“Protect Life Act” Does Not Protect Women’s Lives


This article is cross-posted with permission from The Hill.

This week, I attended the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing on HR 358, the so-called “Protect Life Act,” sponsored by Representatives Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Dan Lipiniski (D-IL). Despite its name, this bill would actually put the lives of women at risk. In addition to making it all but impossible for women to get insurance coverage for abortion care in the new state health exchanges—even if they use their own money—this bill would let public hospitals refuse to provide emergency abortion care even when necessary to save a woman’s life.

Republican supporters of this bill and their witnesses repeatedly asserted in the hearing that abortion is never necessary to save a woman’s life.

That is simply not true. 

In fact, just last year, such a case garnered national media attention when a Catholic nun and longtime administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix was excommunicated for allowing a woman to terminate her pregnancy in order to save her life.

The pregnant woman was critically ill with pulmonary hypertension, which limits the ability of the heart and lungs to function. According to a statement from St. Joseph’s Hospital Vice President Suzanne Pfister:

“In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother’s life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy.”

On our toll-free Hotline, we have heard from many other women who needed to obtain abortion care in order to save their lives—women who had cancer and needed to immediately begin live-saving treatment. Such treatment would harm the fetus and was incompatible with carrying the pregnancy to term.

In addition to prohibiting emergency abortion care, Representative Pitts’ agenda is so extreme that this bill originally attempted to narrow the definition of rape and incest. Although he removed this language from the bill after weeks of public outrage, the rest of its provisions are also extreme and would adversely affect the lives and health of women. Abortion care is basic health care for women and should not be treated differently from other health care services.

This bill could have devastating consequences for the more than one million women who choose abortion each year—women like Dana Weinstein and Mary Vargas who were with us on the Hill this week to explain how this bill’s provisions would have affected their ability to make the decisions that were best for their families.

Dana found out during a very wanted pregnancy that her baby was missing a main part of its brain, and that the surface of the brain was malformed and severely underdeveloped, a condition called polymicrogyria. Her baby would likely not survive birth. Dana and her husband did not want to bring a child into the world that would only be here in a vegetative state, if at all.

Dana was unable to obtain the abortion care she needed in her home state of Maryland, so she had to travel across the country to Colorado to one of a small number of specialized providers and pay $17, 500 out-of-pocket for her care. She then had to enlist the help of legal counsel and spent more than a year appealing before her insurance company finally agreed to cover the total cost of her abortion care. However, it was a significant financial burden for her family to shoulder, especially at such a devastatingly emotional time.

After undergoing years of fertility treatments, Mary was pregnant with a son, already named David, when she found out at 22 weeks of pregnancy that due to the atrophy of his lungs and kidneys—a condition known as Potter’s Syndrome—there was virtually no chance of his survival beyond a few hours, if indeed he survived until birth. Her husband was a federal employee so their insurance would not cover her abortion care. 

Mary and her husband were faced with the choice of terminating the pregnancy if they could afford the out-of-pocket expenses, or waiting and allowing their son to suffer without comfort—to feel his bones being crushed and broken in the absence of amniotic fluid, until he died in utero, or at delivery, suffocating to death in the absence of developed lungs. As Mary describes, they chose to terminate the pregnancy “because choosing mercy was the only thing we could do for our unborn son.”

HR 358 would deny coverage for abortion care even for women facing situations like Dana and Mary. It is unconscionable that anti-choice legislators are continuing their attempts to further restrict women’s access to abortion care.

We’ve defeated legislation like this before. HR 358 is a new version of the old Stupak-Pitts amendment from the health care reform debate, which was soundly defeated in the Senate. It is imperative that we defeat this extreme attack on women once again, and ensure that women like Dana and Mary can access the abortion care they need.

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  • colleen

    Republican supporters of this bill and their witnesses repeatedly asserted in the hearing that abortion is never necessary to save a woman’s life.

    Immediately following the case in Phoenix there were ‘pro-life’ OBGyns saying this same thing and indeed, Rep. Ron Paul is an OB-Gyn and is one of this bill’s co-sponsors.

    Are we supposed to believe that the maternal mortality rate is a myth?

