Once again, Nevada junior Senator Dean Heller gets stretched out into Immoderate territory in Senate votes this week. On September 22, 2015 Senator Heller voted in favor of the unscientific and pretty thoroughly politicized “Pain Capable…” forced birth bill (H.R. 36) [roll call 268]
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) explained the opposition to the bill by noting it is (1) unconstitutional because it bans abortion procedures before a fetus is medically considered viable and it does not include exceptions for a situation in which a woman’s health in endangered – both elements contradict Roe v. Wade and other precedents. [RealityCK]
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) added: “Do we really want to make a criminal out of a physician who is trying to prevent a woman with preeclampsia from suffering damage to her kidneys or liver, or having a stroke or seizures?” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). “Do we want the threat of prison for a doctor who knows that his pregnant patient needs chemotherapy or radiation treatments?” [RealityCK]
For those unfamiliar with lady parts and how they function (which unfortunately seems to include a majority of Republican men in Congress) let’s note that preeclampsia generally occurs after 20 weeks, and one of the first signs is an increase in the woman’s blood pressure. There is one and only one cure for preeclampsia – the delivery of the fetus. [MayoClinic] The decisions made by the woman and her physician are going to be really tough at this point.
The delivery has to happen before damage to the kidneys or liver becomes permanent – or fatal. What happens to the fetus is problematic. The usual assumption of viability in the U.S. is 24 weeks of gestational age. Less than that gestational age and the fetus will likely not be physically mature enough to survive into the neo-natal period and achieve the capacity to be an independent human being. [NCBI] However, there is another factor which isn’t biological. The technology must be available to sustain the fetus delivered this early. For example, even in developed western European countries such as Portugal the age of assumed viability is higher than in the U.S. [NIH]
What makes Senator Heller’s position so radical is his vote to criminalize the efforts of a physician who is confronted with preeclampsia in a pregnant woman after 20 weeks into the pregnancy – when the condition most often appears – and his assumption that all pregnant women and their physicians have access to the kind of neo-natal technology associated with a neo-natal intensive care unit. And, not just any neo-natal care unit, in cases of extremely pre-mature infants we’re talking about Level III care capacity.
Now scroll through the Nursing Institute of Nevada list of hospitals and their technical and staff capabilities. Two list Level II nursery care, six list Level III facilities – and they are all located in either the Las Vegas or Reno area. Treating preeclampsia outside one of Nevada’s two metropolitan areas requires all the emergency training and equipment for the most extreme emergencies.
As if the situation weren’t complicated enough, preeclampsia’s early symptoms – headaches, nausea, plus aches and pains are all things that happen in a normal pregnancy. However, when the headaches are severe, there’s blurred vision. severe abdominal pain, and shortness of breath – it’s time for the emergency room. [MayoClinic] The condition occurs in about 5%-8% of all pregnancies, and can appear at any time during pregnancy, delivery, and up to six weeks post-partum, although it most frequently happens in the final trimester. [PreecOrg]
It would be very useful if more Republican men knew that a pregnancy involves more than having a wife who reacts to certain smells, and has trouble with shoe laces, in addition to the general knowledge that it’s a good idea to keep the gas tank filled in the family wagon.
The radical forced-birth crowd in the U.S. Senate seems not to understand that their anti-abortion grandstanding has implications in the real world in which not all pregnancies are trouble free, not all women and infants have immediate access to the very latest technology and medical expertise, and not all complications in pregnancies take place conveniently before some artificially established gestational age. It’s too bad Senator Heller has joined this herd.
Recommended reading for Republican men: “Frequently Asked Questions,” Preeclampsia Foundation. “Familial Occurrence of Preeclampsia,” National Institutes of Health, NCBI. “Late Pregnancy Complications,” Patient.Info. “Preeclampsia,” Mayo Clinic. “Medline Plus: Preeclampsia,” NLM, NIH. “Preeclampsia,” WebMD.