I Solemnly Swear I Am Fed Up With Doctors’ "Right to Refuse"

Recently, one of CNBC’s Donny Deutsch’s “Big Ideas” was to interview Darlene Bender, whose 20-year-old daughter was raped and later denied emergency contraception by her ER doctor at Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, PA last month. Deutsch cannot believe that the doctor would put his personal beliefs before those of his patient-that he had the “audacity to take that decision [to provide emergency contraception] upon himself.” You go, Donny.

Dr. Donna Harrison, from the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists joined the dialogue and was introduced as someone “offensive” to Donny because she stands behind Dr. Gish’s refusal to provide emergency contraception to the young woman. Dr. Harrison asserted that physicians have a right to refuse to prescribe medications and that requiring doctors to do so would be “against the Hippocratic oath.” Her Hippocratic oath included a promise not to have sex with her patients, a promise not to give a drug which would kill someone, and a promise not to destroy human life before birth. Her oath did not seem to involve treating patients with whom she disagrees inhumanely.

For some reason, the last bit didn’t sit well with me (I’m sure you can’t imagine why). According to Wikipedia (the most succinct explanation of the Hippocratic Oath):

Several parts of the oath have been removed or re-shaped over the years. . . as the social, religious, and political importance of medicine has changed. Most schools administer some form of oath, but the great majority no longer use the ancient version, which praised non-Abrahamic deities, advocated teaching of men but not women, and forbade general practitioners from surgery, abortion, euthanasia, or abuse of the prescription pad.

The actual oath may not have even been written by Hippocrates; instead, it has been attributed to the Pythagoreans of fourth century BC.

It sounds to me like you can swear on whatever you want to swear on-the ancient Hippocratic Oath, the Declaration of Geneva, Dr. Harrison’s anti-choice oath, or the Oath of Lasagna (and no, I’m not just trying to be funny with a reference to a favorite cartoon orange cat, this is a real oath!). Dr. Harrison has held true to the anti-choice part even though emergency contraception can’t cause an abortion (surely because we’re still living in conditions similar to ancient Greece, where it was dangerous to perform abortions or they, too, would’ve continued confusing how EC actually works) and obviously opted out of adhering to the “teaching of men but not women” and worshipping Apollo. Clearly, justifying the right to refuse medical treatment holds up when an ancient oath that really isn’t used anymore or taken literally is your justification.

I guess another oath that should remain forever the same is a woman’s vow to obey and serve her husband in marriage. Woulds’t thou concur, Dr. Harrison? Sadly, the answer is probably yes.

Darlene Bender, who appeared on Donny’s show, will be one of several speakers at a press conference for the Pennsylvania Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies (CARE) Act on September 13.

Julie in Philly

"Greatness….reduced one Hazleton at a time"

Have you ever seen that Daily Show bit where Jon Stewart leans his head way back and blurts out, “Ooooh, snap!”? That’s how I felt reading today’s editorial in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

Proving that every Main Street in America can have its own demagogue, Mayor Barletta has championed an ordinance that is all about punishing immigrants, ostensibly illegal ones, although inevitably all come under the same cloud of suspicion.
(snap, err, snip)
Hazleton is a million miles from the America that once welcomed the “poor and huddled masses” — and profited hugely by their presence. Mr. Barletta, who appears to have greater political ambitions, is buoyed by the support he has received around the country, but then America has never been short of nativists. They know a friend when they see one.

For once such poison seeps out, there is no containing it to those who are illegal. As Post-Gazette writer Milan Simonich reported Sunday, a legal immigrant from the Dominican Republic, a U.S. citizen for 18 years, has endured taunts to “go back where you came from.”

If that anti-foreigner attitude prevails, America can forget competing in the global market and its greatness will be reduced one Hazleton at a time.

I think Lou just got punk’d. Actually, unlike that show, what’s happening in Hazleton is no practical joke, and it’s sad to watch.

Andy in H-burg

"Only" two-thirds of Finns believe in "evolutionism"

Science magazine recently did an analysis of polling on evolution, which found that only 40% of Americans accept that humans evolved from a lower species.

Apparently, NewsRoom Finland was disappointed in the Finnish results in the same analysis:

With only two thirds saying the theory of evolution is a tenable explanation of the origin of species, Finns are more sceptical about evolutionism than people in many other European countries as well as in Japan.

Oh, to have such problems. Our friends at the National Center for Science Education and at Panda’s Thumb would be doing cartwheels if 65% of Americans believed in evolution.

Here is Panda’s Thumb’s take on the new data.

Andy in Harrisburg: Close to Dover but a world away…Finland, anyone?

Can I See Some I.D.?

Alas, the FDA has approved over-the-counter sales of emergency contraceptive Plan B!! Woo-hoo!! While this is a HUGE victory for many women, those 17 years old and younger will still require a prescription for this perfectly safe medication (for ALL age groups).