    Were these witnesses sworn in? Isn’t it illegal to lie at Congressional hearings? What doers the CDC say? And, finally, where are the various professional organizations (The AMA and OCOG for instance) on this outrageous bill? To my eyes they are advocating for medical malpractice and the deliberate murders of women whose sole fault is that their bodies are unable to sustain a pregnancy. We don’t allow parents to refuse to treat their children for religious reasons and indeed we charge and jail parents who manage to kill their children by withholding medical treatment and substituting prayer.

  • julie-watkins

    The attitude I see in “no abortion is necessary” people is that they don’t believe the doctors: they were lying, the “proof” is faked or doesn’t mean what the doctors say it means when they say the woman’s life was in danger.

    In a sideways same way we say the Gosnell isn’t typical, that most abortion providers are safe (and they say they’re all like Gosnell) — they think we’re exagerating the few maternal deaths, and they won’t believe pregnancy & birthing is dangerous. They think we’re taking advantage and they need to close the loophole. It will be sad if a few legitimate dangerous pregnancies kill or mame the mothers, but that bad effect will more than be compensated for by closing the loophole and saving the viable babies that otherwise would be aborted under false circumstances. Well, the two cases aren’t comparable, but they think so. :-(

    Very frustrating.

    [edit: oops, this is supposed to be a reply to Coleen, not a new thread. Sorry. I know better. :-( :-( ]

  • ldan

    I find their false equivalence to be maddening.

     

    Actual living women dying, leaving their already existing children motherless and their families heartbroken, is not an equivalent harm to some women somehow slipping fraudulently through this ‘loophole’ and aborting late term fetuses. The people espousing this view give me the creeps. It’s as if their  fervor to make sure nobody is getting away with something blinds them to the actual suffering going on.

  • julie-watkins

    .

  • julie-watkins

    Bingo, I agree.

    Unfortunately, I have personally dealt with lesser instances of what looks like clear evidence, to me, just won’t compute … and I can’t get anywhere. Very frustrating.

  • squirrely-girl

    … focusing on other people’s morality means they don’t have to focus on their own. Policing other people makes them feel righteous. 

     

    Ironically, as evidenced by all of the infidelity scandals, policing themselves is exactly what they should be doing. 

  • colleen

    The attitude I see in “no abortion is necessary” people is that they don’t believe the doctors

    Part of the reason they don’t believe the sane doctors is because there’s a call list of ‘pro-life’ Ob-Gyns,  psychiatrists and other professionals eager and willing to say ANYTHING the Catholic Bishops want them to say.

    The US ranks a shameful 41 in maternal mortality rates.  Quacks like Ron Paul  should be called to account by professional organizations such as the AMA, ACOG and by whatever agencies are responsible for licensing physicians.

  • colleen

    It’s as if their  fervor to make sure nobody is getting away with something blinds them to the actual suffering going on.

    Their ‘leadership’  is well aware of the actual suffering. Nothing bolsters their moral authority more clearly than mandatory human sacrifice .

  • ahunt

    http://www.slowpokecomics.com/

     

    Here ya go, Kids. Twisted but funny: MOMBIES

  • ldan

    Oh I needed that this week. :)

  • goatini

    “Fully grown woman: Expendable Fetusmobile!”

    Because a single-cell organism, 80% of which never even make it to the uterine wall, must be granted MORE rights than any living woman.

  • crowepps

    And of course by tying that human sacrifice to reproductive ‘morality’ they can ensure that it’s never going to THEM at risk of paying the price –

  • crowepps

    Isn’t it illegal to lie at Congressional hearings?

    It is indeed, however there’s a huge loophole – it’s not a lie if you BELIEVE IT to be true.

  • ahunt

    Yah.  See, republicans need to be able to believe that their contempt for women in general, and poor women in particular is justified.  By ensuring the birth of more children into poverty, and the damage to/death of more women from preventable/curable disease…these twisted nrepublicans get “proof” that women are by nature morally deficient sluts…

     

     

     

  • colleen

    anyone who BELIEVES that  maternal mortality rates are a lie, that abortions are never necessary to save a woman’s life or that a pregnant woman should be left to die if her body cannot sustain a pregnancy has no business practicing medicine, running hospitals or, for that matter, writing laws.

