Regular readers know my frustration with the Texas Medical Board. Why is it, I’ve often wondered, that Stanislaw Burzynski can keep peddling his unproven cancer treatment with seeming impunity for nearly four decades, with every attempt of the TMB over the last four decades seemingly being utterly ineffective? It’s not as though Burzynski is alone. There are many other doctors who should, in the opinion of many, have their licenses revoked but keep practicing in Texas. Even when there’s a doctor who is clearly an immediate threat to patients, it’s hard to get the TMB to do anything. Ditto some obvious quacks, the elimination of whom takes a painfully long time and national attention?
Well, after all these years complaining about the TMB and its ineffectiveness, I’ve found a violation that the TMB acts on urgently and enthusiastically, and with great vigor. Yes, there is one offense that will bring the wrath of the TMB on you, if you’re a physician in Texas, in a relatively short period of time, certainly much shorter than for any of the physicians I mentioned above. I’m referring to doctors in Texas who run afoul of Texas law regarding abortions. A good example of this popped up yesterday in the form of a press release delivered to my e-mail from one of the services I subscribe to:
Texas Medical Board Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 14, 2014
Media contact: Jarrett Schneider, 512-305-7018
Customer service: 512-305-7030 or 800-248-4062
TMB suspends Houston physician
On February 13, 2014, a disciplinary panel of the Texas Medical Board temporarily suspended, without notice, the Texas medical license of Houston physician Theodore M. Herring, Jr., M.D., after determining his continuation in the practice of medicine poses a continuing threat to public welfare. The suspension was effective immediately.
The Board found between November 6, 2013 and February 7, 2014, Dr. Herring unlawfully performed 268 abortion procedures without holding active admitting privileges at a hospital that provides obstetrical or gynecological health care services located no further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced in violation of Texas Health and Safety Code 171.0031(a)(1).
On December 11, 2013, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) conducted an unannounced inspection of a facility at which Dr. Herring admitted he was the Medical Director and the sole provider of abortion procedures. Dr. Herring also admitted that he did not have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility.
On January 27, 2014, DSHS received and reviewed a Plan of Correction (POC) submitted by Dr. Herring to address the deficiencies cited by DSHS at the December 11, 2013 inspection, including, among other violations, the performance or induction of abortions without active admitting privileges at a local hospital. Dr. Herring’s POC indicated he was “obtaining active admitting privileges” and held an “admitting arrangement with two other physicians.” A “Complete Date” of August 31, 2014 was noted.
On February 3, 2014, DSHS sent Dr. Herring a letter indicating that the POC he submitted was insufficient to address the violations found during the December 11, 2013 inspection.
On February 7, 2014, a second unannounced inspection of the facility was conducted by DSHS to follow-up on the findings of the December 11, 2013 inspection.
The findings of the February 7, 2014 inspection include the following:
a. Between November 6, 2013 and February 7, 2014, Dr. Herring performed 268 procedures, according to the Induced Abortion Report he submitted to the DSHS Bureau of Statistics.
b. On January 15, 2014, Dr. Herring submitted an application for admitting privileges at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital.
c. On February 7, 2014, Dr. Herring provided a letter to DSHS stating that as of February 7, 2014 he would not perform any abortion procedures until he held active admitting privileges at a local hospital.
d. Dr. Herring represented that he would present in person at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital on February 10, 2014 to request temporary admitting privileges in the pendency of his application for admitting privileges.
On February 11, 2014, DSHS filed a complaint with the Board alleging that Dr. Herring had violated Texas Health and Safety Code 171.0031(a)(1). The complaint indicates that DSHS found the POC Dr. Herring submitted insufficient to demonstrate compliance with the law.
As of February 13, 2014, Dr. Herring had not completed an application for admitting privileges at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital or any other hospital within 30 miles of the facility.
As of February 13, 2014, the earliest date on which Respondent’s application for admitting privileges at Houston Willowbrook Hospital could be considered is March 18, 2014.
A temporary suspension hearing with notice will be held as soon as practicable with 10 days’ notice to Dr. Herring, unless the hearing is specifically waived by Dr. Herring.
The temporary suspension remains in place until the Board takes further action.# # #
To view disciplinary orders, visit the TMB website, click on “Look Up A License,” accept the usage terms, then type in a doctor’s name. Click on the name shown in the search results to view the doctor’s full profile. Within that profile is a button that says “View Orders.”
All releases and bulletins are also available on the TMB website under the “Newsroom” heading.
As this news report describes:
Opponents of the law said that given the vast size of Texas, the admitting privileges requirement places an unjust burden on clinics and punishes people in rural parts of the state where medical care can be scarce.
Those who back the law said the requirement is necessary to protect the health of women in case there is a complication with an abortion.
The law also requires abortion clinics to meet heightened building standards, bans abortion after 20 weeks and requires strict adherence to federal guidelines in prescribing abortion pills.
Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, called on the board to suspend more physicians.
“Dr. Herring is not the only abortionist practicing illegally in Texas,” it said.
Heather Busby, a spokeswoman with NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said the admitting privileges requirement is “medically unnecessary and does nothing to improve what is one of the safest outpatient procedures.”
Its “true purpose is to force abortion providers out of business and has already lead to the closure of nearly one-third of Texas’ safe, legal abortion clinics,” she said in an email.
Additional details can be found here and here. In particular, it is noted that most hospitals would be reluctant to grant admitting privileges to abortion doctors because they rarely need to admit patients to the hospital.
