The Republican war on women continues. A week after Hawaii Democrats pushed a bill through the state Senate that would require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims, Republicans in Missouri unveiled a bill in the general assembly that would do the opposite and more.
HB 457 is sponsored by House Speaker Timothy Jones (R). According to the Kansas City Star, the bill would “allow medical professionals to opt out of providing birth control, sterilization and assisted reproduction services and stem cell research. They would also be able to deny referrals for care,” and “would be shielded from punishment for refusing to provide this type of care if it violates their religious or moral principles.”
In short, doctors and hospitals could refuse to provide women contraception services for religious reasons and could refuse to refer patients to medical professionals and institutions that would help them. Rape victims could be denied emergency contraception to prevent becoming pregnant by their rapist. And even women with ectopic pregnancies could be refused care until their lives are in jeopardy because her health provider believes a certain way.
Michelle Trupiano of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri told the Star that,
“A woman with an ectopic pregnancy that isn’t considered life-threatening could be denied care, including a referral as to where to receive care, until she comes back so sick that her life is in danger.”
Trupiano added that rape victims would be denied “the minimum standard of care determined by leading health care organizations such as the American Medical Association,” which includes emergency contraception.
Bills such as these have been a current trend running rampant in Republican circles. Republicans have pushed similar bills Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and many other states including Kansas, where it was signed into law last spring.
Republicans claim such bills are needed to protect the religious freedom of doctors but what these bills really do is trample on the rights of female patients to receive the care that they need and want. The fact that these bill target only women’s health care proves that. If a doctor were to deny a man a vasectomy or Viagra on religious grounds, Republican heads would explode with rage. They wouldn’t give a damn about protecting religious freedom in this kind of reverse situation. These bills create a double standard in the medical field.
The Star interviewed Dr. Ed Weisbart, a St. Louis family physician. Weisbart made it clear that medical professionals are supposed to put their patients first and that what doctors believe or don’t believe in religious matters is irrelevant to how they treat them. “Medicine is not supposed to be about the values of the physician or the institution,” Weisbart said. “It’s supposed to be about the values of the patient. Period.”
And Dr. Weisbart is absolutely right. Bills like these have zero disregard for what patients believe. By passing such bills, Republicans are violating the beliefs of patients. Religious freedom is a two-way street. You can’t protect the beliefs of doctors and disregard the beliefs of patients at the same time. Doing so creates mistrust between doctors and patients in a field where trust is absolutely necessary. That’s why patient needs should always come first. Doctors are in hospitals to practice medicine, NOT religion. And mistrust between doctors and patients is a serious threat to health that could result in death.
Doctors have every right to practice whatever religion they want. What they do not have the right to do is to force their beliefs onto their patients. The second a doctor walks into the office their religious beliefs must be left at the door. If a patient wants contraception, the doctor should only refuse if there is a medical reason to do so. That’s the way medicine and doctoring should work.
The Missouri House is expected to take up the bill as early as Monday.