     

     

     

  • ldan

    The thing is, how is it credible that any actual medical expert testifying regarding pregnancy-related issues wouldn’t be aware of, at the very least, ectopic pregnancies?

     

    Either they should be stripped of whatever medical accreditation they have, or nailed for lying at a Congressional hearing.

     

    I’m not feeling at all charitable just now and would like people so abusing their freedom of speech to be deprived of it, frankly.

  • julie-watkins

    So they will pick “doctors” who will agree with them. A liscense to practice is going to be issued by a state agency, isn’t it? In anti-abortion states they might not take away accreditation. :-(

    Since most politicians haven’t had medical training it will be easier for them to be willfully blind. What should happen vs what does happen is very frustrating to see!

    I’m not feeling charitable at all either … I’m feeling angry and depressed.

  • freetobe

    to build up their military. They are really scardey cats all of them, and gullible OMG are they gullible. They will listen to anyone they feel is christian enough. of course those people must have to jump through hoops to earn that trust.

    the poor can get out of poverty by joining the military. They will educate them and pay them while they train. Which is a good thing if you like wars and teaching your sons and daughters how to KILL other humans that are living.

    There was a gory report on the news a week or so ago about all the innocent civilians that were massacred by our military. body parts everywhere and innocent children’s body parts as well.

    Yep they are so pro-life. They love executing those  prisoners too and making the tax payers pay thousand of dollars for appeal after appeal after appeal. they don’ care they get off on seeing a human die. i guess it is the thrill of killing and seeing the killing and all the blood that turns them on. Oh and it is that power they get that Godly like power of control over taking the life of an already born human. Must be all the blood and gore they get off on.

  • heathen57

    This is nothing more than a “Save the Fetus” bill and is very wrong on so many levels that it almost surprises me they had the insanity to bring it to the committee. 

     

    Never need an abortion to save a woman’s life?!?  Come on, there are so many problems that can come up in a pregnancy that nobody can predict.  Beside the example in the article, there can be cancer, tubal pregnancy, and even the biggest cause of maternal death – spousal abuse/assault.

     

    I had a ‘discussion’ with a Catholic woman about this very subject when the Arizona incident happened.  Now I know that the majority of Catholics are not as carzy as this lady was.  I think that if she wasn’t a woman, she would be campaigning for Pope.

     

    My wife had severe scarring in her uterus; enough that it could rupture any time after the fetus started to grow and push against it.  This woman tried to tell me that there should have been no problem since they could just keep her in the hospital.

     

    I asked her if she knew of any insurance company that would pay for her to spend 7 months in an operating room, prepped for surgery until the fetus was developed enough to be viable.  She didn’t realize that if a woman’s uterus would rupture, even in an operating theater the chances of them saving her are less than 5%.  If she is in a room down the hall, the chances drop to 0 since she would bleed out in a few minutes.

     

    Of course her answer was that she should sacrifice herself for the fetus.  She doesn’t stop to think that if the woman dies, the fetus will as well.  It ended with her praying for my soul, and me thinking her insane.

     

    I really applaud those of you who can stand to listen to such claptrap and then report it back to the rest of us.  My hat is off to you and your strong constitution.

  • plume-assassine

    Holy sh**, that’s terrifying…

    Your story illustrates perfectly just ONE of many reasons why an abortion can be a life-saving procedure for high-risk pregnant women. Anyone who claims otherwise is ignoring reality, or an evil SOB lying through their teeth.

    Heathen, I thank you for your comments. I wish there were more vocal pro-choice men; men who truly love & respect the lives of their spouses, mothers, daughters, sisters, etc…

  • harry834

    :)

  • rebellious-grrl

    Thanks Heathen. The over simplistic answers of the antis are just plain ridiculous, life threatening, and dangerous to women. When the antis say things like this, it really pisses me off. They treat women like they are nothing more than “baby ovens.”

  • rebellious-grrl

    Chunky monkey awesome, ahunt! Thanks for sharing.