The law was passed last year and only went into effect on November 1, 2013. Within less than four months, the TMB is cracking down, making its first example. The state of Texas claims that it is protecting the health of women, but that’s clearly nonsense. One wishes that the state of Texas and the TMB had nearly as much concern for the health of cancer patients as it oh-so-piously claims to have for the health of women, but they don’t. Clearly, physicians providing abortion services in Texas have far more to fear from the TMB than Stanislaw Burzynski has ever had. Priorities are priorities, after all, and state of Texas clearly has its priorities. Top among such priorities when it comes to health, besides, of course, preventing its citizens from benefiting from Obamacare, is to deny its women access to reproductive health services. Compared such priorities, what are a bunch of cancer patients being made promises that can’t be kept at the expense of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars?
84 replies on “The Texas Medical Board goes after abortion providers, but Stanislaw Burzynski practices untouched for decades”
I tried really, really hard to read this whole post and I can’t. It makes me feel sick to my stomach. Government small enough to fit in my uterus, but protecting dying cancer patients from a fucking predator? NOPE, we can’t do that!
More proof that if you’re a minor clump of cells, you’re A-OK, but once you’re out you’re fucked.
Making abortion effectively illegal is quite literally the opposite of protecting the health of women.
It means the return of back street abortionists who use wire coat hangers, bicycle spokes and similar for the purpose.
In German we have a name for back street abortionists. It’s ‘Engelmacher’, which translates to ‘angel maker’.
Unfortunately, the aborted embryos aren’t the only ones turned into angels by those people.
Then there’s the sad case of this Texas brain dead woman whose lifeless body was used as an incubator for a non viable 14 week fetus. (See my comment):
A few days after that article appeared, the author Sarah Wickline contacted me for some additional information and asked for permission to use my real name in a follow-up article. I had to explain that I post under a ‘nym because of the activities of the anti-vaccine bloggers and their groupies.
The family of the deceased young woman went to court and successfully petitioned the court to turn off the respirator and it was determined that the non-viable fetus irreparably damaged due to the anoxic episode which caused the death of its mother weeks before:
There is not a single high-level politician who gives two shits about protecting your health. They only care about how much power they can get from controlling your healthcare. There is not benefit to them in regulating Burzynski. In fact, it is only a boon to them to have Burzynski around: he speaks out against traditional doctors and constantly blasts the mainstream medical community, something politicians cannot do without a huge backlash.
How about clarifying your statements Rose?
I believe that Orac is talking about the Texas Medical Board, which is composed of physicians (not politicians), which has allowed Burzynski to continue practicing his cancer treatment quackery for more than thirty years.
I would like to see honest statistics on whether or not women in Texas who want abortions are unable to get abortions. I think that sometimes laws that control the process are seen as an attack on the rights of women regardless of whether or not they actually restrict those rights.
Chuck: Here’s the Guttmacher Institute’s honest statistics about abortions in Texas. The Institute also provides information about Texas laws and the paucity of doctors who perform abortions, which, IMO, impede the right of women in Texas to terminate early stage pregnancies.
@Chuck – given that Texas is an extremely populous state, but the number of clinics available for abortions are low (and spaced widely), any additional restrictions on abortions is going to infringe on a woman’s right to choose.
Get over it – this is a direct attack on women’s rights – almost unilaterally decided upon by men.
Chuck, do you REALLY think this sort of law is passed to benefit women’s health? What do you imagine is the real reason for this law?
@Notation – it is always just a smokescreen to push the real conservative agenda, to end abortions in this country and control a woman’s reproductive health….though these same conservatives pretty much ignore babies once they’ve been born.
I agree, Lawrence. There are a number of procedures that carry equal or greater risk of complications for the patient, and doctors can perform them without having to have admitting privileges.
The fact is that there is really no reason for abortion providers to have admitting privileges, because should an emergency arise, hospitals are required to admit patients regardless of the circumstances–it doesn’t matter whether the patient’s doctor has admitting privileges or not.
Richard Florida ( The Atlantic Cities, 2012/ 2013) identifies the ‘geography’ of abortion in the US as well as the several salient dimensions associated with its availability
( affluence, education, urban vs rural, political affiliation etc)
It’s worth a look.
Altho’ what he writes will be disturbing to those concerned with women’s accessibility to abortion.
On the slim chance that Chuck in comment 6 is merely ignorant of the facts and is sticking around willing to be educated, 1/3 of all Texas clinics which provide abortions will close as a direct result of the law. The law requires hospital admitting privileges for the doctors (as mentioned by Orac) *and* requires the facility to meet building standards for an outpatient surgical center despite abortion procedures (especially the pill style!) not needing those types of facilities.
Amanda Marcotte over at Slate, among others, have pointed out that this leaves East Texas in particular with few options for abortion . . . if you’re poor. If you’re middle-class or rich, then getting an abortion still isn’t a big problem, just like how it usually wasn’t a problem even before Roe v. Wade.
I assume this means more women are going to cross the border to pharmacies in Mexico and buy Cytotec to self-abort. If you take the right dose it works about 90+% of the time, although 1 in 100 women will have to go to the hospital over it. I’ve read it became pretty common in Brazil and other Latin American countries with tight abortion laws.
The referenced Guttmacher report did not answer my question and I would hardly consider that organization to be unbiased.
I am always intrigued by those who, at least on the surface, seem to value skeptical principles, but who are all too willing to suspend those principles when it comes to certain issues like abortion. The responses I have received when framing the same question on abortion elsewhere are consistent with those here, which imply: “I can challenge your dogma, but you better not challenge mine.”
So, Chuck . . . when you get an answer to your question, you resort to questioning the veracity of the organization supplying the answer ? Can you show that Guttmacher has bias on this issue ? Can you answer the question as to why clinic doctors have to have admitting privileges ? Can you tell us why clinics have to meet the requirements for an outpatient surgery, when the procedure under discussion is not a surgery ? Do you even care ? You came here under false pretenses, “just asking questions” , which is also known as JAQing off. Please do your JAQing off in private in the future. Thanks.
