Just Die Already

Chester County Republican Joe Pitts’ latest attack on abortion rights could prove fatal for mothers

A couple weeks back, I told you about New Jersey Republican Chris Smith’s plan to redefine rape in service of his anti-abortion agenda. The idea, you’ll recall, was to only allow the victims of certain “forcible” rapes—statutory and date rapes don’t count, ladies—access to abortion (which is, I should note, an entirely legal medical procedure) under Medicaid. That plan died a quick death, thankfully.

But! This being the U.S. House of Representatives, which is now dominated by anti-choice (male, of course) Republicans, you’ll no doubt be shocked to learn that the right wing is taking another bite at the anti-choice apple, this time via a proposal from Chester County Congressman Joe Pitts—a first-class theocrat who chairs the Values Action Team, a subset of the far-right Republican Study Group that takes its marching orders from homophobe/dog abuser James Dobson—that would allow hospitals that receive federal funds to refuse to perform abortions in any and all circumstances, even when the mother’s life is in danger.

A bit of backstory: currently, all hospitals in America that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding are bound by a 1986 law known as EMTALA to provide emergency care to all comers, regardless of their ability to pay or other factors. Hospitals do not have to provide free care to everyone that arrives at their doorstep under EMTALA—but they do have to stabilize them and provide them with emergency care without factoring in their ability to pay for it or not. If a hospital can’t provide the care a patient needs, it is required to transfer that patient to a hospital that can, and the receiving hospital is required to accept that patient.

In the case of an anti-abortion hospital with a patient requiring an emergency abortion, ETMALA would require that hospital to perform it or transfer the patient to someone who can. … Pitts’ new bill would free hospitals from any abortion requirement under EMTALA, meaning that medical providers who aren’t willing to terminate pregnancies wouldn’t have to—nor would they have to facilitate a transfer.

The hospital could literally do nothing at all, pro-choice critics of Pitts’ bill say.

Pitts, of course, doesn’t see what the big damn deal is.“NARAL and other abortion rights groups have vigorously opposed any conscience protection legislation, it is no surprise that they would attack the Protect Life Act with the same old talking points,” a Pitts spokesperson told Talking Points Memo.

He’s pro-life, you see. For fetuses. Less so for endangered pregnant women who want access to a perfectly legal, lifesaving medical procedure.