Keep the government out of healthcare! (Except in Texas)

I’ve always said that Texas was like it’s own country. Actually, it was it’s own country for about ten years back in the 1830s, but this isn’t a history blog. Anyway, a law in Texas went into effect to force women who want to have an abortion to be submitted to a sonogram. Furthermore, the physician performing the sonogram and/or abortion is compelled to explain to the woman all that is being seen in the sonogram. See, on the one hand, Texans want the government out of the patient-provider relationship. On the other, they want the government deep inside the patient-provider relationship. Deeper, I’d care to guess, than the fetus itself.

Don’t take my word for it. Read the law yourself.

Supporters of the law will tell you that they just want the woman to be well informed about the procedure she is about to undergo. By saying that, they are implying that providers who provide abortion services are mischievous and don’t tell women everything that goes into having an abortion. Somehow, the medical board is not good enough to catch these sneaky providers. Current laws in Texas are not enough. No, to serve those poor women who are apparently being tricked into abortions, the law was passed.

Opponents of the law will tell you that the law imposes itself on providers, telling them how to perform a medical procedure. They will also tell you that the law does not exclude victims of rape and incest, making them go through yet another medical procedure (the sonogram) in their ordeal.

What gives, though? Rick Perry, who signed the Texas bill into law, decried “Obamacare” as the government interfering in healthcare. But that is exactly what the law is doing in Texas. I guess it’s a “state’s rights” thing or something, like how Mitt Romney detests “Obamacare” but a very similar law was good enough for Massachusetts when he was the governor there.

So we’ll see what happens now that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has said that the law in Texas can be enforced while it winds itself through the legal system. It appears to be headed to the Supreme Court, and we’ll have a “Roe v. Wade” type mess on our hands all over again.

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What DOES a survey "say"?

Suppose for a moment that this blog is incredibly popular, that hundreds of people read it every day. Now, suppose that the blog is all about Justin Bieber – as repulsive as that thought is. I mean, the whole damn thing is Justin this, Justin that, and we all really, really hate Selena Gomez, his current girlfriend. And I mean hate her, with a passion. We do nothing but post blog posts about how hideous she is and how he shouldn’t be with her. We jump on anyone who dares say anything about Justin’s music, calling them all sorts of names and telling them to go to hell. Some of the readers would go as far as to post pranks they’ve played on people who don’t like Justin or have criticized him at some point.

Now, what do you think the results of a survey would be if I asked the following questions:

Do you think that Justin is the most awesome entertainer ever? Yes or no.
Do you think that Selena Gomez is the worst person in the world? Yes or no.

Come on. Think about it a second. After reading what this blog would be about, who do you think would answer the questions and what would their answers be?

See, the thing about surveys is that they are almost always subject to subjective thinking of both the designers of the survey and those who answer it. Any survey is influenced in this way. Just look at some of the questions being asked out there.

Do you think that illegal immigrants, who are breaking the law like criminals do, should be afforded the same rights as law abiding citizens born and raised with the ideals of the United States?

Loading the question much? It would be much more objective if the question was asked this way:

Should illegal immigrants have the same rights as US citizens?

Heck, remove the word “illegal” and replace it with “undocumented”, and you would have a whole other set of responses. It really does matter how you ask the question.

This is why I had no other option but to laugh when an anti-vaccine website posted the results of a study survey that purported to show that unvaccinated children were healthier than their vaccinated counterparts. See, their thesis is that vaccines wreak havoc on the immune system, rendering kids more susceptible to the very diseases that the vaccines are supposed to protect.

Mind you, none of their theses have any remote kind of scientific (non-biased, peer-reviewed, biologically-plausible) evidence behind them. But that’s never stopped the anti-vaccine movement, has it?

Anyway, these bozos posted a survey full of innuendo about vaccines and then asked their readers to answer the survey. Never mind that their readers are – for the most part – anti-vaccine people. Anti-vaccine people who have a severe distrust of the medical establishment, according to all their bashing of the medical system and their prayers that the public health system fall to its knees.

How do you think they answered the questions?

Yeah, and then they said that their web-based survey of their own readers was a “study” and tried to give it some sort of legitimacy. The worst thing is that they did this with a straight face and then got offended that people who know better questioned their results. Really, they did.

So I’m asking one big thing of you, dear readers. When you take a survey, or you are asked to make up your mind based on a survey, read the goddamn questions. Surveys are at best snapshots of public opinion, not scientific fact or any sort of evidence of trends in time… And they are subject to the whims of their creators.

I Hate Writing About This

I was driving with my girl through the center of town when we were stopped in traffic because a group of people were protesting something up ahead. There were people of all ages holding signs. As we got closer, we saw that they were protesting the local Planned Parenthood clinic that just happens to be right smack on the corner of a heavily traveled intersection. What were they protesting? The health care they provide for women? Nope. The free to low-cost preventive care? Nope. The family planning services? Nope. They were protesting – what else? –  abortion.

I hate writing about this because it is such a touchy subject. On the one hand, I can see where ending a pregnancy can be seen as an unsavory thing to do, especially if you see life as beginning at conception. I learned in biology class in college that, yes, indeed, the fetus is alive. There is no doubt of that. Science has told us that it feels stimuli early on and pain some weeks after conception. In fact, it was that question that influenced the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. So, yes, abortion is ending a life.

On the other hand, women have every right to do with their bodies as they see fit, given that they understand what is going on, of course. You wouldn’t hold a 9 year-old girl to the same standard as a 20 year-old woman when it comes to making such an enormously big decision as ending a pregnancy is. Oh, yes, dear reader, I have seen two 9 year-olds be pregnant. And I have seen the agonizing decision by their parents to end the pregnancies.

See, that’s the thing. I’m yet to meet a woman who takes the decision lightly. I’m sure it’s agonizing, or troubling at least. Yes, there is anecdotal evidence – which is not evidence, by the way – that some women use abortion as family planning, as birth control. But all the evidence points to it being a hard decision to take.

The protesters on that day were particularly nasty. They had the usual signs that read, “Abortion Kills Children.” Other signs were more uncalled for, such as, “Abortion Makes You A Murderer.” Mind you, abortion has been decriminalized, last I heard. And then there was a van with signs all over it announcing the “side effects” of abortion, including depression, schizophrenia, and other mental issues. None of that is true, by the way. There is no evidence that women who have abortions will go on to have mental disease at a higher incidence than women who do not have abortions. They are basing their conclusions on their own biases against abortions and even downright lying about it to discourage women from having abortions.

The issue of abortion is precisely why I am so confused about the Republicans. On the one hand, they cry about “Obamacare” because it interferes with the relationship between a doctor and their patient. On the other hand, they have no problem supporting legislature that interferes with the relationship between a doctor and their female patient. Because, you see, an abortion isn’t something that you do over a lunch break. It is a process that includes a discussion with a licensed health care provider, someone who has been trained to perform abortions as safely as possible. (Abortions are not without risks, but these risks do not exceed the risks of other same-day surgeries.) Not only that, but organizations like Planned Parenthood are not abortion factories. They are well organized to provide care and services, not to extinguish life as we know it.

I wish the discussion about abortion was more grown up than it is and has been. I wish I didn’t have to cringe when talking about it with female friends because of the guilt that I feel for them not being able to make a decision in the privacy of the patient-provider relationship. No, it has to be this huge, convoluted thing out in the open, discussed by anyone and everyone with an agenda.

Maybe when I get around to digesting this in my head I’ll tackle the misconceptions – no pun intended –  thrown out there by the anti-abortion, anti-patient-provider groups.