Freethought San Marcos: A column
by LAMAR W. HANKINS
State Senator Donna Campbell has been identified as a Libertarian Republican by LibertarianRepublican.net and as a libertarian by the Austin Chronicle. She is one of the strangest libertarians I know of. She must have great difficulty reconciling her libertarian views with the demands of her right-wing Republican cohorts and constituents. And when it comes to abortion, she allows her religious views to over-ride her libertarian views, and she allows her allegiance to the Tea Party to override the views of physicians who care primarily for women.
On Campbell’s website, in a brief statement about abortion, she exposes a glaring conflict:
“God bestowed the gift of life upon us, and this gift begins at conception. I am 100% Pro-Life and believe one of the greatest privileges I will have as a State Senator will be to fight for the rights of the unborn and protect innocent life. No issue is closer to my heart and I will do everything in my power to make abortion as rare as possible. I support strengthening the family at every level and believe parental rights are key to protecting Texas families.”
It hardly strengthens families and parental rights to oppose abortion. If a family has three children and does not want another, Campbell would force that mother to have another if she becomes pregnant. The Pope may be proud of her, but her claim about supporting families is deceitful.
Campbell’s efforts to make abortion rarer also deny funding to Planned Parenthood, making contraception harder to obtain and cancer screening less available for poor and uninsured women, effects that are the exact opposite of supporting Texas families.
Campbell’s recent op-ed in the Statesman argues that the opinions of three Republican physicians in the Legislature are more important and should be given greater weight than the views of the medical community that specializes in women’s health care. The Texas District of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have found that the anti-abortion legislation supported by Campbell is “not based on sound science” and is an “attempt to prescribe how physicians should care for their individual patients.” The group has concluded: “(The bill) will not enhance patient safety or improve the quality of care that women receive . . .(and it) does not promote women’s health, but erodes it by denying women in Texas the benefits of well-researched, safe, and proven protocols.”
Campbell claims that the purpose of the new requirement that abortion clinics be fully-licensed surgical centers is for the safety and well-being of the woman seeking an abortion. The best example of Campbell’s deceit about such safety is her support for requiring abortion-inducing drugs to be administered only at fully licensed surgical centers located within 30 miles of a hospital that allows the prescribing physician to practice there. Yet the FDA-approved practices allow the administration of abortion-inducing drugs (what is called the “Mifeprex regimen” and often referred to as RU-486) in a physician’s office or clinic.
Campbell allows her extremist views opposing the constitutional right of a woman to seek an abortion to interfere with a physician’s normal practice of medicine and a woman’s right to seek a treatment found safe by the FDA. Further, this new regulation will interfere with the right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy within seven weeks of pregnancy – the period during which the Mifeprex regimen is permitted by the FDA. Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s landmark, four-decade-old ruling on abortion rights forbids state regulation of abortion during the first 13 weeks after conception. Such disregard for the constitutional rights of women cannot be justified by one’s personal religious views or one’s experience as an emergency room physician – Campbell’s current occupation.
The Texas Medical Association opposes the legislation Campbell wholeheartedly endorses. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists made this statement about the sort of legislation Campbell advocates:
“While we can agree to disagree about abortion on ideological grounds, we must draw a hard line against insidious legislation that threatens women’s health like (the Texas anti-abortion legislation). … That’s why we’re speaking to the false and misleading underlying assumptions of this and other legislation like it: These bills are as much about interfering with the practice of medicine and the relationship a patient has with her physician as they are about restricting women’s access to abortion. The fact is that these bills will not help protect the health of any woman in Texas. Instead, these bills will harm women’s health in very clear ways.”
Campbell’s op-ed disingenuously states that “every abortion facility in Texas is within 15 miles of a hospital.” But she provides no evidence that the physicians practicing in those abortion facilities will be granted admission to practice in nearby hospitals. Many Texas hospitals have moved to a system of using physicians hired directly by the hospital – hospitalists they are called. My primary care physician, who used to be able to treat me and follow my progress in the hospital nearest to my home, is no longer allowed to do so. And most hospitals affiliated with religious groups do not permit physicians who perform abortions at nearby clinics to practice in their hospitals.
