“Life Defense Act” Doesn’t Apply Unless You’re a Fetus

I can’t help but imagine that every night, Republican state lawmakers wrap themselves up in their Snuggies, grab a nice steaming mug of milk, and have a Skype powwow to determine what new tactic they are going to use to try and bring an end to that pesky abortion epidemic once and for all. After those softies in Pennsylvania and Virginia either tabled their transvaginal ultrasound bills, or, in Virginia’s case, generously made them “optional,” they decided they needed to try attacking from a different front. Their plan: if they can’t emotionally abuse a woman into not having an abortion, why not intimidate her and her doctor until they don’t even try, out of fear for their personal safety?

Meet Representative Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough). Hill is the sponsor of Tennessee House Bill 3808, also known as the more noble-sounding Life Defense Act. This bill would require the names of all doctors who perform abortions to be posted online. It would also require that demographic information about the women who receive them be posted publicly. Needless to say, this bill has the potential to lead to violence against abortion providers, as well as the women who undergo the procedure.

I really should not have to waste space explaining why posting the names of abortion providers is dangerous. The names David Gunn and George Tiller – doctors who were murdered because they performed abortions – are a testament to that. This bill would provide a convenient list for anyone seeking to harass, injure, or even kill abortion providers. And it doesn’t stop there – any doctor who performs an abortion due to an emergency, such as an obstetrician or E.R. doctor or surgeon, would qualify to have their names published as well. Doctors, adhering to the Hippocratic oath and making the decision to save the life of their patient, could potentially be on the receiving end of violence from anti-abortion zealots.

As egregious as that provision is, Hill takes it one step further, proposing that identifying demographic information about women who receive abortions also be made public. Their names would not be published, but race, age, education, and number of existing children would.

Hill justifies these measures by pointing out that the Department of Health already collects this data – indeed they do, using it to collect demographic information and examine the statistics by region – but the key difference is that the current DoH information is not available to the general public. Additionally, the data on women that the DoH collects is combined into regional demographics, but this bill requires that the information be published by county. In a state such as Tennessee, where there are lower-populated counties, this information could quite easily be used to identify women who have gotten abortions.

According to Hill, he thinks “it’s fair for folks on both sides to see how prevalent abortion is in our counties and our communities.”

There is nothing wrong with publishing numerical and demographic data on abortions. That information could be used for community outreach, increased sexual education funding, and other beneficial programs. Of course, we know that’s not what Hill and Tennessee Republicans want, because if that were true they could publish only the numbers. The fact that they go out of their way to require the names of doctors, and identifying demographic information of women, clearly demonstrates that their goal is to create an intimidating environment for anyone providing or seeking this service.

Because, as we’ve learned from the past, making abortions difficult to obtain means women will just stop having them, right? Right?

Other Sources: http://jezebel.com/5894589/law-that-gives-away-identities-of-women-having-abortions-couldnt-possibly-backfire




2 thoughts on ““Life Defense Act” Doesn’t Apply Unless You’re a Fetus

  1. Actually, it looks like the bill says all the information will be confidential and will only be released to law officials with a court order, and releasing that information for any reason would be a misdemeanor. Annual aggregate county statistics would be the only publicly posted information.


    “(2) Reports filed pursuant to subsection (a) shall be confidential in nature and shall not be accessible to the public, except that disclosure may be made to law enforcement officials upon an order of court after application showing good cause therefore. The court may condition disclosure of the information upon any appropriate safeguards it may impose.
    (3) Original copies of all reports filed under subsection (a) shall be available to the board of medical examiners and the board of osteopathic examination for use in the performance of their official duties.
    (4) Any person who willfully discloses any information obtained from reports filed pursuant to subsection (a), other than that disclosure authorized under subdivision (c)(1), (c)(2) or (c)(3) or as otherwise authorized by law, commits a misdemeanor.”

    I’m not sure where your sources are getting the idea that this information would be publicly posted anywhere. The information provided for each case is confidential. The only publicly available information would be an annual statistical report from the health commissioner, which would NOT have any personally identifiable information, just county totals and averages. It specifically says “aggregate statistics” and not “individual statistics,” so it looks like the public would not have access to a list of providers or individual stats without a court order.

    Anyway. I had a friend chew me out the other day for not actually reading the bill so I had to look into it.

  2. oh, er, the info about the statistical report is right before the part I quoted …
    “(1) The commissioner of health shall prepare a comprehensive annual statistical report for the general assembly based upon the data gathered under subsection (a). Such report shall not lead to the disclosure of the identity of any person filing a report or about whom a report is filed, and shall be available for public inspection and copying and shall be posted on the department’s web site. In addition to whatever other information the commissioner of health includes in the annual report, the commissioner shall include the number of abortions performed in each county of the state and the number of facilities in each county, as well as aggregate statistics based on the data gathered under subdivisions (a)(2) – (a)(6) including but not limited to abortion rates by age and race.”

    So it looks to me like it’s careful to say this will be statistical averages and not personally identifying information. Unless the commissioner is a douchebag and decides name-dropping is part of “whatever other information” … which would probably literally make him a very short-lived health commissioner. 😉

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