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(First appeared in The Tulsa Voice)

Vagina dialogues
Lawmakers pursue new angle on Oklahoma’s ongoing obsession
By Barry Friedman

Republicans don’t have a war on women ...” — Governor Mike Huckabee
    Of course you don’t.
    Last month, two bills – one authored by Rep. Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow) – each overwhelmingly passed by the Oklahoma House and Senate, would reduce access to abortion services. According to Ritze in his March 16 op-ed in Tulsa World, “Don't we have a moral responsibility to try and ensure the safety of women who choose to or, as often happens, are coerced into having an abortion?”
    To the first part: Yeah.
    To the second: What planet are you on?
    Wading waist-deep in the shallow and mendacious end of the pool, Ritze offers no evidence that women are being coerced into having abortions or dealing with unsafe Oklahoma facilities – so, apparently, we’re just supposed to assume that eco-friendly, pro-choice infidels are forcing gullible women into waiting Prii and whisking them off to dilapidated abortion clinics.
    And, like Mighty Mouse, Ritze has come to save the day.
    “Legislation like mine is simply aimed at trying to make an inherently unsafe procedure as safe as possible for the women who choose that option,” he wrote in his Tulsa World editorial.
    For the love of Dr. McDreamy.
    Ritze cares as much about the women who choose this option as I care about the start of duck season. Specifically, he is promoting the major component of his bill, HB 2418, which requires physicians performing abortions to have clinical privileges at hospitals within thirty miles of the abortion site.
    (The other bill, passed by the Senate, SB 1848, puts a new set of requirements on the facilities themselves that are so absurd and expensive – like specifying the size of procedure rooms and corridors – that would force many of them to close, which, obviously, is the goal.)  
    That state legislators, generally, and Ritze, specifically, are hiding behind women’s hospital gowns is despicable, but not surprising. These are the same representatives who, in recent years, have supported requiring doctors to perform an ultrasound and to verbally describe the condition of the fetus to the patient an hour before performing any abortion; the harvesting of personal information from any woman considering an abortion; forcing women to undergo a sonogram, and, depending on the state of pregnancy, a transvaginal one, which involves insertion of a wand into the vagina to determine the viability of the fetus; banning medical abortions and the non-surgical treatment of women with ectopic pregnancies; and allowing employers the right to deny insurance for birth control or emergency contraception.
    Most of these bills were ruled unconstitutional because, well, they were batshit insane, but the point is: the members of which party are fueling this debate?
    “The GOP has a war for women,” said Governor Mike Huckabee.
    Of course you do.
    “If the federal law is going to allow abortions, the state has a responsibility to our citizens to ensure those procedures are done as safely as possible,” Ritze wrote.
    Yeah, you’re a prince, except:
    1) Admitting privileges will do nothing to increase safety because emergencies are handled – how’s this for a concept? – in a hospital emergency room, which is required to admit and treat patients without first checking to see if their doctor is on the guest list, and;  
    2) Many hospitals will shy away from granting these privileges due to their institutional (read: religious) position on abortion.
    And then there’s, you know, science.
    This from the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “There is no medical basis to require abortion providers to have local hospital admitting privileges. Emergency room physicians, hospital-based physicians, and on-call specialists already provide prompt and effective treatment to all patients with urgent medical needs, including women with abortion-related complications … Unless there is a substantial public health justification, legislators should not interfere with patient care, medical decisions, and the patient-physician relationship.”
    How can Ritze not know this ­– him being, you know, a doctor and all – unless he’s being disingenuous?
    Let’s go with what what’s behind door number two.
    At present, there are – count ‘em – three clinics in Oklahoma (in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Norman) where abortions are performed and, for Ritze, that is three too many for the state’s approximate 750,000 women of child-bearing age.
    And one representative, not from one any of those places, has about had it. After the vote, according to Reuters, Jerry McPeak (D-Muskogee), who voted against the House bill, said,  "Women in my district have the same right as everyone else to health care options. This bill wasn't about abortion. It's purely politics.”
    You’re not alone, sir.
    Kate Neary-Pounds, Regional Development Director at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, needed a few days to calm down before she was able to write me back: “The absurd thing about these bills, other than that they assert to ‘protect women's health,’ is that the authors of the bills understand nothing of the complicated issues around reproductive health and abortion care. Also interesting, and even more maddening, is that the very politicians who continue to put forward this legislation also campaign on the platform of individual liberties and limited government – except when it comes to regulating women's private medical decisions.”
    That’s crazy talk, Kate, and Rep. Ritze is surely hurt by it, shocked that you would question his motives.
    From Ritze’s I-legislate-for-your-sins editorial: “It seems to be the height of hypocrisy for the pro-abortion side to claim that abortion must be legal in order to protect the health of women, and then oppose regulations designed to protect those women.”
    Actually, sir, it’s the height of hypocrisy for the anti-abortion side to pretend it cares about safe abortions when it really wants to send the doctors who perform them to the hoosegow and cloak the women who get them in brown hooded tunics and scarlet letters.
    Ritze continued: “In the United States, regulations on abortionists have made the procedure much safer than in developing countries, though there is much anecdotal evidence – such as Kermit Gosnell and Planned Parenthood of Delaware – that abortion clinics here fall far short of accepted safety and cleanliness standards for medical clinics.”
    Come, Rep. Ritze, you’re not really going to take credit for America’s abortion protocol, are you? As for Gosnell, an abortion doctor in Philadelphia sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a baby born alive in a botched procedure, is no more representative of Planned Parenthood than Adam Lanza is of Oklahoma hunters who don orange vests
and do care about the start of duck season.
    And then there’s this: In an American Journal of Public Health study, published in 2013, on the safety of abortions when performed by nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants, it indicated that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, with a complication rate of less than 0.05 percent.
    But, again, you’re a doctor, you know that.
    If you want to get pissy (and I do), there’s this: In a study published in a 2012 edition of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers found that women are about 14 times more likely to die during or after giving birth to a live baby than to die from complications of an abortion. Why doesn’t Ritze caution women about the dangers of childbirth? Why doesn’t he champion the cause of pre-natal care and universal OB/GYN access for the state’s expectant mothers?
    We interrupt this program to remind you of something Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank once said: “For Republicans, life begins at conception and ends at birth.”
    Nothing Rep. Ritze has proposed will ever affect Rep. Ritze. No doctor will ever ask him to slide down, put his feet in stirrups, show him pictures of aborted fetuses, and then hand him a pamphlet describing the joys of adoption. His body won’t become a wholly owned subsidiary of the state after twenty weeks. He will never be sitting at home, isolated and recovering (at best) after being raped, and have to listen to a GOP legislator like Missouri GOP senatorial candidate, Todd Aiken, on television mitigating the experience.

Originally posted to News From The Plains. All This Red Can Make You Blue on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 04:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by This Week in the War on Women.

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