Two years ago, a Catholic bishop in Texas forbade physicians at two Catholic hospitals in Texas from performing procedures to tie the fallopian tubes of women at the hospitals. Other Catholic bishops have interfered in other medical practices at Catholic hospitals within their domains. In a case in Phoenix, Catholic Diocese officials that owned a hospital preferred forfeiting a mother’s life in order to save her fetus. Religiously-controlled hospitals deny both women and men medical treatments and procedures that violate religious dogma, but Campbell doesn’t discuss these obstacles to supporting women and their families.
A 2012 study by a legal group found that “Medicare and Medicaid provide religiously-affiliated hospitals with one-half of their funding. Religious hospitals also enjoy certain benefits like tax exempt status, low-cost financing through government bond programs, and, in some areas, use of municipal buildings. Thus, while reliant on funds from a diverse population of taxpayers and serving a diverse population of patients, religious hospitals use specific institutional doctrine to dictate patients’ medical options. Such choices can be contrary (to) their patient’s health needs and personal beliefs.”
In her op-ed, Campbell once again argues for the shibboleth that abortion is a dangerous procedure, ignoring the facts. Numerous studies have concluded that one in every 10,000 women dies during childbirth, and fewer than one in every 100,000 women die from medical abortion. The book “Clinician’s Guide to Medical and Surgical Abortions” reports that “Death occurs in 0.0006% of all legal surgical abortions (one in 160,000 cases). These rare deaths are usually the result of such things as adverse reactions to anesthesia, embolism, infection, or uncontrollable bleeding.”
Medical abortions are safer than childbirth and almost as safe as naturally occurring miscarriages. But Campbell would rather make law on the basis of a few anecdotes from her time as an emergency room physician than on the fact that fewer than 0.3% of patients who have had an abortion experience a complication that requires hospitalization.
Something else that Campbell fails to mention is that abortion facilities are few and far between in Texas, largely due to previous Republican efforts to limit the availability of such services to women, in contravention of their rights. There are at present 47 abortion clinics in the entire state of 254 counties, where 13.1 million women live. A report from Media Matters concludes that the legislation Campbell has strongly supported could reduce these 47 clinics to five.
But Campbell’s illogic seems to know no bounds. During a hearing on the abortion legislation during the regular 2013 session of the Legislature, Campbell said: “After a colonoscopy on a man, he comes in bleeding in the emergency room from the rectum and we’ve got a surgeon on call. But we don’t have somebody on call for a lady who is hemorrhaging in the uterus from a procedure that was done at a facility that was held at less standards. So I applaud this bill. I jumped on this bill as a physician and as a woman.”
Campbell did not explain why an emergency room would be able to handle a man’s (and presumably a woman’s) bleeding from a colonoscopy, but not a woman’s bleeding from an abortion procedure. There are no reasons why hospitals in Texas can’t have OB/GYNs available to them.
David Leonhardt, writing in the New York Times, provides a view of abortion that is as close to mine as I have found: “Most Americans are uncomfortable with abortion yet believe there are circumstances — and not just a narrow few — when it should be legal. They believe that women should have control over their bodies and also that an abortion is akin to a death. Where they struggle is in deciding when each principle deserves to take priority.”
Would that Donna Campbell had as nuanced and thoughtful a view as this. But in the fight over women’s health and reproductive rights, Campbell has shown that her claims to support liberty and freedom are belied by the dominance of her religious views and her distortion of libertarian philosophy, both of which continue to endanger women’s health in support of an extreme agenda. Generally, libertarians and Republicans claim to want to keep the government out of our private lives, but when it comes to abortion, some libertarians and most Republicans can’t get government involved enough.
© Lamar W. Hankins, Freethought San Marcos
LAMAR W. HANKINS is a former San Marcos city attorney.Email | Print