Medieval mentality is dangerous. Tiller was my Alamo. Let states that don’t respect humanity and our constitution succeed so we can air lift citizens to safety and attack them legally.
*secede (speller checker and return reflex blamed)
Medieval mentality is dangerous. Tiller was my Alamo. Let states that don’t respect humanity and our constitution secede so we can air lift citizens to safety. If they continue the trend of mocking sanity and civil rights, then as clarified human rights infractions, we can attack them legally. Enough of this “states rights/republic” perversion of justice. We are a democracy with federal protections!
@Charles Alexander Zorn – I don’t think you’ll find justification for that position in the US Constitution.
Chuck: “The referenced Guttmacher report did not answer my question and I would hardly consider that organization to be unbiased…The responses I have received when framing the same question on abortion elsewhere are consistent with those here, which imply: “I can challenge your dogma, but you better not challenge mine.”
I have no problem with your challenging Guttmacher Institute information, but simply dismissing it as “biased” when it does not fit neatly into your views doesn’t cut it.
That tactic is common among the antivax crowd (and with wooists in general), whereas actual skeptics take the trouble to analyze and refute information that conflicts with their beliefs, even when the source is almost always wrong.
@ Chuck: It isn’t enough to state that you don’t trust the information in the link I provided to the Guttmacher Institute…you have to show us other references that refute the information contained in the Guttmacher Institute’s report.
Chuck, why didn’t you answer the question I put to you: what do think is the reason for this law? Do you really believe it is intended to make abortion safer? Do you have any evidence that abortion is dangerous enough to warrant this kind of interference? Were there so many incidents of unsafe practices in clinics that such a law was necessary?
Browsing through that Guttmacher article I noticed the Texan restrictions on abortion, which seemed entirely reasonable until I got to this:
As a Brit, used to an NHS that carries out abortions free more or less on demand, as long as it’s early enough, that raised my eyebrows for a microsecond. It’s America, after all (no offense intended).
Then I saw this:
So every woman that has a legal abortion in Texas has to be tortured with guilt beforehand*. I’m appalled and astonished in equal measure. Is this the case in any other states?
* This has a personal element for me, as an Irish Catholic friend of mine was racked with guilt after she had an abortion (a mortal sin, I believe), though I didn’t know this until after she had ended her pain by jumping in front of a train. I don’t think we need to make women who decide to terminate their pregnancies feel more guilty..
It has always been my grandmotherly opinion that women must learn to do their own and/or each other’s abortions safely and do them very close to a hospital just in case. The main problem with pre-legal-era abortion complications was lack of sterile technique (right?), so basic information and sterile practice could go a long way. Next up would be perforation of the uterus, the avoidance of which must be a teachable skill.
As veteran activists, Aunty Em and I think women should take complete control of our bodies and stop begging old white men and religiously fanatical women to allow us to rid ourselves of unwanted pregnancies. Never mind that the best way to stop abortion is to provide easy access to birth control, because the same people want to control women’s sex lives as well.
I would that hope freely available chemical methods would eliminate the necessity for such para-surgical training.
While it’s bad that the Texas Medical Board isn’t shutting down Burzynski, it’s also unfortunate that ScienceBlogs can’t shut down bogus ads like the one appearing on the RI main page for Whole Body Research. They’re a probiotics company issuing dire warnings about The American Parasite* which is taking over our bodies and forcing us to overeat and have all kinds of nasty symptoms.
It should embarrass ScienceBlogs to be seen as promoting this crap.
*The cartoon image of this parasite looks like a nasty worm, but they’re really talking about Candida.
Most responses to my comments only serve to demonstrate that some so-called skeptics tend to attack all regulations related to abortion and are willing to abandon their objectivity for this particular cause. I was not the one who claimed that these abortion laws were unfair and would jeopardize women’s health, so the burden of proof is not mine. I asked for evidence to support the proposition that this law would actually keep women who wanted them from having abortions and was not presented with any evidence, only conjecture and a reference to an irrelevant report from an organization with an obvious pro-choice agenda.
If the intent is to ensure that women who need or want abortions are able to get them, why the constant knee-jerk reaction to every proposed regulation? I am sure there are some restrictions on abortion that are reasonable and responsible–limits on late term abortions, for instance–and which do not compromise a women’s right to choose and obtain safe abortions on demand, but it seems that many so-called skeptics have a blind spot on the subject.
This observation is not limited to the abortion issue, the debate on gun control and GMOs are other examples where I have seen SINOs check skeptical principles at the door when a political agenda dear to them was challenged.
@Chuck – this is no “knee-jerk” reaction. Conservatives have been blatantly clear that there agenda is to find ways to eliminate abortions & overturn Roe vs. Wade – it isn’t about “reasonable” regulations, and you should know that.
A good place for them to start (and has been pretty much rote for them) is to add as many onerous restrictions on clinics as they can – so forcing those clinics out of business (therefore ending access to abortions).
The attack on Planned Parenthood is another perfect example.
Still waiting for Chuck to provide a link to any web page that refutes the information from the Guttmacher Institute.
SINO = skeptic in name only, I believe.
Chuck, there is no evidence that this law will improve safety. Can you show that it will? If not, then why is it necessary?
Interesting that you mention gun laws. I wonder where you stand on improving background checks and closing the loopholes in the law. Care to tell me?
Surely it is those the burden of proof is on those that support this new law to demonstrate that it benefits the people of Texas. Otherwise you could argue that it is permissible to introduce any laws you want, unless someone can prove they would be detrimental.
Also, I think you conflate skepticism with political affiliation. My political position is mostly based on personal preferences that cannot by supported by evidence. Often it is a matter of what balance between personal freedom and collective responsibility an individual feels comfortable with, or opinions about economics, which cannot be determined scientifically.
