By Amanda Peterson Beadle on Feb 28, 2012 at 5:20 pm
In November of 2010, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) joined the public outcry against the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) security precautions in airports by describing body scans and mandatory pat downs as crossing “the line” in regard “to people’s concerns about privacy” and “beneath the dignity” of air travelers. But just two months later, the anti-abortion McDonnell had no problem violating women’s privacy and freedom to make medical decisions by throwing his support behind a measure that originally required women seeking abortions to undergo ultrasounds in which a wand is inserted into the vagina.
Following a public outcry, McDonnell revised the measure to exempt women from the more invasive procedure, but not before encountering the wit of comedian Jon Stewart, who characterized the bill as “a TSA pat-down inside their vagina.” McDonnell addressed the contradiction between supporting mandatory ultrasounds for women and opposing “invasive” TSA pat downs during a radio interview this morning on WTOP and claimed that there is no comparison between the legislation and the enhanced security procedures:
MCDONNELL: There are things that are required in the interest of public safety, like TSA procedures. There are ways to accomplish the same result without an invasive patdown. [...]
I believe this is something that respects the dignity of women by making sure they have necessary information.
And while McDonnell has regularly attacked President Obama’s health care reform plan as an unfunded mandate, he brushed off concerns that the ultrasound bill would create an unfunded mandate for women. He described the ultrasound as a necessary mandate that provides women with more information before having an abortion. “If there are legitimate mandates for health and safety, obviously I’m for those,” he explained.
The ultrasound bill passed the Senate earlier this afternoon and now heads to McDonnell for his signature.
The Blunt amendment will come to a vote in the Senate on Thursday.
Virginia State Senate Passes Revised Ultrasound Bill |
The Republican-controlled Virginia state Senate has voted 21-19 to pass a slightly amended version of House Bill 462, which requires pregnant women who are considering abortion to undergo ultrasound imaging and be given the opportunity to view the ultrasound image. The bill, which initially mandated the use of a transvaginal ultrasound, was modified at the behest of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) after the original and more invasive version proved too controversial. The bill will head back to the Republican-led House of Delegates, where it is expected to pass, and then to the governor’s desk. –Fatima Najiy
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) launched a pre-emptive strike against the GOP’s forthcoming budget during a committee hearing Tuesday morning, arguing that the Republicans’ plan to transform Medicare through “premium support” would increase costs for seniors. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is expected to release the party’s budget sometime next month, which will call for lowering federal health spending by providing seniors with a “premium support” voucher to purchase insurance from an exchange of private health care plans.
During a question and answer session before the house committee, Rick Foster, the program’s chief actuary, confirmed that traditional Medicare is more efficient than private insurers and went on to say that shifting beneficiaries from fee-for-service Medicare into private plans does not lower overall health care costs. “If you’re simply transferring the Medicare beneficiary from the Medicare system into the private health market and the growth in cost in the private health care market is the same or higher than Medicare, they’re not going to contain any less, are they?” Van Hollen asked. “Other things being equal that’s correct,” Foster responded.
Foster also agreed that the GOP’s “premium support” plans are different than the health care policies members of Congress enjoy through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP), where each member’s “premium support credit” keeps up with actual health care costs:
VAN HOLLEN: The Federal Employee Health Benefits System (FEHBP) — which every member of Congress is on — is targeted to the market price. But members of Congress are guaranteed a certain share of their premiums will be paid by the federal government, I think that’s right.
FOSTER: That’s correct.
VAN HOLLEN: Ok, and there is a big difference between that — in terms of economic security — between that and a system where the amount of the voucher or premium support (whatever you want to call it) is not linked to the market price, but could be linked to an indicee that does not rise as the same rate cost-wise as the market. Right?
FOSTER: Yes. [...]
VAN HOLLEN: In your testimony, you point out that in those cases where your support — the amount of your voucher doesn’t keep pace with the market cost of health care, you may have to choose to either pay a lot more out-of-pocket or not get a health care plan that covers all your needs. Is that correct?
FOSTER: That’s certainly a risk and it’s a pretty important risk.
Watch a compilation of the exchange:
This year’s House budget will likely be similar to Ryan’s proposal from last year, which passed in a vote of 235-193 with no Democrats in support, but may include some changes to the Medicare provisions, akin to the plan Ryan unveiled with Senate Democrat Ron Wyden (D-OR). The proposal may maintain traditional Medicare as an option and grow the premium support credit with the actual cost of the policies. Ryan’s 2011 budget grew the premium support substantially slower than actual health care costs, shifting health care costs to beneficiaries.
Two-Thirds Of Illinois Voters Oppose Proposed Ultrasound Bill |
Lawmakers in Illinois are considering a bill similar to one in Virginia that would require women to undergo an invasive ultrasound before receiving an abortion, but a new poll shows that two-thirds of the state’s voters disagree with this legislation. According to the ACLU’s poll, only 33 percent of voters support the bill, which would require women to either view an ultrasound or decline to do so in writing. A majority of both men (57 percent) and women (53 percent) oppose the proposal. An Illinois House committee passed the bill last week.
In a Virginia-like turn around, the sponsor of a bill in the Alabama legislature mandating a physician “to perform an ultrasound, provide verbal explanation of the ultrasound, and display the images to the pregnant woman before performing an abortion” says he will water down his measure to give women more say over the procedure. SB12 will no longer require “a woman seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound in which a doctor or technician inserted an ultrasound transducer, or wand, inside her,” State Sen. Clay Scofield (R) explained in a statement Monday, allowing the woman to determine which “method of ultrasound that she would be more comfortable with.”
Under the measure, physicians and technicians who failed to administer the ultrasound prior to an abortion could still face up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The bill does not provide exceptions for rape an incest and would allow “the woman, the father of the fetus or the grandparents to sue the physician for “actual and punitive damages.” Critics also charge that the provision would permit “a rapist to sue a doctor who aborted his victim’s baby.”
Last week, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) backed away from supporting the same measure after almost 1,000 women protested the measure and national media mocked the extreme bill. He explained that he backtracked after the state’s attorney general told him that “these kinds of mandatory invasive requirements might run afoul of Fourth Amendment law.”
Insurers open stores to peddle health plans: “Health insurers increasingly want to make shopping for a new health plan as easy and convenient as dropping into a local retailer to buy a TV. In recent years, a number of them have opened stores where consumers can stop by to talk with a customer service representative about buying a plan or resolve questions about their current coverage.” [Kaiser Health News]
Georgia advances abortion ban: “A measure that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the scientific evidence showing unborn children feel pain passed out of committee and moves to the floor of the Georgia state House.” [LifeNews]
Conservatives seek to reframe contraception debate: “Conservatives — including conservative women — are pushing back hard against charges that opposition to the White House’s contraception mandate is an attack on women.” [The Hill]
Women’s Strike Force PAC: “In response to the wave of Virginia legislation that was seen by many as an attack on women’s rights, a group of women founded Women’s Strike Force—a political action committee that will recruit and support candidates to defeat politicians who back the ultrasound abortion and personhood bills. A number of former elected officials are founding members of the group.” [NBC Washington]
Oklahoma exchange proposal passes test vote: “A proposal to establish a state health-care exchange while deliberately not complying with the federal Affordable Care Act passed a test vote Monday, but only with the tepid support of three lawmakers.” [Tulsa World]
HPV vaccine for boys: “The leading group of U.S. pediatricians says it’s now time for boys, as well as girls, to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus. The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidance to parents and doctors in favor of routine immunization for boys against the virus.” [NPR]