Not surprisingly, the anti-choice folk have their panties in a bunch over this. And it’s not just that women will be able to purchase the medication. It’s also that men over age 18 can also access Plan B.

Opponent Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said Plan B’s wider availability could give women a false sense of security, since it isn’t as effective as regular birth control. Wright also worries that adult men who have sex with minor girls could force the pills upon them. From the CWA press release:

“Any adult male who is having sex with a minor could walk into a pharmacy, buy the drug, and coax the girl into taking the pill…. The FDA’s irresponsible action today takes those rights out of a parent’s hands and gives them to ill-intentioned perpetrators.”

So, let me get this right, Wendy: you, as a concerned woman of America, are fearful that Plan B’s over-the-counter availability will enable male sex offenders to help their young female victims prevent a pregnancy by offering them Plan B? Or, by forcing the pills down their throat? Or, by crushing them up and hiding them in applesauce? I guess it’s important not to focus on men actually committing the crime in the first place. Because…?

Non-prescription sales will hopefully begin by the end of this year. Plan B will be available behind the counter only at pharmacies to help ensure that photo identifications are being checked. Maybe, as an additional feature, pharmacies could also announce to the entire store over their PA system that the woman in aisle 3 has had unprotected sex and is now purchasing Plan B. I mean, women, you have your Plan B – you want privacy too?! Blasphemy.

For more information on Plan B and today’s action, please see the FDA page.

Julie in Philly

What would Oliver Stone say?

This is just too good not to pass on. I really don’t believe it’s more than a clerical error, but it sure is an interesting coincidence. From this morning’s NY Times:

“Evolutionary biology has vanished from the list of acceptable fields of study for recipients of a federal education grant for low-income college students.

The omission is inadvertent, said Katherine McLane, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, which administers the grants. ‘There is no explanation for it being left off the list,’ Ms. McLane said. ‘It has always been an eligible major.’

Another spokeswoman, Samara Yudof, said evolutionary biology would be restored to the list, but as of last night it was still missing.”

Without the listing, students majoring in that field cannot apply for the grant money.

Apparently more than a few scientists found the omission suspicious. Again from the NY Times: “‘It’s just awfully coincidental,’ said Steven W. Rissing, an evolutionary biologist at Ohio State University.”

Although I don’t really believe that the major was deliberately removed, it’s really no surprise that scientists are feeling a bit paranoid in the current anti-science climate. The issue of intelligent design is probably best known, but there are many other examples of governmental assaults on scientific inquiry and academic freedom. For more information about this very serious issue, check out the ACLU’s 2005 report, Science Under Siege.

Sara in Philly

School Boards, These Days. . .

After realizing that 13 percent of its female students were pregnant last year, an Ohio school board decides to reconsider using their out-dated (developed circa 1987!), abstinence-only sex “education” program. Apparently, the school was not fulfilling their duty by teaching that “bearing children out-of-wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society” or emphasizing the “importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity” (points #6 and 8, respectively, out of the 8-Point Definition of Abstinence-Only Education defined by the federal government). From the local NBC affiliate:

An Ohio school board is expanding sex education following the revelation that 13 percent of one high school’s female students were pregnant last year.

There were 490 female students at Timken High School in 2005, and 65 were pregnant, WEWS-TV in Cleveland reported.

The new Canton school board program promotes abstinence but also will teach students who decide to have sex how to do so responsibly, bringing the city school district’s health curriculum in line with national standards.

According to the Canton Health Department, statistics through July 2005 showed that 104 of the 586 babies born to Canton residents in Aultman Hospital and Mercy Medical Center had mothers between the ages of 11 and 19.

Thus far, research proving that these programs aren’t effective at preventing unintended teen pregnancy hasn’t been enough for the federal and state governments to stop pouring millions of tax dollars into abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. As the national standard, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have been implemented in schools across the country, the federal government spending over $1 billion to do so since 1996.

Pennsylvania received $6,731,542 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in the fiscal year 2005. I wonder how many pregnant teens we have in our schools???

For more information on this issue, visit Advocates for Youth and the ACLU’s section on abstinence-only programs.

Julie in Philly

You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania…sort of

Work for the ACLU and you learn to have a thick skin. But this doozy from Friday’s column by Dimitri Vassilaros of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review is about as appalling as they come:

But Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a news release that “You might as well just paint a target on every foreigners’ (sic) forehead or a sign saying ‘please treat me differently.’ ” Um, OK. Actually, that sounds like a dandy idea. (my bold)

Great. So now we have a columnist from a major Pennsylvania newspaper endorsing the physical marking of those from other countries. Makes you all warm inside, doesn’t it?

But this isn’t about race. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

We always encourage people to answer this kind of speech with speech of their own. Here’s the LTE page for the Trib.

Andy in H-burg

Snakes on a Plane

You know you’ve really made it when you are lampooned in popular culture. From the NYTimes review of Snakes on a Plane:

The filmmakers don’t overplay the political angle, though they do squeeze in a Middle Eastern snake and a scene of an F.B.I. agent sneering about the A.C.L.U.