This article describes the impact of the law on women who had appointments at a clinic.
Sounds pretty significant to me.
From the Texas Tribune: “Between 2000 and 2010, five women died in Texas from abortion-related complications; the most recent death occurred in 2008. More than 865,300 abortions were performed during that time period, making Texas’ abortion-related death rate, 0.57 deaths per 100,000 abortions, slightly lower than the national abortion death rate of 0.7 per 100,000.
Abortion rights advocates say that is 14 times lower than the risk associated with carrying a pregnancy to term; opponents argue that every abortion comes with a terrible cost, the death of a baby.”
I contend that Chuck is requesting something that is difficult to show. How does anyone know how many women have been unable to obtain an abortion as a result of this law?
From Atlantic Monthly, Jan. 14, 2014: “When I asked roughly a dozen pro-choice groups for examples of patients who had suffered under the law, they responded either that nobody wanted to come forward out of privacy concerns, or that it’s hard to know when someone isn’t able to do something. Without standing in the living rooms of newly pregnant women as they attempt to make appointments or scrounge for gas money in order to trek to far-away clinics, it’s impossible to determine when an obstructed abortion results in an unplanned birth.”
It would be just as difficult, I would guess, to ascertain how many potential gun buyers would be unable to purchase guns as a result of closing loopholes and expanding background checks.
It beggars imagination that a law which would cause 1/3 of all abortion-providing clinics in the state of Texas to close would *not* impact the freedom to choose. How can removing a third of something possibly be insignificant? Based on that, I have to wonder at your motivations for doubting the Guttmacher report. You say you consider that that organization has bias, but you didn’t elaborate as to why you find them untrustworthy. I’m curious why, given that your rejection of their report was little more than hand-waving, you characterize yourself as a skeptic. Are you a skeptic, or merely a doubter?
If you have female company, think of something sentimental to discuss before you start slicing.
Well, if one ignores the very real legal repercussions. It’s a long, synchronistic, and irrelevant story, but I was acquainted with each of these filmmakers before they were with each other, and I know women who were around back in the day (more detailed background about Jane here).
The trick, as with any such procedure, is that safety goes hand-in-hand with familiarity. I’m inclined to say that it takes a competent conspiracy.
Just a few weeks ago the Guttmacher Institute reported that the abortion rate had dropped overt their reporting period. They attributed the drop to improved contraception. Several of the anti-abortion groups immediately responded with chest pounding claims that their legal maneuvering had decreased the incidence of abortion. Unfortunately, only the GI keeps statistics, so if you consider their statistics suspect, there are no alternatives.
Chuck, your religious right to condemn abortion stops at might uterus. Say all the negative things you want, but if you advocate passing laws to curtail abortion, you’re forcing your religious beliefs on me. That has not worked out well in other countries….
Since you’re complaining about inadequate skepticism, I’ll go ahead and ask what you think, in detail, renders such limits (1) “reasonable” and (2) “responsible.”
In fact, I’ll go one further: Given that you’ve trotted this out, perhaps you’d like to convince me that frank maternal postpartum infanticide is criminal. Think carefully, as the question to be addressed is a detailed assessment of what society actually abhors about death.
^ (I will further note that I am exempt from the comical hey-let’s-make-a-lot-of-assumptions-and-demand-answers “SINO” characterization, as I do not style myself in this fashion to start with.)
And there goes Chuck displaying his ignorance of pregnancy and obstetrics.
No doctor is happy about performing a late-term abortion – that is, beyond 24 weeks. But it’s sometimes medically necessary; usually when the child has some abnormality – anencephaly or severe hydrocephaly, for example – which means that it cannot survive, is already dying and may endanger the mother’s life if it isn’t removed.
But Chuck doesn’t know anything about any of that, so he just assumes that doctors like Tiller – who did perform late-term abortions – are all murdering monsters who delight in killing babies.
I may be wrong, but I remember dimly that one of the first victims (there is no other word) of this mandatory ultrasound was a woman in another state, maybe North Carolina.
Why was she considering abortion? The fetus nested outside of the uterus (I remember learning a new English word on this occasion: ectopic, as in ectopic pregnancy) . At best, the fetus would die before term, at worst it would leave her barren or dead.
This woman and her husband were at least on their third try to have a child.
There are a number of posts on the blog of Jen Gunther on abortion in US.(by example)
A must-read for anyone pretending to have a sound opinion on “reasonable restrictions”.
@ Dorothy #26
Warning. Potential nightmare fuel.
According to one post from Jen Gunther, coat-hanger-induced infection was not a bug, but a feature (apologies for the pun).
It was the infection which caused the abortion.
In another post, Jen Gunther the old (male) gynecologist who was her mentor how it was before legal abortion. In short, brutal.
Every nights, 2 to 3 women would be admitted at the hospital, because of complications from a botched illegal abortion.
Two to three every nights. That’s 700 women per year, in one hospital. Not counting all the ones who didn’t sought help for any complication, or died before reaching the hospital.
And some people would like us to believe it was better before.
“in another post, Jen Gunther asked”
Typing too fast. And my apologies for the grammar mistakes. I tend to be liberal with my esses.
I’m not familiar with the US statistics, but in the UK 77% of abortions* take place before 10 weeks gestation. Only 2% are carried out later than 20 weeks, and fewer than 200 each year later than 24 weeks. I would hazard a guess that it’s very similar in the US, but think a lot of people imagine the situation as being very different.
Incidentally, I was surprised to see how many women from Ireland and Northern Ireland, where abortion laws are very strict, still travel to mainland Britain for abortions, more than 4,000 every year from the Republic of Ireland alone.
