 1/20/2011
Rep Roskam, Peter J. [IL-6] – 1/20/2011
Rep Ross, Dennis [FL-12] – 1/20/2011
Rep Ross, Mike [AR-4] – 1/20/2011
Rep Ryan, Paul [WI-1] – 1/20/2011
Rep Scalise, Steve [LA-1] – 1/20/2011
Rep Schmidt, Jean [OH-2] – 1/20/2011
Rep Sessions, Pete [TX-32] – 1/20/2011
Rep Shimkus, John [IL-19] – 1/20/2011
Rep Shuler, Heath [NC-11] – 1/20/2011
Rep Shuster, Bill [PA-9] – 1/20/2011
Rep Smith, Christopher H. [NJ-4] – 1/20/2011
Rep Smith, Lamar [TX-21] – 1/20/2011
Rep Stutzman, Marlin A. [IN-3] – 1/20/2011
Rep Sullivan, John [OK-1] – 1/20/2011
Rep Terry, Lee [NE-2] – 1/20/2011
Rep Thompson, Glenn [PA-5] – 1/20/2011
Rep Upton, Fred [MI-6] – 1/20/2011
Rep Walberg, Tim [MI-7] – 1/24/2011
Rep Whitfield, Ed [KY-1] – 1/20/2011
Rep Young, C.W. Bill [FL-10] – 1/24/2011