Election years are particularly fun times for those of us who are obsessed with politics. Politicians stop worrying about policy and start focusing on getting elected. In recent years, it seems that election season never ends as our elected officials focus on headline grabbing legislation that work more as fundraising efforts than actual policy. Election year legislation has an added focus of getting people to the polls — no matter how crazy the law may sound.
Women’s rights and gay marriage have been particularly useful tools for the far right in this manner. Ballot measures that focus on protecting “traditional” marriage and eroding women’s reproductive rights are just a couple of the more popular “compelling” issues that are used to lure a certain kind of voter to the polls. While these laws may be simple vote getting ploys for politicians, they can have devastating consequences for their constituents.
Take Alabama, for example.
State legislators have introduced a number of new bills that will help them grab headlines on the road to Election Day. Under the guise of protecting crime victims, HB217 would classify the contacting of victims by defense attorneys as criminal harassment. Even though current law allows victims to refuse such requests for interviews, which are done to gather evidence, the new law prohibits the defense from even initiating the contact. It also removes state funding for access to professional services, such as a therapist, for defendants. If passed it would make it much harder for those accused of crimes to mount a good defense, especially if they are poor.
In what is sure to be just a coincidence, another new bill has also been introduced that would speed up executions in the state.
No new set of election year legislation would be complete without combating the great scourge in American society: Human cloning. Yes, according to State Rep. Becky Nordgren, this is a problem. This is why she introduced HB31.
The Health Care Rights of Conscience Act allows health care providers to refuse to provide certain services if it goes against their religious or ethical beliefs – without fear of punishment. The law would allow anyone from a lab technician to a doctor to not only refuse to perform certain procedures, but to also refuse to provide information regarding those services and give them legal protections in relation to employment and prosecution. The “health care service” is related to any phase of patient care, including “patient referrals, counseling, therapy, testing, diagnosis or prognosis, research, instruction, prescribing, dispensing or administering any device, drug, or medication, surgery, or any other care or treatment rendered or provided by health care providers.”
Of course, this will only apply to certain procedures.
The services with which medical professionals can claim their personal beliefs are more important than a patient’s care are the aforementioned human cloning, as well as human embryonic stem cell research, sterilization, and…wait for it…abortion. Rep. Nordgren is anti-choice, though she claims her “personal beliefs have nothing to do with the bill.”
Even if we ignore the fact that current federal law provides conscience protections for healthcare providers in cases of abortion procedures and that human cloning currently only exists in television shows and the pages of science fiction novels, the law has much more far reaching and dangerous consequences than the obvious-to-everyone purpose of limiting access to abortion. As written, the law not only allows a health care provider to refuse to provide a service, it also allows them to refuse to find someone who will. If a woman comes in complaining with problems with her pregnancy, for example, a health care provider can refuse to even diagnose the situation, or if problems are identified, could refuse life saving care if they believe that care would require ending the pregnancy. They don’t even have to tell her where she can go to get help.
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