* Even more natural ones occur at this gestational age, with 15-20% of known pregnancies spontaneously aborting, mostly before 7 weeks. Nature is the greatest abortionist.
@ Pris #2
“Faiseuse d’anges”, in French. Quite often the concierge or the woman holding the tiny grocery shop at the block’s corner.
Just a reminder: According to the Bible, a fetus is not a living being, and the death of one is treated as a property crime, while injury to the mother is far more severe:
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
22 When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. 23 If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Apparently, God is pro-choice.
Gray Falcon — mind you, the Bible (and most other works from the same period and, indeed, most works up until the last few centuries) treat minor children as property as well. It was quite remarkable that Christ called the little children to come to him; nobody else wanted to bother with them.
Oh, please… If Texas legislators found that all abortion providers had a hospital within 30 miles, they’d amend the law to make it within 15, or within 10, or across the street. It’s all they can do to get between a woman and her healthcare provider.
@Gray Falcon – That’s Old Testament God. New Testament God, in their view, is all up in women’s business.
@48: Yes, the Republic of Ireland is in this context very hypocritical. Most people that want abortions somehow manage to avail of them, exceptions being as always the poor and incidentally pregnant female prisoners, who cannot easily take a short trip to England for unspecified reasons.
The news is that the current government has introduced limited access to abortion. You have to be suicidal, and this has to be accepted by a board of three experts of sorts. If you don’t like their judgment it can be appealed to another set of three experts.
Needless to say this is a really messed up law, and in effect anybody that can afford it will still solve the problem with a short trip to the U.K! The discussion and the following passing of the law came in place after the unfortunate events around Halapenavars death, something commented on before in this forum.
Ren — no, I think you’ll find that these people base most of their misogyny on the Old Testament. The bit quoted above isn’t really about the *woman’s* right to choose, after all, because under Old Testament law (and most laws of the region in that period), the children didn’t really belong to her. They belong to her husband, so it’s his decision what punishment (if any) need be given out. It’s worth mentioning that it has a similar policy if you beat pregnant livestock, causing them to miscarry — the owner gets to decide if you’ll have to pay for that.
It’s easy to find information about the costs of not providing early, on-demand abortion to women. You only need to look to countries where abortion is not available to see the damage wrought there to women: http://www.nowfoundation.org/issues/reproductive/050808-abortion_worldwide.html and there’s plenty more such articles, activist groups, and statistics. Major news sources cover this issue, as well, so you would have to be living under a rock to not know.
Look to Ireland. Recently, a highly publicized case showed the lengths to which pro-lifers will go to protect a non-viable pregnancy: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ireland/10119109/Irish-abortion-law-key-factor-in-death-of-Savita-Halappanavar-official-report-finds.html … Savita died for ideology. As those who believe in EBM/SBM, it is no wonder that skeptics may be more likely to protest in the face of dogma costing lives. And in this case, we have a good example of how one charlatan can run amok causing suffering and costing lives, while a doctor providing an essential medical service to women loses his license in a bid to make abortion less accessible.
I will tell you what living in a rural area, without a hospital or clinic that allows abortions, looks like… because I live in one. First, I had an abortion once, in my early 20’s, and for medical reasons. I really didn’t want to terminate the pregnancy but I had to. I’m personally pro-life but political pro-choice, and it was really hard for me to accept that my pregnancy was not appropriate medically.
I was told there was a three week wait to have one in a nearer town, under general anesthetic. It would’ve involved three round trips to that town in total, and I was in college and didn’t have a car yet. But worse, it would’ve put me into the second trimester. I did not want to have second trimester abortion. It was already hard enough to have the abortion, even though I knew it was the right choice.
So, like many women I know, I traveled to have a same day in-office aspiration 4 hours away. I had to find someone to drive me. I had to come home, freshly post-abortion, sitting up in a car for four hours. It was miserable. This, of course, involved an added emotional and financial cost. I would’ve preferred had my doctor been able to give me the pill, which was available at the time, and he would’ve, as well, but it was not permitted because our hospital is Catholic, and for no other reason.
Secondly, because of our hospital, women who have non-viable pregnancies are forced to leave their own care providers, drive themselves or be driven for many hours, have their pregnancies terminated, and if they choose to stay with their own provider, come all the way back here with a dead fetus inside them to have their provider finish the process. I think that is barbaric. We are talking about women who know they are losing their babies anyway. All because we have a hospital that refuses to provide service even in the case of the life of the mother or a non-viable fetus, while accepting public moneys to run.
Do women keep babies because it takes so long to get into have an abortion? I personally KNOW women who kept babies because they ended up having to wait so long for an abortion that they just resigned themselves to having a child they couldn’t otherwise support and didn’t want. They didn’t want to wait into the second trimester but couldn’t get to a clinic hours away in time. Waiting up to a month to get into the OR on the one day a week the nearer town provides abortion is not fair and equal access. Not only that, there is no reason to go under GA for an early abortion, and I didn’t want to go under GA because I respond poorly to it.
Sounds like I live in a developing country or a bible-thumping state, but this is in Canada, in a province with some of the most liberal abortion laws in the country. But it just shows what ONE Catholic Hospital can do if it refuses to give privileges to physicians willing to terminate pregnancies.
When I had my abortion out of town, I also wasn’t allowed the pill, because the doctor was concerned our emergency room wouldn’t treat me properly if something happened: this has since changed, and women can travel to access non-surgical abortion, too, but back then it was new and there were publicized deaths of women not able to seek appropriate care post-termination so I had to have a surgical in-office abortion, and it was painful. I also would’ve rather been at home, with the pill, and my husband at the time. That’s also not choice.
