Archive for September, 2008

Debate Schedule


*From the NYTimes


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15 Minutes…

Is all the time you need to contact the Department of Health and Human Services to express your opinion (outrage) about the proposed rule to “protect” health care workers,” while seriously undermining a patient’s right to unbiased medical opinion and treatment. I’ve pasted today’s Op-Ed below, though it doesn’t tell you how to contact the department.

But how to contact them? The department hasn’t exactly made it easy (a sure-fire sign they don’t really want to hear from you). You can send a message through the ACLU here, or directly to HHS here (note: it looks like a comment page for the usability of the website, but is actually the only way to send the dept. a comment). Or, give them a call at 202-619-0257 or 1-877-696-6775. Better yet, do both. It’s too late to mail a letter–there are only 6 days left of the open comment period.

September 19, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor

Blocking Care for Women



LAST month, the Bush administration launched the latest salvo in its eight-year campaign to undermine women’s rights and women’s health by placing ideology ahead of science: a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would govern family planning. It would require that any health care entity that receives federal financing — whether it’s a physician in private practice, a hospital or a state government — certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable.

Laws that have been on the books for some 30 years already allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further, ensuring that all employees and volunteers for health care entities can refuse to aid in providing any treatment they object to, which could include not only abortion and sterilization but also contraception.

Health and Human Services estimates that the rule, which would affect nearly 600,000 hospitals, clinics and other health care providers, would cost $44.5 million a year to administer. Astonishingly, the department does not even address the real cost to patients who might be refused access to these critical services. Women patients, who look to their health care providers as an unbiased source of medical information, might not even know they were being deprived of advice about their options or denied access to care.

The definition of abortion in the proposed rule is left open to interpretation. An earlier draft included a medically inaccurate definition that included commonly prescribed forms of contraception like birth control pills, IUD’s and emergency contraception. That language has been removed, but because the current version includes no definition at all, individual health care providers could decide on their own that birth control is the same as abortion.

The rule would also allow providers to refuse to participate in unspecified “other medical procedures” that contradict their religious beliefs or moral convictions. This, too, could be interpreted as a free pass to deny access to contraception.

Many circumstances unrelated to reproductive health could also fall under the umbrella of “other medical procedures.” Could physicians object to helping patients whose sexual orientation they find objectionable? Could a receptionist refuse to book an appointment for an H.I.V. test? What about an emergency room doctor who wishes to deny emergency contraception to a rape victim? Or a pharmacist who prefers not to refill a birth control prescription?

The Bush administration argues that the rule is designed to protect a provider’s conscience. But where are the protections for patients?

The 30-day comment period on the proposed rule runs until Sept. 25. Everyone who believes that women should have full access to medical care should make their voices heard. Basic, quality care for millions of women is at stake.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is a Democratic senator from New York. Cecile Richards is the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

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My brain works in bullet points on mornings I haven’t had enough sleep but, for whatever reason, can’t go back to sleep. Consider this a cleaning session.

  • Gross-out: My dog woke me up by vomiting. On my armpit.
  • Every time I see the word “Pain” I first think I see “Palin.” Oh, the beautiful irony.
  • I said a very stupid thing in yesterday’s blog post. In order to be optimistic and/or happy about a single public issue, I apparently need to block out everything else. Like the banking crisis which, I presumed, didn’t really affect me. Riiiight. What I had was a failure of comprehension. It didn’t really make sense to me at that point, and I didn’t understand that the Fed taking on bad debt (or even the rumor of it) is another example of cronyism and bailing out the big guys. Does the fed step in to save a failing small business, or all those near-mythical family-owned businesses destroyed when a big-box store comes to the neighborhood? No–only when mega-conglomerates implement extremely poor business practices and operate at the edge of a proverbial cliff, and that cliff crumbles beneath them do the feds step in. And yet there’s no consensus about what caused this bubble. Who is running this f-ing government, anyhow? At least Krugman’s article in the Times today shows a basic understanding of the financial system–and the government’s involvement in it–so start there, I guess. I don’t understand!

See? That’s my brain waking up, and there’s typically anger involved in the clearing of the fog. Kind of like learning.

Okay, now I need to edit, edit, edit, work, get hair cut, go to library, go to bank, etc. etc.

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Congress Does Something!

I know, shocking, isn’t it? The Times is full of good articles today*, including one on an amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act from 1990. The way the law was originally set up placed the burden of proof of disability on the disabled person, and if that person managed her disability well–with or without the aid of medication or other services–the government could argue against the claim of disability, particularly in a case of employer dicrimination. Here’s a brief exerpt from the article:

Lawmakers said that people with epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis and other ailments had been improperly denied protection because their conditions could be controlled by medications or other measures. In a Texas case, for example, a federal judge said a worker with epilepsy was not disabled because he was taking medications that reduced his seizures.

In deciding whether a person is disabled, the bill says, courts should not consider the effects of “mitigating measures” like prescription drugs, hearing aids and artificial limbs. Moreover, it says, “an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.”

Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, the chief sponsor of the bill, said: “The Supreme Court decisions have led to a supreme absurdity, a Catch-22 situation. The more successful a person is at coping with a disability, the more likely it is the court will find that they are no longer disabled and therefore no longer covered under the A.D.A.”

This is such a positive step. Much of the body of laws and agencies set up to protect and assist people who need help are skewed against those who want to help themselves, but still need a safety net. Representative Jim Langevin calls the bill “one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation of our time.”

Hooray for good news!

*I know, the financial crisis. I don’t have a damn dollar invested in these failing banks, mutual funds, etc., and like high gas prices, this development will only be good in the long run. Read Roger Cohen’s Times article today, titled “The King is Dead,” for one perspective on potential effects of the meltdown.

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Thanks, KC!

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Day 2.5

Is everyong going to watch Palin tonight? I’m going to try. Even though conventions are just pep rallies, and the debates are the public appearances that matter, her convention speech is still her official introduction. I don’t think a large amount of people watched the speech she gave when she accepted the Republicans’ offer (lest we remain comfortable with the notion that McCain chose her; he wanted Lieberman, but the party people said they’d throw their full support behind him only if he chose Palin).

I tried to watch some last night. PBS is, without a doubt, the only station to watch. Not only do they cover all of the speeches (at least in the evening; I’ve never checked to see if they run anything during the day), but they avoid the endless garbage coming out of the mouths of most of the network folks.

Anyhow, I turned coverage on during GW’s satellite speech and, well, noun-verb-9/11. Then came Fred Thompson’s speech, which made me run from the room and hide behind a closed door. He was the initial GOP candidate who scared me during the primary–until he showed even less spunk than McCain.  He still freaks me out; I know it’s irrational, but ET still freaks me out, too. The speech (even though I couldn’t see it, I could still hear it) wasn’t very good, but Republicans don’t like good speeches–they don’t trust anyone who might be smarter than Joe the cable guy–so it was a roaring success. While watching the Dems at their convention, I often wondered at these “true believers” in the crowd, but the true believers in the GOP are a whole other beast. And I mean that quite literally; these people are absolutely alien to me. Barack Obama will eat your babies!

And then came Lieberman. Not a baby-eater, but one weird dude. I sat and watched his whole speech, tepid applause and all. I found myself not disagreeing with many of the ideas he mentioned, things like putting country before party, and caring about our fellow citizens without the encouragement of a natural disaster, but these aren’t values the GOP stands for. He got virtually no applause for the mildly Democratic notions he put forth, but rousing applause whenever he raised the volume of his voice and said “McCain!” or anything about defeating Obama. I can’t help but feel that racism is the entire foundation of the GOP. Maybe I’ll explore that idea in another post.

Happy watching!

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