I received a very welcomed email this morning from the PR director of our local PPFA:
Thursday, June 07, 2007BY CHARLES THOMPSONOf The Patriot-News
The state House Health and Human Services Committee gave a big win to advocates for crime victims and women's rights yesterday, approving 20-7 a bill that would require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to women seeking treatment for sexual assault.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, was drafted in part in response to a 2006 rape case in Lebanon County. The victim sought treatment at Good Samaritan Hospital, but was refused emergency contraception by an emergency room doctor who said it would violate his religiout beliefs about abortion.
When a similar guaranteed-access bill stalled in the Senate last year, advocates for victims of sexual assault made it a priority for the new session.
"This is a really strong statement for the protection of women who are in really difficult circumstances," said Susan Gobreski, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates, the public policy arm of the state's Planned Parenthood affiliates.
Leach's bill, which might be voted on by the House next week, would require hospitals to provide rape victims with information about emergency contraception and, if requested, make available the two-pill treatment that's most effective when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex.
Surveys show about half of Pennsylvania's hospitals routinely make emergency contraception available to rape victims.
Legislative opponents, most of them abortion foes concerned that the emergency contraception pills amount to a form of abortion, tried to derail the vote by seeking a second public hearing. They complained abortion opponents, including leaders of Catholic hospitals, were not represented at a May 29 hearing.
But the panel's Democratic majority, joined by a few Republicans, defeated that motion and a subsequent amendment by Rep. Doug Reichley, R-Lehigh, that would have let faith-based hospitals withhold the treatment if medical tests indicated that a pregnancy had begun.
Reichley warned the bill could violate religious freedom protections designed to prevent the state from compelling someone to provide services that are contrary to his religious beliefs.
Bill supporters, however, argue the pills -- marketed at pharmacies as Plan B -- generally act like regular birth control pills by preventing ovulation or fertilization of an egg. They contend that means pregnancy has not begun and no abortion is occurring.
Leach said the bill relieves victims of the dilemma of deciding to have an abortion or bear a child who was the product of a rape. He said the bottom line for him is creating a strong standard of care for sexual assault victims.
Gobreski agreed. "What's really important is that these women should be empowered to make medical decisions based on medical information and not the religious beliefs of others."
Rep. Mauree Gingrich, R-Palmyra, was one of five Republicans to support the bill.
CHARLES THOMPSON: 705-5724 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This bill comes out of a case that I wrote about back in 2006 here. I promise to keep you posted about when the bill goes to the floor for a vote.
I wonder what many of the readers here think about the opposing arguments to EC in the ER, namely that it violates religious freedom. How far can one take the religious freedom argument in a hospital? Is it possible to have a hospital set up by the Creationists, who deny any scientific validity to evolution and thereby, I would imagine, most medical treatments? I guess it is possible to set up such a hospital, but what happens if that is the only place to get treated for many many miles?
I am fairly unschooled on the legality of hospital regulations. Thoughts?