We should not have to travel at all. Choosing to terminate a pregnancy is a difficult, emotional thing for many women. Having to choose between waiting to have an abortion in the OR of a nearby town until the embryo is a kicking fetus (in some cases) or traveling 4-6 hours for an in-office aspiration is not a choice! Not when we could have access here to, at least, the pill. But any doctor who challenges the status quo can lose privileges at our hospital if they administer an early abortion, even in their own offices. I do know of some rogue doctors (at least one) who is willing to do so under the radar.
Note: I didn’t write this for Chuck, because I suspect Chuck is anti-choice. I wrote this for those who might read this and not understand why it matters that rural abortions are being limited in this way or how not having physicians with privileges at a hospital can stop women from having fair and equal access to abortion. And thank you Orac for covering this issue.
I’m not even sure how Chuck can doubt whether there is an effect on women getting abortions in Texas. 35+ clinics down to 5 now? In a state “bigger than France”? He must be joking!
Update: I see only 12 have to close. mostly in the Rio Grande Valley. That’s roughly 1.4 million people affected, so, perhaps not an issue after all! Phew. (yes, sarcasm is included).
thepragmatist — wow, that is amazing; I would not have thought it would get that bad even in Canada, but then . . . Canada is a big place. Hospitals can be few and far between if you don’t live in one of the big cities, and if the local hospital is Catholic, it certainly won’t provide abortion services.
My mother-in-law (conservative, card-carrying Republican) was denied an abortion — of a baby which was not only non-viable, but actually deceased. They told her she had to wait for nature to take care of it. Which it didn’t, but after a few months the fetus decayed enough to cause an infection, at which point they apparently decided it was okay to remove the thing. When anti-abortion goes so far that doctors are unwilling even to remove a *dead* baby for fear of being branded an abortionist, things have gone much too far.
@ pragmaticist: Thank you for sharing your personal story with us.
Meanwhile, the Texas “Right to Life” chapter has just posted this about the suspension of Dr. Hering’s medical license (I’ve been visiting their website, just waiting for this post):
@ Cali Arcale / thepragmatist
Thanks for sharing.
Not the first time I hear about such stories.
I think it’s that infuriates me the most in this debate. Pro-life people are all about “abortion is murder”.
It’s a position I can understand. It makes me pause. At some time in the past, I could have agreed.
Also, to give themselves good conscience, they give lip service to “abortion could be considered if the mother’s life is in jeopardy”. Sounds like reasonable people, isn’t it.
And then reality happens. In US, in Ireland, abortion is reluctantly done or outright denied even in cases the fetus is, by all metrics, non-viable, dying, or already dead.
Women die because their life was not deemed enough at risk to justify a medical intervention.
I’m forced to conclude it’s not about saving unborn babies’ lifes. It’s about punishing pregnant women for failing to live up to an idealized picture of the perfect mother. Like any idealized picture, an unreachable goal.
It turns out that the “
MeTea Party” liberputian lawyer in the Sarah Hershberger case recently lost badly in a nonneglibly “pro-life” fueled bid to get Ohio to refuse federal Medicaid-expansion funds… because health care will encourage the poverty-stricken to mate wantonly like the rodents that they are, or something.
When anti-abortion goes so far that doctors are unwilling even to remove a *dead* baby for fear of being branded an abortionist, things have gone much too far.
Things have already gone much too far every time an anti-abortionist opens his or her trap to argue that any woman, anywhere, should be made into an unwilling incubator for an unwanted embryo or fetus.
it’s not about saving unborn babies’ lifes. It’s about punishing pregnant women for failing to live up to an idealized picture of the perfect mother. Like any idealized picture, an unreachable goal.
I see it more as a reaction against the possibility that women might not be chattels. TomAto, tomAHto.
@ herr doktor bimler
Well, in all cultures I’m aware of, one of the main quality of the perfect mother is to have plenty of healthy children. So yeah, chattel.
Actually, and this was why I talked about “idealized picture”, this is not just about seeing women as chattel, but, again, as perfect chattel.
To the anti-abortionist mind, not only all pregnancies should go to term, but there is denial, pure and simple, that any pregnancy, by itself, could go wrong.
And I’m realizing now this includes a denial of the possibility of the mother’s health, physical or mental, getting damaged by the pregnancy.
They put a taboo on the fetus, in the original sense: whatever happens, no-one is allowed to touch the baby, even if it is dying or dead.
In short, women are expendable. Even over a dead fetus.
Thank gods I live in one of those heathen atheist post-Commie countries where people don’t care. From time to time, someone mentions in the parliament that abortions should be legally limited and there’s a huge collective yawn. It took a while to approve mifepristone because a loud bunch of hardcore idiots of somewhat Christian persuasion (short on forgiveness, charity and all that uncomfortable stuff) was just being loud.
Anyhow, what makes me wonder when hearing about the U. S. debate is the ultrasound controversy and the pearl clutching about transvaginal ultrasound – one would guess that it’s some terrible act of violence. I get a transvaginal ultrasound at every ob/gyn checkup, it’s a standard of care, and this year, I had, erm, five? as I had some uterine issues. I wouldn’t call it fun but skin prick tests are no fun either and they also itch.
I admit that explaining that this lovely little bebeh (commonly known as 6/8/10 weeks foetus) will lose its lovely little tail and gills and will grow a nice set of wee pink hands and feet is downright creepy. I also can’t imagine a laywoman seeing anything but grey blobs on the ultrasound anyway. I find it just weird.
Orac chose to level what I consider to be an ad hominem attack on Texans to make a statement about that state's handling of Burzynski. Why? There's not enough evidence within the Burzynski case itself to condemn Texas laws on the subject? My take on Orca's post was that he was using the abortion issue to imply that Texans area a backward, hypocritical people. What place do such personal attacks have in blogs dealing with science and skepticism?
