Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Paul Ryan: Health Exception For Women Just A "Loophole"

"... This is not a political issue, this is a human issue. ... The health exception is a loophole wide enough to drive a mack truck through. The health exception would render this ban virtually meaningless. ... There is no medical necessity for this abortion procedure. ..." - Paul Ryan in 2000, via Andrew Kaczynski at Buzzfeed

Much of a given politician's claim to moderation these days in abortion politics is whether or not they believe in loopholes for rape, incest or the life of the mother. Believing in exceptions for the health of the mother is considered ridiculously generous, particularly in the case of late-term abortion bans, in spite of the fact that they're both rare and the safest medical option for removal of non-viable fetuses with terminal defects.

And sure, the procedure (Intact Dilation & Extraction, aka, a D&X,) sounds gross, but so would a graphic description of a hip replacement.

Paul Ryan's contemptuous statement that a D&X is never medically necessary should really be translated thusly:

'Injury to a woman's cervix and future fertility, uterine puncture and dangerous bleeding, vaginal delivery of a hydrocephalic fetal head 2-3 times normal size, maternal blindness, maternal kidney failure, or forcing a c-section delivery of a non-viable fetus are all preferable outcomes to allowing a medical procedure performed fewer than 3,000 times per year, because I am a religiously-motivated control freak.'

See? Fixed it for you.

But in practice, in countries where blanket abortion bans are supposedly softened by these health exceptions and women are entirely at the mercy of a system that tightly guards the procedure, Ryan is dead wrong about what those exceptions mean. Health exceptions in countries that ban abortion are often all but meaningless, as these examples from Latin America, courtesy of Amanda Marcotte at Slate and the Center For Reproductive Rights, demonstrate:

L.C. [13 years old] attempted to commit suicide by jumping off the roof of a building next door to her house. Neighbors discovered her and rushed her to the hospital. But even though doctors concluded that her spine needed to be realigned immediately—and even though abortion in Peru is legal where the mother’s health and life are at risk—they refused to operate on L.C. because she was pregnant.....

K.L., a 17-year-old, was pregnant with an anencephalic fetus. Although Peruvian abortion law permits abortion when the life or health of the mother is in danger, K.L. was denied an abortion and had to deliver the baby and breastfeed her for the four days she survived.

Rape exceptions really don't work in practice either, for many of the same reasons. L.C., a raped 13 year old whose health was clearly at risk and who ended up miscarrying, will be partially paralyzed for the rest of her life.

That could happen here, in the United States, very easily. It isn't like 13 year olds never get raped or become pregnant here. All it would really take is for that young woman to then get seriously injured and land in a hospital under the control of doctors who feared the opinions of politicians like Paul Ryan, or vindictive local prosecutors, more than they cared about the life of the woman in front of them.

And there's already a case of a pregnant woman who attempted suicide in the US being prosecuted for feticide following her miscarriage, who faces up to 65 years in jail if convicted. L.C.'s story of rape, paralysis and miscarriage in Paul Ryan's America could very well have closed out with a conviction for feticide and a life spent in jail.

That's just what happens when you criminalize abortion. Women end up injured, dead, in jail for the crime of not wanting to be pregnant, or some combination thereof. I think that's horrific. Paul Ryan thinks it's a big, crazy loophole that tragically decreases the meaningfulness of his favorite attack on women's rights.

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