When Lawmakers Don’t Listen to Reason

January 27, 2012

Wednesday, January 25,2012 was a very frustrating day. Beginning at 8:30 am and again at 1:30 pm, I sat in on Indiana Senate committee hearings. Among the bills being discussed were SB 72 in the Health and Provider Services Committee and SB 89 in the Education and Career Development Committee. The most controversial statement in SB 72 as debated in the committee hearing is: “Specifies that only a physician who meets certain conditions may administer to a pregnant woman an abortion inducing drug, and sets forth the procedure the physician must follow. ” After hearing expert testimony from doctors and medical school staff among others who opposed the bill, the committee passed it with a 5/4 vote seemingly ignoring the testimony against it. Health Access and Privacy Alliance (HAPA), a coalition of civic, educational, religious, professional, and health organizations from all over the state working together to improve access to healthcare and protect reproductive choice in Indiana, has released this statement:

We strongly oppose SB 72 because it puts patients at risk; intrudes on the physician-patient relationship; takes the medical decision-making out of the hands of physicians and puts it in the hands of legislators; restricts the ability of physicians to use evidence-based medicine, preventing them from choosing the most effective and preferred medical protocols while treating their patients.

Physicians use evidence-based medicine to improve patient outcomes and make medical advances, which should be supported, not inhibited by our General Assembly. SB 72 was introduced based on personal beliefs, and the personal beliefs of elected officials should not interfere with the ability of physicians to provide patients with the best medical practices.

Physicians, not politicians, should decide what is best for patients.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana has released the following statement:

The Senate Health and Provider Services Committee passed Senate Bill 72 out of committee yesterday. Planned Parenthood of Indiana is opposed to SB 72 because it puts women at risk, it intrudes on the doctor-patient relationship, it takes medical decision-making out of the hands of doctors and puts it in the hands of legislators, it restricts doctors’ ability to use evidence-based medicine, and, finally, it prevents doctors from using the medical protocols proven most effective and preferred.

SB 72 exists because of personal beliefs. Personal beliefs should not be the basis for lawmaking. They certainly should not dictate to doctors how best to practice medicine, particularly under the threat of criminal offense. Doctors should be in charge of their protocols and their practices, not politicians. Simply put, SB 72 is politics at its worst.

Senator Vi Simpson was again a champion, observing that the committee was “legislating by anecdote instead of science” and “setting a terrible precedent”. She went on to say that “the legislature doesn’t trust women and now they don’t trust doctors”. Senator Vaneta Becker said that the legislation “increases risk for women, criminalizes physicians” and was extremely disappointed that the Committee would hear it. We applaud their opposition to this bill and also commend Senators Jean Breaux and Senator Earline Rogers for voting against SB 72.

I personally would like to commend Senator Becker who crossed party lines to do so. Senator Jean Leising asked some very probing questions during the discussion and I had hopes that she might vote against it. However, in the end she followed party line and voted in favor of the bill.

Betty Cockrum, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, will be addressing the issue of legislative interference in reproductive health care in her speech, “Your Legislator. In Your Doctor’s Office. In Your Bedroom” at Indiana Civic Day on Saturday, February 11. Indiana Civic Day is being sponsored jointly by CFI-Indiana and the Indiana Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The afternoon didn’t get any better. At 1:30, I attended, testified, and answered questions at the Education and Career Development committee’s hearing of SB 89 which would give local school corporations the authority to require the teaching of creation “science” along side scientific theories of human orgins. The letter that CFI sent to the committee members prior to the hearing and links to my testimony are also contained in Michael DeDora’s blog, “Indiana Senate Panel Approves Creationist Bill Despite Center for Inquiry’s Letter, Testimony,” which was posted on January 26.

Testimony against the bill stressed the unconstitutionality of teaching creation science, established by the Supreme Court in 1987. Among those testifying against the bill were John Staver, professor of chemistry and science education at Purdue University; Chuck Little, executive director of the Indiana Urban Schools Association; David Sklar, the Director of Government Relations for the Jewish Community Relations Council; the Reverend Charles All en, a chaplain for Grace Unlimited, a campus ministry in the Indianapolis area; and myself. I pointed out that testimony from an esteemed professor from one of Indiana’s prestigious universities was a great explanation for them as to why creation “science” is not science.

I did not detect much understanding of science from any of the committee members who talked or asked a question. This is very scary being that they are the Education committee for the Indiana Senate. The vote was 8-2, with the bill’s sponsor and committee chair Dennis Kruse (R-District 14), Carlin Yoder (R-District 12), Jim Banks (R-District 17), Jim Buck (R-District 17), Luke Kenley (R-District 20), Jean Leising (R-District 42), Scott Schneider (R-District 30), and Frank Mrvan Jr. (D-District 1) voting for and Earline S. Rogers (D-District 3) and Tim Skinner (D-District 38) voting against the bill. A big shout out to Earline Rogers who voted against both SB 72 and SB 89 !!! Tim Skinner, a teacher himself, seemed most concerned about the position it put the individual teacher in because it would put them in the position of violating the Constitution. Luke Kenley wants the bill amended and the language changed but still voted to send it to the full Senate for discussion. Senator Jean Leising remained silent (as I recall) during the discussion
as did many of the committee members but voted in favor of the bill.

Lawmakers should respect the medical and scientific professions and trust them with making medical and science education decisions instead of legislating on matters they do not understand. At Indiana Civic Day on Saturday, February 11, you will learn how the Indiana legislative process works and hear the leaders of several organizations speak. Go to this link to register for this important conference.