Saturday, June 09, 2007

Unintended Consequences

Oops. I'm sure the good Senator did not intend this. Here is an article from a local newspaper concerning the recent signing of HB 818 into law:

Midwifery bill raises concern
Anti-abortion groups fear measure would allow non-physicians to perform procedure.
The Kansas City Star
JEFFERSON CITY Some anti-abortion groups say Gov. Matt Blunt has signed a law that would authorize more people to perform abortions in Missouri.
HB 818, a measure dealing with health insurance that Blunt signed Friday, also contained language intended to legalize the practice of midwifery. However, several anti-abortion groups complained the legislation also would allow medical providers other than physicians to perform abortions.
The issue boils down to one sentence in the new law, say anti-abortion groups like Missouri Right to Life.
The bill says “Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, any person who holds current ministerial or tocological certification” may provide health services as defined in a section of federal law. The word “tocological” refers to the entire range of obstetrics.
The federal law in question covers “services related to pregnancy,” including prenatal care, delivery and post-partum services.
“Abortion is obviously ‘related to pregnancy,’ ” James Cole, legal counsel for Missouri Right to Life said in an analysis of the bill. Pam Fichter, director of development for Missouri Right to Life, said the organization considers the problem “very real.” The measure could expand access to abortions, she said.
“We are hoping the governor will find a pro-life solution to this,” Fichter said. “One solution would be to call a special session” to revise the language.
The Missouri Catholic Conference and Campaign Life Missouri also have expressed similar concerns about the bill.
But Jessica Robinson, a spokeswoman for the governor, indicated Blunt did not consider the language to present a serious concern.
“I think that Gov. Blunt signing the bill into law with the (midwifery) provision really speaks for itself,” Robinson said when asked about the anti-abortion groups’ concerns.
She also said it was too early to consider any special session requests.
Robinson pointed to other anti-abortion groups, including Alliance for Life Missouri, which backed the governor’s position.
John McCastle, president and chief executive officer of Alliance for Life Missouri, said his group had reviewed the measure and was comfortable with it.
“I think it’d be a far stretch for anybody to conclude that prenatal care would also include an abortion,” he said.
The irony of the legislation is that it was sponsored by one of the staunchest abortion foes in the legislature, Sen. John Loudon, a St. Louis County Republican. Loudon slipped in the “tocological” language late in the session without telling other senators it was about midwifery. The move so angered Republican leaders they stripped him of his committee chairmanship.
Loudon said there probably would be an effort to clarify the law in the future, but he dismissed the notion that his legislation could allow non-physicians to perform abortions.
“It is a legal theory that I don’t think amounts to anything,” he said. “I’ve got a legal opinion that says it’s baloney.”
In any case, he said, organizations that provide abortions are not likely to start using non-physicians to perform them. Abortion rights supporters want the procedure to be as safe as possible, he said.
Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said his organization would not do anything differently as a result of the law.
“Certainly, our reading of that language indicates it makes it possible for non-physicians to perform abortions,” Brownlie said. “We have no plans to do that.”
Brownlie said some states allow certified nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to perform surgical abortions in the first trimester or to prescribe mifepristone, the “abortion pill.”

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