A disturbing trend in the Alabama legislature

April 10, 2015 chris
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  My wife Gwen is an incredible woman. I see it every day of my life. Not just in how hard she works or in the way she supports me, but in the most important job any of us could ever have: being a parent. Gwen always goes above and beyond for our family, as do many other mothers, wives and grandmothers for their families. I don’t know what I would do without her.

As we spent last weekend giving thanks to the Savior who sacrificed His life for us, I also couldn’t help but also think of Gwen and all the mothers out there who sacrifice for their families; mothers like Rose Church, who lost her life after giving birth to her daughter.

You may have recently heard about Rose’s Law, the law that protects a woman’s right to stay in the hospital for 48 hours after giving birth (96 hours if the birth was complicated). Rose’s Law also protects a woman’s right to know if her mammogram shows dense breast tissue, which can conceal or be an early sign of breast cancer.

Sen. Roger Bedford sponsored and passed Rose’s Law after her death. But this year, Rose’s own doctor, the man who was sued by Rose’s husband for malpractice and who is now serving his first term in the Alabama Senate, attempted to repeal Rose’s Law. That doctor and senator is Larry Stutts.

Stutts is not just a senator. Last year, he was named a “rising star” in the Alabama Republican Party. And the scary thing is seven other Republican senators (a third of all Republicans in the Alabama Senate) not only supported the bill but put their names on it and co-sponsored it. Together, those seven Republican senators represent nearly one million Alabamians, more than half of whom are women.

And while the other senators may not have known about Larry Stutts’ personal history and connection to Rose’s Law, they all knew what was in his bill. The revelation about Sen. Stutts simply took a terrible bill and made it a disgusting one. Even without Sen. Stutts’ personal connection to Rose’s Law, repealing it was a terrible and immoral idea.

Thankfully, last week Sen. Stutts pulled his bill. But not because it was wrong and not because, as a physician, he had a change of heart about making sure postpartum women and those at risk for cancer get the medical care they need. No, Sen. Stutts pulled his bill because he got caught.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time a Republican senator in the Alabama legislature has had to pull a bill that target’s women’s health. In 2012, another Republican senator introduced the transvaginal ultrasound bill, which would force women to undergo an invasive medical procedure against their will, and could potential cause severe health risks to both the mother and unborn child. That bill was also pulled, but only after the public outcry forced Republicans to withdraw it.

If just one of these bills had been introduced, it could be argued that it is just the opinion of one senator. But now we have this second bill. And this time, it was sponsored by a third of Republicans in the Senate! That is not an anomaly. That is a trend and a disturbing one.

It is also a pretty serious contradiction. These same politicians who love to talk about how the government needs to stay out of our healthcare decisions have now attempted to make healthcare decisions for millions of women across the state.

Government shouldn’t be deciding for women who just gave birth a mere 24 or 36 hours before that it’s time to leave the hospital and head home. And government has absolutely no right to prevent a woman from having information that she paid for and could save her life!

If I tried to pull this kind of stunt with my own wife right after she gave birth, I assure you that I would have been the one needing an extended hospital stay.

The good to come out of all this is that it shines a light on what these legislators really think. The tragedy is that these policies are not just the bad ideas of one or two legislators. They are a consistent trend with strong support within the Republican Supermajority.

Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.