  • churchmouse

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  • plume-assassine

    “Dana found out during a very wanted pregnancy that her baby was missing a main part of its brain, and that the surface of the brain was malformed and severely underdeveloped, a condition called polymicrogyria. Her baby would likely not survive birth. Dana and her husband did not want to bring a child into the world that would only be here in a vegetative state, if at all.”

     

    Most people want perfect babies. They however chose to kill their baby to make life easier for them. This baby would have died and if it hadn’t these people would not have wanted it anyway from the sound of it. They did not want a child who was not perfect, so they killed it. She had to travel to Colorado to kill her child…that ought to tell you something.

     

    Wow, you have absolutely zero compassion. You think it’s the easy way out to hear about a lethal condition and abort a wanted pregnancy? It’s not about “perfect babies,” it’s about wanting to give birth to a child that will survive and NOT SUFFER! Yes, abortion is painless, it is mercy for fetal conditions that are incompatible with life. It does not cause any suffering or pain, it prevents it — on the part of a potential child that would otherwise be STILLBORN or LIVE AS A VEGETABLE, and on the part of the parents that would have to watch a child suffer! What part of “likely not survive birth” do you not comprehend? Do you have the guts to tell a grieving couple that it was their fault that their child would’ve been born with a lethal genetic deformity? Would you go up to them and tell them that they are “killers”? You are completely heartless. All you care about is punishing women whose body could not produce perfect offspring. You want to force these women to gestate a dead – or worse – dying fetus to full-term and make them watch their newborn die an agonizing death over the length of several days, weeks, or months…

  • arekushieru

    Why should insurance companies pay for abortions? This is an elective surgery not one that 99% of woman need. It is a surgery like no other on earth. Why do you use the word “care”? If the woman cared she would not kill her baby and would seek other alternatives. And no hospital if the woman’s life was in danger would allow her to die. The stats on this are low. In most cases both mother and babys life can be saved. Hospitals are in the business of SAVING LIVES not WILLFULLY KILLING THEM.

    Why should my taxes pay for war and military maintenance?  It is an illegal action not one that 99% of the population need.  

    If abortion isn’t health care then neither is receiving medical treatment to continue a pregnancy to term.  Many a woman would seek other alternatives if anti-choicers such as yourself didn’t deny her that health care at every turn.

    I repeat: by the time most complications to a woman’s health and life arise, it is too late to save the woman and, THUS, the fetus. 

    It’s sad to see that you think a woman is not a life, otherwise you would be in the business of saving them, not killing them.

    The Catholic nun went against the faith of the institution she was working for. She should be terminated. That patient could have gone to another facility. I live in Phoenix and often times frequent this hospital. They have the right to deny abortions. This woman never would have died.

    And you know this, how?  Such hypocrisy.  You say that women should be able to have abortions in order to save their lives, yet think that inserting your layman’s opinion into medical diagnoses that you know nothing about, isn’t contravening that ideology (or leading us to believe the truth, that you don’t care if women die)?  Especially when you say that medical professionals should keep their collective noses out of Catholic business?

     And how trustworthy is your hotline? As good as the one where PP does not report underaged girls who have been raped? You say harm the fetus? You have got to be kidding? What do you think abortion does? DOES ABORTION HARM THE FETUS? You pro-aborts are absolutely unbelievable. You deny it’s a life…you deny personhood….and you are worried about HURTING THE FETUS. Burning, tearing apart a living human being…..what is that?

    And, here you are, again, laughably proving your ignorance.  You simply want teenaged girls to be abused further.  A fetus can’t feel any pain until at LEAST 28 weeks of gestation, and has no way of conceptualizing it, until AFter birth.  If you say a fetus can feel pain, then you must also conclude that a person who is paralyzed can feel pain in their legs, since their CNS and cerebral functions, at least, are connected, unLIKE the fetus’.  And, if there is no pain or suffering, how can there be harm? Y’see, YOU are the one who wants to force harm on others, fetuses as WELL as women.

    You people don’t care about the fetus. That is the last thing on your minds.

    As we can see, you care nothing about the woman OR fetus.

    There is nothing basic about it. It is a surgery that kills a living human being. Most doctors want to save lives not kill them on demand.

