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Let's Stop this Harmful Bill

Posted by Ryan Morgan on April 23, 2014 at 10:10 AM

The following is but one of the many pieces of testimony that was given in opposition to S.527, the so-called Pregnant Women’s Protection Act. By Judith T. Burgis Dear Senator Campsen and members of the Judiciary subcommittee: I write to you today to strongly urge you to vote against S.527 – The Pregnant Woman’s Protection Act. While seemingly well-intentioned, this bill would do very little to combat the high levels of intimate partner violence (IVP) against pregnant women, and would do nothing to protect other populations so desperately in need. Pregnant women are not the only group in need of violence prevention strategies. IPV is a significant yet preventable public health problem that affects millions of women regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or educational background. Individuals who are subjected to IPV may have lifelong consequences, including emotional trauma, lasting physical impairment, chronic health problems, and even death. Approximately one out of ten female high-school students in the United States reported experiencing physical violence from their dating partners in the previous year. Immigrant women may be hesitant to report IPV because of fears of deportation. Women with physical and developmental disabilities usually are less able to care for themselves and are more reliant on their partners or caregivers for help. An estimated 1–2 million U.S. citizens aged 65 years or older have been injured, exploited, or mistreated by someone caring for them. By passing the “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act,” this committee would be identifying pregnant women as more worthy of intervention and protection than other victims of violence and sexual assault. Although women of all ages may experience IPV, it is most prevalent among women of reproductive age and contributes to gynecologic disorders, pregnancy complications, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Obstetrician–gynecologists are in a unique position to assess and provide support for women who experience IPV because of the nature of the patient–physician relationship and the many opportunities for intervention that occur during the course of pregnancy and repeated contact with health care providers. For this reason, pregnancy can be an important window of opportunity to identify patients experiencing violence and refer them to the appropriate services. This is true for women who are experiencing violence for the first time during pregnancy and for those who are experiencing ongoing violence or reproductive coercion. This legislation would open the door for judgment of a pregnant woman’s own actions during her pregnancy. This “defense” would allow for a prosecutor to raise questions about anything a woman did during her pregnancy, including considering a home birth, drinking a glass of wine, or having a genetic test performed such as amniocenteses, and to show that she herself failed to value or protect her unborn child. This bill would make it more likely that pregnant women would be put on trial twice – once for the murder they are accused of and again for everything they did or did not do during their pregnancies to protect their unborn child. These issues should be discussed and dealt with by a woman and her doctor, not by the courts and politicians. As a medical professional, I am most concerned with the language that defines an “unborn child” as “the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.” This language would have serious repercussions on the ability of women to access and utilize proven methods of family planning. These include the banning of hormonal contraception, including the pill, emergency contraception, and long-acting reversible contraception such as intrauterine devices. True efforts towards addressing the causes and solutions to intimate partner violence during pregnancy would be to pass legislation increasing funding to clinics and hospitals that serve rural or under-served populations, increasing access to medical professionals for populations most at risk for IPV, such as adolescents, women with disabilities and immigrants or non-English speaking women. I strongly urge you to vote against S527 – The Pregnant Women’s Protection Act, and focus your attention on legislative actions that would have a greater impact on decreasing IPV, both for pregnant women and for society as a whole. Respectfully, Judith T. Burgis, MD, FACOG Secretary- Treasurer, SC Section American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Click here to send Senators Karl Allen and Brad Hutto an email thanking them for voting NO on this bill in subcommittee!  

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