Does that sentence strike anyone else as funny? What would constitute overplaying the political angle–the Middle Eastern snake declaring jihad and taking over the cockpit?

The review continues:

Mostly, though, what they give us is the chance to win, not with righteous morality, but with an old-fashioned swagger that says, much like the film itself, Hey, we may be stupid, but we rock.

Good. I feel we could really use a little more of that right now.

Lisa in Pittsburgh

Guest Blogger: Stephen A. Glassman

Diversity key to equality for ALL
PHRC offers historical view on immigration debate

By Stephen A. Glassman
Chairperson
PA Human Relations Commission

There has been much in the news recently about illegal immigrants and efforts on the national, state and local levels to restrict their access to both private and governmental services. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission is concerned by both the content and the tenor of these arguments, particularly here in Pennsylvania. As Chairperson of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, I feel it is important for the Commission to weigh in on this important issue.

The Commission enforces Pennsylvania’s laws that prohibit both governmental and private discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and commercial property, education and public accommodations. The public accommodations provisions include services provided by the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions, as well as by the private sector. The protected classes contained in our state’s anti-discrimination laws include, among others, race, color, ancestry and national origin. The Commission also is responsible for addressing situations involving racial and ethnic tension, and for promoting equal opportunity and good will among all who visit or reside in Pennsylvania.

As a law enforcement agency, the Commission does not, of course, condone or support illegal immigration. The Commission, however, does view the current policy debate on immigration through a specific historical lens. The Commission just celebrated its 50th anniversary. In 1956, if you were African American, Jewish, a woman, or from any number of non-European countries, you had difficulty finding employment, were excluded from renting or owning a home in many neighborhoods, and were often forced to attend schools that were either physically segregated or educationally inferior. Daily life activities, that we now take for granted, were denied to many through ignorance, rudeness, overt hostility and humiliation or, often, outright exclusion.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has sought to insure that a person’s race, skin color, national origin, or ancestry did not result in such patently unfair discrimination. Unfortunately, those who are different from the majority, who are the most disenfranchised and the least able to protect or speak for themselves, are the ones most likely to become the targets of discrimination. Immigrants are simply the current target, whether they are Hispanic, Asian, African, or Middle Eastern. They are not the first. They will, unfortunately, not be the last.

The Commission’s assessment of various legislative initiatives and, more pointedly, our assessment of the tone and tenor of much of the public debate, suggests that the impetus for action comes from the same type of prejudice and fear that has had such demonstrable and unfortunate consequences in the past. Much of the proposed legislation and public debate is centered on punishing both those who are here illegally and those who provide them with employment, food and housing. Inevitably, these laws will unfairly ensnare many individuals who are living here legally and will encourage aggressive behavior against anyone perceived to be an illegal immigrant.

Reform, to be truly effective, must be broader in its approach; punitive action, alone, will not solve the problem. It will simply encourage people to “obey” these new laws by treating anyone who looks or sounds “foreign” as if they are also “illegal.” This is not only bad social policy. It is also unlawful under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and other state and federal laws.

States and municipalities should not be focused on passing legislation concerning the rights of illegal immigrants. This is a uniquely federal issue which should be dealt with on the national level. Current federal legislation likely already preempts or prohibits the passage of state or local laws relating to this issue.

If state and local legislators must get involved, they have a duty to clearly articulate the precise problems which need to be solved. The Commission believes that a thorough analysis of the health, safety, economic, social, and cultural consequences of most of the legislative proposals being made on illegal immigration in Pennsylvania will show that they may in fact be unconstitutional and are likely to do more harm than good. This is also true for the various “English Only” laws being proposed in Pennsylvania.

These laws have been presented in conjunction with legislation that intends to discourage illegal immigration. This is an unfortunate and inappropriate association, as restrictions on the use of languages other than English will be detrimental to all residents, including many people who are American citizens and/or who are legally residing in Pennsylvania communities. Puerto Ricans, for example, are US citizens by birth and their official language is Spanish.

Legitimate concerns about immigration reform ought to be addressed. But they should be discussed in an environment that is founded on shared democratic principles of respect and inclusion. This Commonwealth was founded and has prospered on such principles. If, as it appears, the focus is on the status of those immigrants who have not arrived in this country through a legally approved process, any legislative action should be clearly limited to address this concern on the narrowest terms possible and on terms that minimize possible adverse consequences on a Commonwealth full of immigrants and the descendants of immigrants who are here legally.

It is also imperative that any new legislative action include provisions that would penalize those who, under the guise of seeking to comply with the new laws, intentionally or unintentionally engage in discrimination against individuals simply because of their ancestry or because they may look or sound like they were not born here.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission continues to lead Pennsylvanians in our collective struggle to achieve equal rights for all. In doing so we recognize that, at its core, this continuing struggle involves learning to appreciate, respect, and value the contributions of others — not only those who are most like us, but also those who are most different from us.