    It doesn’t kill anything.  Nor are there human beings involved.  Doctors ARE saving lives, WOMEN’s lives, no matter how much you want to believe women are merely incubators.  You want to harm the fetus and kill the woman.

    Most people want perfect babies. They however chose to kill their baby to make life easier for them. This baby would have died and if it hadn’t these people would not have wanted it anyway from the sound of it. They did not want a child who was not perfect, so they killed it. She had to travel to Colorado to kill her child…that ought to tell you something.

    And, of course, here you go, again, as the idiot you are, inserting your layman’s opinion into medical diagnoses.  The child would not have survived long past birth and would have suffered.  Of course, only an anti-choicer would confuse compassion with perfectionism.  Yes, it tells me that anti-choicers were once again, at the helm, trying to punish women for daring to limit the suffering of someone else.  Because, of course, anti-choicers don’t care if someone else suffers as long as they can force others to live the way they wish to live.  If they did, they wouldn’t say they are the ones who would make the more compassionate choice by giving birth to a non-viable fetus, ignoring the fact that their decision doesn’t affect THEM, after all.

    Suffer………..? So they chose abortion so he wouldn’t suffer. Abortion is painless then at 22 weeks? How did they kill her child? Did they do it in a comforting way? It was merciful for Mary and family…………NOT FOR THE CHILD SHE KILLED.

    Yes, it IS.  As I told you, above.  And, in LTA’s, anaesthesia is introduced into the woman’s system.  If the pain is reduced for the woman, then the effect is MULTiplied for the fetus.  No child involved.  If you think ending one’s life beFORE they suffer is not merciful, then I have to seriously question how compassionate you are.  Tell me, do you think it is MORE merciful to end someone’s life AFter they’ve experienced suffering or joy or before?  I would say the latter, since it doesn’t force anyone to experience what a loss would feel like, before death.

  • colleen

    And no hospital if the woman’s life was in danger would allow her to die.

     

    No amount of evidence will make you stop lying

  • c-w

    I was one of those women who don’t need an abortion.  I suffered an ectopic pregnancy in which the tube ruptured at approximately 10 to 12 weeks.  My blood pressure when the ambulance picked me up was 70/50.  By the time I got to the hospital, it would not register on an automatic machine.

    If that hospital would have sent me down the road to the next available, I would be dead.  As it was, it took emergency surgery and five pints of blood to save me.  MY CHILD WAS ALREADY DEAD.

    Don’t tell me that abortions are never necessary.  I know better.  Don’t tell me that hospitals shouldn’t be required to treat a woman, regardless of whether she happens to be pregnant or not.  I know better.

     

  • churchmouse

    Yes, remember President Clinton lied under oath…..He also said oral sex really wasn’t sex. He was a Democrat. LOL

  • prochoiceferret

    The Catholic nun went against the faith of the institution she was working for. She should be terminated. That patient could have gone to another facility. I live in Phoenix and often times frequent this hospital. They have the right to deny abortions. This woman never would have died.

     

    Well, if the fundamental truth of the “pro-life” movement is equivalent to the veracity of that statement… then we’re in good shape indeed!

     

    Most people want perfect babies. They however chose to kill their baby to make life easier for them. This baby would have died and if it hadn’t these people would not have wanted it anyway from the sound of it. They did not want a child who was not perfect, so they killed it. She had to travel to Colorado to kill her child…that ought to tell you something.

     

    It’s not surprising that you would consider “missing a main part of its brain, and that the surface of the brain was malformed and severely underdeveloped, a condition called polymicrogyria” to be merely “not perfect,” seeing how little use you have for your own brain.

  • squirrely-girl

    … just not using medical terms like “elective” anymore. When you use them improperly you look really ignorant. Just thought I’d let you know…

  • squirrely-girl

    … on all of those Republican reps cheating on their wives, in some cases with other men? 

     

    Fist bump for “family values” :/

  • jrm83

    Because, of course, anti-choicers don’t care if someone else suffers as long as they can force others to live the way they wish to live.

    I’m not sure if this statement is completely accurate.  Considering that there are “pro-lifers” who obtain abortions (for themselves or members of their families) under conditions that they have said others shouldn’t have abortions, I don’t think they really wish to live this way either.  However, that doesn’t stop them from trying to force others to live that way.

