It almost seems as if state Sen. Dan Patrick, the talk-radio Republican from Houston, spends his free time thinking up ways to antagonize people who are already in a politically disadvantaged position. Here he is a white, heterosexual male in a state legislature where patriarchy rules, but that’s not enough for him. He can’t sleep at night until women in rural Texas are as poor and disadvantaged as humanly possible, shackled by unplanned pregnancies they can’t afford. His latest tactic: Senate Bill 97, which would extend the in-person time a doctor is required to spend with a patient seeking to terminate a pregnancy using abortion-inducing drugs.
Last session, Patrick successfully pushed the abortion sonogram bill that requires Texas women to receive a sonogram from a medical doctor at least 24 hours in advance of an abortion. For women who live in remote, rural areas—often in poverty—getting the sonogram is an added travel and financial burden. They must take off work, find childcare and drive sometimes hundreds of miles to get the sonogram done. That’s not to mention the emotional drudgery of being forced to listen to a description of the sonogram results from their doctor.
Now, Sen. Patrick’s new bill would require that the abortion-inducing drugs administered in some cases also be given personally by the doctor who performed the sonogram, making the situation extremely challenging for those doctors who roam remote parts of the state treating patients. Historically, this type of procedure is performed by a technician or nurse working with the physician via video teleconference.
But wait. It gets even better. A second provision in the measure requires the administering doctor to have a written contract with a second doctor who “agrees to treat emergencies arising from the administration or use of the drug,” and to provide the Texas Medical Board or the patient with that doctor’s name and phone number “on demand.”
Not only is this a ridiculous burden on those doctors trying to provide medical care to patients spread out across the state, but providing a list of doctors to the government? Now, where have I heard that before? Oh, yes. The Department of State Health Services proposed a rule earlier this year that would have banned doctors participating in the newly formed Texas Women’s Health Program from discussing abortion with their patients. It also would have required them to turn in the names of any physicians they suspected of deliberately or inadvertently discussing abortion with patients. Thankfully, the Texas Medical Association made a big enough stink about it that DSHS nixed the idea, holding fast to the claim that it was only trying to improve the doctor-patient relationship by denying doctors the right to sway a patient one way or the other.
Likewise, Sen. Patrick and his cronies have been quoted in the media this week saying that they are only trying to make things safer for abortion patients.
I don’t think even they believe that’s true. I know I sure don’t.