The effect of Texas abortion law on citizens from other countries is relevant?
Yes, I agree, that is part of my point, and too often, those invested in the political aspects of abortion, though they may call themselves skeptics, fill in the blanks with mindless rhetoric.
I don't know, but sometimes ideas that appeal to one's common sense are utterly wrong.
Not sure upon what you base your assumptions. One has to be religious to question abortion dogma?
There is a place for community standards in this argument. As a medical procedure, abortion needs to adhere to objective medical standards. As a moral issue, state laws are subject to the limited application of community standards. Abortion is an awfully thorny issue, but politically, I tend to lean on the side of state's rights and let the Supremes decided when states cross the line in limiting constitutional or inalienable rights. I'm willing to entertain the possibility that not everyone who wishes to place limits on abortion is a misogynistic, religious, redneck.
There is something special about life to me. When I hear people talk about living specimens as "material", I always remind myself not to use that term in that context. I often get the impression that many on the pro-choice side of the equation don't have the same appreciation for life that I do, so I sometimes feel compelled to raise the issue. No absolutes, and I'm not saying I'm right, just keeping that point of view in the mix.
There are legitimate reasons to perform late-term abortions, but there are also legitimate reasons to restrict them in some way, as all developed nations do. Instead of 14 weeks as in Germany, why not 24 weeks as in the U.K.? Why not 28 weeks? There is reason and should be room for discourse on this subject that does not include name-calling.
The "or make costly renovations" part is what caught my eye. What does "costly" mean? Is cost really a limitation? I don't know, but I am skeptical of all claims in the popular media about such politically-charged issues. I don't think anyone really knows what the practical impact of this law will be, which seems to be an excuse for many to revert to partisan rhetoric and ad hominem attacks.
Thank you all for engaging me in this discussion.
@Chuck – if Texas was so concerned about “human life” then perhaps they shouldn’t pride themselves as being the Execution Capitol of the United States……
You seem to have glossed over the fact that of the 45 women scheduled for appointments that day, only one third of them were not US citizens. Are the other 30 women “irrelevant” as you seem to believe the Mexican women are?
It’s pretty clear that you do realize that this law was intended to restrict abortion, and it’s also very clear that you approve of making abortions more difficult for women to get.
Thanks for confirming it.
I would file this as a rambling, diversionary nonanswer that boils down to “community standards something something something.”
This, impressively, is even more devoid of responsiveness than the previous entry. Did you forget the part about “so-called skeptics” being “willing to abandon their objectivity for this particular cause”? And now what pops out in response to a straightforward question is that “there is something special to life about me”?
How “special”? Are you a Jain? Are you internally self-consistent? You’ve already volunteered gun laws as another realm in which “SINOs check skeptical principles at the door.”
WTF does “when I hear people talk about living specimens as ‘material'” mean? Is anybody here doing this other than you? Put this together into something resembling a coherent whole that leads to your actual complaint about how the absurdly dubbed “SINOs” are failing to meet your expectations, and again keep in mind that this barbaric neologism doesn’t apply to me in the first place.
^ “about life to me,” not “to life about me,” sorry.
Yes, it is interesting, Narad, that in the middle of Chuck’s rambling response with very little substantive response (he *still* has not said what it is that causes him to distrust Guttmacher), he admits that while he’s been pontificating on “proper” skepticism and setting aside bias, that he is entirely biased on this particular topic.
Nice of him to finally admit that. It does fully explain both his evasiveness and the fact that his answers have largely been of the “just asking questions” variety. He doubts the evidence, therefore he gets to have whatever opinions he likes while lambasting those who disagree as not being properly skeptical.
Chuck. To suggest that closing 1/3 of all providers would have no significant impact is an *extraordinary claim* because it defies not only common sense but also reason. The burden is upon you to support it, and you have made no attempt to do so. You just doubt, and you have admitted this is because of your personal bias on the subject.
Life is special to me too. I have two wonderful children, and I loved being pregnant and bringing them into the world. But this is too important an issue to decide on gut emotions. I’d prefer to use evidence, rather than to use emotion and then discard whatever evidence is inconvenient.
One has to be religious to question abortion dogma?
I like to think that my own dogma is not specific to abortion, but is a more general one, along the lines of “minding my own business”. In particular, in situations of turning women into involuntary incubators for embryos which they do not want, my own opinions do not matter because it is their own feckin business.
Abortion is an awfully thorny issue
Only when scumbag misogynist forced-birthers make it into one.
For whatever reason, Conservatives seem to want to get the Government out of the business of Business (i.e. less regulations, lower taxes, etc.) but love the idea of crawling all up in a woman’s business or telling us what we can and cannot do inside our bedrooms……
They love Capital Punishment, but hate abortions…..
They hate abortions, but hate supporting the kids once they are born….
Earlier you complained that sceptics are so lacking in objectivity in this and other areas that they do not even deserve to be called sceptics. Now you are complaining that sceptics are too objective, and lack appreciation for life?*
It seems to me that you have your own emotional dogma around abortion, and see nothing inconsistent in switching your argument against sceptics from “not objective enough” to “too objective” in a heartbeat.
* That characterization of those who support a woman’s choice to terminate her pregnancy as somehow not having the same “appreciation for life” as as those who do not mightily p!sses me off. Those that so appreciate life they want to stop women from continuing with unwanted pregnancies very often seem to lose their caring attitudes when those same women are struggling to bring up a child in poverty and deprivation. Why does the putative suffering of a ball of cells matter so much when the suffering of sentient adults and child apparently doesn’t?
Should read – “adults and children”.
