Wednesday, March 09, 2011

That was then, this is now.

Kurt Zellers, November 3, 2010, speaking about the upcoming legislative session: "If it isn't about jobs, improving the business climate, it's not a priority."

Nice words right after an election where the Minnesota GOP bent over backwards to avoid answering questions about reproductive freedom. But just this week, Speaker Zellers decided that all that budget and jobs and recovery stuff was no longer the priority and he's decided what is: The "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," House File 936.

The most reported provision is the prohibition of any abortion 20 or more weeks post-fertilization, with no exception for rape or incest. (Proposed Minn. Stat. 145.4144, Subd. 1.) The only exception is for "a condition that so complicates her medical condition as to necessitate the abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death or to avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function." (Id.) There is also no exception for a fetus that so deformed that it will never survive, an example of which can be found here. Representative Zellers has been kind enough to allow the removal of a dead fetus, but only if the "child" has "died as a result of natural causes in utero, accidental trauma, or a criminal assault on the pregnant woman." (Minn. Stat. 145.4141, Subd. 2.)

But there's much, much more in this bill.

First off, if someone can qualify for these few exceptions, the law requires that any post-20 week abortion be done so it "provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive..." (Minn. Stat. 145.4144, Subd. 2.) No word yet on who picks up the medical costs of any surviving fetus. Maybe they'll be like those Snowflake babies and people will step forward and adopt them and their hundreds of thousands of dollars of NICU bills.

One important provision we're not hearing much about is the bill's stealth "personhood" provisions. In proposed Minn. Stat. 145.4141, Subd. 10, there is a provision that declares that under Minnesota law that an "'Unborn child' or 'fetus' means an individual organism of the species homo sapiens from fertilization until live birth." (Emphasis added.) "Personhood" measures have proven highly unpopular with voters, but this bill sneaks it in with no public debate that I've seen yet.

Because of its ban on abortions after 20 weeks, there is naturally a requirement that a determination of gestational age be made in every case where a woman is seeking an abortion, not just the ones that are 20 weeks post-fertilization. (Minn. Stat. 145.4143.) This provision is little more than a stealth sonogram provision, not unlike the one proposed in Texas recently. And like the one in Texas, it contains no exception for rape, incest, or age.

The bill also contains a series of dubious scientific "findings" that are intended to support the debunked concept of "fetal pain." (Minn. Stat. 145.4142.) All of which are total bullshit.

But what ought to offend anyone who feels they ought to be able to live their life without the officious intermeddling of the busybody down the block, the bill creates a cause of action that allows certain people other than the woman and her doctor to go to court if they think an abortion that violates this law has taken place. Proposed Minn. Stat. 145.4145, Subd. 2 (b) states as follows:
A cause of action for injunctive relief against a person who has intentionally violated sections 145.4141 to 145.4148 may be maintained by the woman upon whom an abortion was performed or induced or attempted to be performed or induced in violation of sections 145.4141 to 145.4148; by a person who is the father of the unborn child subject to an abortion, parent, sibling, or guardian of, or a current or former licensed health care provider of, the woman upon whom an abortion has been performed or induced or attempted to be performed or induced in violation of sections 145.4141 to 145.4148; by a county attorney with appropriate jurisdiction; or by the attorney general. The injunction shall prevent the abortion provider from performing or inducing further abortions in this state in violation of sections 145.4141 to 145.4148.

This garbled section appears to mean that if some busybody thinks that you might have had an abortion that violates this prohibition, that busybody can go to court to seek an injunction against your doctor to prevent the provider from doing it again. But not to worry, Minn/ Stat. 145.4146 would provide "protection of privacy in court proceedings." Unfortunately, the only person whose privacy is automatically protected is the busbody, who "shall [bring the action] under a pseudonym." As for the woman who thinks that her medical decisions ought not be fodder for court proceedings against her doctor? Her anonymity is not automatic, but rather must be determined by the judge hearing the case, and even then only after the judge makes "specific written findings explaining why the anonymity of the woman should be preserved from public disclosure, why the order is essential to that end, how the order is narrowly tailored to serve that interest, and why no reasonable, less restrictive alternative exists." Unless the woman who had the abortion convinces a judge otherwise, her name is going to be made public, but the busybody who initiates a court proceeding about the woman's medical procedure is allowed to proceed under a fake name.

And if you want to challenge the constitutionality of this offensive intrusion into your health care decisions? The Pawlenty-stacked Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over any constitutional challenges.

So much for the promises of Speaker Zellers that anything other than jobs and improving the business climate isn't a priority.

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