  • arekushieru

    Well, honestly, I think the ProLifer that continues an unwanted/unplanned pregnancy to term is RARE.  So, when I referenced ‘the way they wish to live’, I was referring to their rose-coloured-glasses view of the world, without making any real-world application to themselves.

  • goatini

    particularly those in the Catholic hierarchy (like that whiny creep Olmstead, who I heard on EWTN Radio defending his death sentence to the mother of 4), fancy themselves expert practitioners of Supernatural Remote Diagnosis, like former Senator Frist, he of the expert remote psychic diagnosis of the deteriorating vegetative husk of the unfortunate and cruelly exploited Mrs Schiavo.  

    These bishops, and other blithering idiots who sit there smugly and spout their “abortion is never necessary” crap, need to be in a life-threatening situation and be told by some high rank, hierarchical butt smooching god-botherer that “(insert vital medical intervention here) is NEVER necessary”.

  • goatini

    who (evidently) was boinking his high school math teacher, and married her right after graduation.  

    Then, boinking someone new and dumping Mrs Newt The 1st, topped by the classy move of serving her with divorce papers while she was hospitalized with cancer.

    Then, 6 months later marrying Mrs Newt The 2nd, she of the extramarital boinking during marriage # 1.

    Then, picking up on a new boinkee old enough to be his daughter, and brazenly boinking her during the Clinton witchhunt, while still married to Mrs Newt The 2nd.

    Then, dumping Mrs Newt The 2nd like a hot rock, and swiftly marrying Mrs Newt The 3rd, she of the extramarital boinking of the really, really young stuff, courtesy of the Chris Hansen Congressional Dating Service.

    So Newt the Horndog, having gone from Teacher’s Naughty Pet, to boinking around on Teacher while she was suffering with cancer, to boinking around with Miss Teen District of Columbia behind the back of the chick that he dumped Wifey # 1 for…           

    … dramatically converts to Catholicism.

    Because Miss Teen DC, Wifey # 3, is Catholic.  

    The Catholics, you see, aren’t all that uptight about all that dogma about purity and chastity, if you’re powerful with powerful connections.  Joey Ratz knows on which side the bread is buttered.  When he goes on one of his fundamentalist Popey-Pope rants about the evils of “aggressive secularism” and “promoting sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teachings”, OBVIOUSLY he’s not talking about serial cheater Newt, or Miss Teen DC, Expert Homewrecker and Adultery Participant.  

    And did I mention that the Newt and the lovely Miss Teen DC, after 11 years of Holy Matrimony, STILL have no progeny?  Are they avid practitioners of the Theology Of The Body, with an incredible flawless track record at Vatican Roulette AKA “Natural Family Planning”?  Or did they get the Joey Ratz Free Pass Mass Card And Mortal Sin Eraser (Reserved For The Oligarchy)?  I mean, by the Irish Twins Pregnancy Calendar, they should have had 8 already by now, and a Hot Cross Bun In The Oven.

  • saltyc

    Which makes it baffling that she argues against the very thing that saved her daughter. Her rhetoric would mean that she valued her daughetr’s ectopic pregnancy as much as she valued her daughter, but thank goodness the doctors actually did remove the fetus and save churchmouse’s daughter, though she wouldn’t extend the same courtesy to strangers. If it had been someone else’s daughter, instead of calling it a “procedure” as she did in her case, she would call it “WILLFULLY KILLING HER UNBORN GRANDCHILD”

    Jesus would be proud.

  • beenthere72

    LMFAO!

  • prochoiceferret

    Which makes it baffling that she argues against the very thing that saved her daughter.

     

    Maybe she secretly hates her daughter? You know, where she’s always expected to babysit the grandkids, or watch the dog, or make dinner, without ever being shown gratitude for it. Maybe it’s been going on long enough that she’s nearly psychotic on the inside, even though on the outside, she’s still a perfectly sweet-looking, smiling grandmother. So trolling this site in between making lunch and walkies, arguing for policy changes that would have prevented her daughter from surviving and having kids, is her way of coping. Just think—we could very well be responsible for preventing a psycho-granny rampage!