It’s interesting to me that Chuck refuses to be at all skeptical about the law itself. I asked him a direct question about its purpose and he has done everything but answer the question. Why, when the statistics show that abortions in TX are extremely safe already, is there a “need” for a law that will require clinics to meet even more stringent standards at significant cost?
This report shows the cost of compliance for abortion clinics in a number of states where similar laws have been passed. Of course, Chuck is likely to dismiss the information out of hand because it’s Guttmacher.
We routinely kill living entities daily, Chuck, without concern: to provide us with food (meat and vegetables), to improve crop yields (insecticides), to treat disease (antifungals, antibiotics, etc.) Chemotherapy alone kills living cells by the billions.
I don’t see you calling for ‘reasonble and responsible limits’ on when or if someone is able to obtain a hamburger and salad whne hungry, or be prescribed an anitungal for their athlete’s foot.
So clearly it isn’t ‘life’ that’s so special–with respect to deriving an ethical abortion policy ‘living’ of itself is necessary but insufficient .
What is relevant instead is personhood: does terminating a pregnancycause the destruction of a living human being?
I know of no rational argument which demands we consider the developing organism following fertilization to represent a human being at any and all stages of gestation rather than instead represnting a human zygote, a human embryo, or a human fetus.
I agree–and I note that such reasonable and responsible restrictions on abortions are already in place. What’s being discussed here are unreasonable and irresponsible restrictions enacted for for no reason other than trying to make it more difficult for women to obtain abortions should they choose.
Study about imapct of Texas abortion restrictions from UT Austin:
Thanks. This part of the conclusion jumped out of the screen at me:
The authors of this report also point our that the new restrictions on which clinic can do abortions is compounded by a general decrease of the budget of family planning centers. Meaning, among other things, a reduced access to counseling and basic contraception, which will results in more unwanted pregnancies, i.e. more women looking for abortion.
Chuck or any other “pro-life”, care to explain to me how all of this will result in increased safety for women and lower number of losses of life?
Heck, you can even try to explain to me how this will result in less abortions, since the number of unwanted pregnancies is likely to increase.
I disagree. It’s a thorny issue to begin with. I’ve known several women who have had abortions. It was not an easy choice for any of them. This includes one who literally had to choose between carrying the child to term and dying, which would seem to be a straightforward choice, but it was not. Ethically, she made the right choice, and in the long run, life is served by the choice she made, since she went on to have two beautiful children who would not exist had she not had that abortion, because she would have died. She even has grandchildren now.
I don’t think anybody is served by attempting to oversimplify it into either “sanctity of life” or “it’s just a bunch of cells” territory. It’s life, growing within a woman’s uterus, an amazing thing and very much alive. And, honestly, I don’t see any reason to consider it less a person than a child who has been born. So it’s a difficult decision to make, whether to continue or abort an unplanned pregnancy. I do not think any woman should be obliged to carry a pregnancy she doesn’t want to carry. Yes, the baby has a right to life, but she has a right to bodily integrity, and she was there first. So she’s going to have to decide. That’s not fair, that’s just reality. And I don’t think many women fail to understand the enormity of what they’re doing in an abortion. I find ultrasound laws and mandatory waiting periods to be insulting to the mothers’ intelligence, not to mention pointless and fairly transparent attempts at obstruction rather than legitimate efforts to help.
We need to have a goal of reducing the abortion rate. That is a very good thing. But we’re never going to get there by banning abortion. We need to reduce unplanned pregnancies instead. That’s far more practical and humane. At the same time, women need to have fair and safe access to the full gamut of gynecological services, including abortion when it becomes tragically necessary, but mostly all the other services, which would all make abortion less necessary. We as a nation spend more effort on obstructing abortion than we do on providing prenatal care, and that is very frustrating to me.
I believe in the sanctity of life. Not because of some backwards god given right, but because society needs to protect all life, or its reason to exist is meaningless. With that said, I also believe abortion should be legal, and easily accessible. What else should be easily accessible? Self worth. Strength of character. Instead of bible thumping, how about adults start teaching their children about decision making? Respect for their bodies and others? Instead of denying sex, teach both males and females, it is their responsibility to protect themselves, not only from pregnancy, but from disease. Every single person that calls themselves ‘anti-abortion’ never ever offers a solution other than limiting abortion. That solves NOTHING. Just like anti-vaxxers, suppress knowledge and the ability to make an intelligent, informed decision. Put your hands over your ears and eyes and pretend life isn’t real.
I suffered a miscarriage for my first pregnancy. It was devastating. I CANNOT imagine if the doctor had told me I had to wait for nature to take its course. I had heard of/knew several women that had severely bled out miscarrying on their own, and I didn’t want that to happen. The baby was obviously dead, even tell at 8 weeks. Nature is a killer, not everything natural is good. I wonder how many deaths the catholic church is responsible, indirectly. Don’t terminate this pregnancy, don’t use birth control . . . /sigh
Which brings us back to the absolute hypocrisy that our dear Orac points out in Texas. Quack cancer doc=okay. Legal abortion providers=not okay. I don’t understand this country.
[…] last I discussed Stanislaw Burzynski, I noted that, among other things, the state of Texas appears far more interested in putting abortion providers out of business than it does in protecting its citizens suffering […]
A much more interesting way to spend some of your $50,000 for someone with inoperable brain cancer:
The main problem, I feel, is that the Texas Medical Board takes action against physicians performing abortions and not against physicians who can cause serious harm or influence the health of the patient badly.
The TMB should also have the primary aim to do what is best for the patient and improve his or her physical health. If the health of the patient is in a critical condition and it can be solved by an abortion then it should not be illegal or difficult.
The TMB should rearrange their priorities to fit a modern view.
I am not saying that abortion is always right, but I am saying that there are worse problems and violations that the TMB should focus on, because sometimes an abortion can be lifesaving.