Republican state legislators continue to demonstrate their commitment to creating jobs by tirelessly working to craft legislation that's so ridiculous that it keeps thousands of bloggers, fact checkers, health care advocates, and attorneys afloat during these difficult economic times. The latest wacky turn is courtesy of lawmakers in Tennessee, who are scheduled to consider a law that would compel the state health department to post the names of doctors who perform abortions on the internet— as well as information on their patients that could be used to identify them. There's no way that this could possibly go wrong!
Called the Life Defense Act, the bill would first require all doctors who perform an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital near their clinic. But the second part of the bill is where it gets scary and opposite-life-defendy.
Republican Rep. Matthew Hill, the crafter of HB 3808, claims that he only wants the people of Tennessee to have more information about the prevalence of abortion, but it's obvious that the real aim of his legislation is to intimidate doctors and women. Here's how: the Department of Health already gathers demographic information on doctors who perform abortions and women who terminate their pregnancies in the state. But the Life Defense Act, in the Act of Defending Life, would require the Department to publish the names of those doctors performing abortions as well as identifying information on the women receiving the procedures— number of previous children, race, age, education, and county. In rural Tennessee, this information could be used to identify patients.
While the law contains a provision that Hill says bars the Department of Health from releasing the names of women who had abortions, it makes no such effort to protect doctors, who are often the focus of threats, intimidation, and retaliatory violence from anti-abortion terrorists (see; Tiller, Dr. George). Their names would be published along with the identifying information of their female patients, and obstetricians who assisted with emergency procedures would also be subject to having their names published. This worries sane people like Democratic Representative Gary Odom of Nashville, who has called the legislation "dangerous."
The bill stops just short of requiring the Department to publish words that rhyme with the names of women having abortions ("Blephanie Blanderson of Blatanooga and her husband Blevin...") It also refrains from requiring publication of the doctor's home address, pictures of the doctor's children and grandchildren, times the doctor takes his or her dog on a walk, and times every day when no one is home at the doctor's house. But anything could happen in the fecund minds of Republican state lawmakers.
That this bill sucks is not up for debate — it sucks, and it's destined to be wildly unpopular and embarrassing to the state of Tennessee and to Rep. Hill. And if it follows the arc of other, similarly stupid proposed state legislature elsewhere, as more people hear about this fuckery, public outcry will increase in volume until the bill's fangs are removed — as in Virginia, with its "transvaginal if you want it" ultrasound legislation — or until the bill is tabled — as in Pennsylvania. And at the end of all of this, Tennessee will look bad, Rep. Hill will look bad, the state legislature will have wasted its time and the taxpayer's money, and women will be a little less trusting of the government. And for what? A seat of honor at the Tennessee Right To Life Annual Non-Vegetarian Awards Dinner for Representative Hill? Ten Heaven Points from The Big Man upstairs? An autographed Tim Tebow football?
The Life Defense Act, like other bills featuring anti-choice buzzwords, doesn't protect anyone's life at all; like so much overreaching anti-abortion legislation, it endangers lives of women and doctors. And so they continue on, sincerely oblivious to the irony of calling a movement that intimidates and kills doctors "pro-life."
TN bill mandates publication of abortion data [The Tennessean]