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The Slippery Slope . . .

By Dr. Sujatha Prabhakaran

It seems there are legislators who still think women need more regulations regarding their healthcare decisions than men.  While particularly evident regarding decisions around abortion, I’m not going to discuss the myriad regulations regarding the need for public input into a woman’s decision regarding abortion.  Instead I will focus on the slippery slope that abortion regulation puts us on in regards to other women’s healthcare. 

While I won’t take up your time discussing abortion regulations happening nationwide, I do want to point out that when we make policy, we need to recognize how willing people are to believe some pretty extreme ideas.  This is evidenced in Facebook reactions to an obvious Onion parody about an “Abortion Plex”.  The responses seem to indicate that people are willing to believe the egregious description of a mall-like abortion facility complete with Imax theatre, karaoke, as well as quotes from PPFA President Cecile Richards such as, “No life is sacred”.  It is frightening that for some, when we talk about abortion regulation, this is the place that they are starting from.  

But my focus here is actually the slippery slope that regulating abortion puts us on.  Places where strictly regulating abortion is considered acceptable are also places where other regulations regarding women’s healthcare happen.  Indiana is a prime example.  In the Indiana legislature this session, legislation passed that prohibits Medicaid from being used at Planned Parenthood clinics in that state.   Federal Medicaid funding can never be used for abortions.  This funding goes for things like contraception, cancer screening and treatment, and sexually transmitted infection testing.  This legislation means that as of June, Indianans in rural counties, where no health department or other facility that accepts Medicaid exists, have no easily accessible healthcare.  They must find transportation to another facility at least an hour away to obtain needed care.  

In addition to restricting access to uncontroversial, cost saving preventive care, going down the slippery slope also opens the door to restrictions on other types of care, hysterectomy, for example.  That’s right, HB 1257 which was introduced in the Indiana legislature requires women considering hysterectomy to watch a video entitled, “Female Anatomy:  The Functions of the Female Organs”.  This video includes statements such as, “Women have little or no waist after a hysterectomy” and that the majority of women who have a hysterectomy have incontinence and that severing the nerves around the uterus results in loss of sensation in the nipples.  This bill did not make it out of committee, but Representative Borders introduces this bill yearly, just like Congressman Pence each year introduces a bill in United States Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.  Most years the bill never made it out of committee, but we all know what happened this year with that bill. 

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