Top Medical Association Doctors Oppose Sonogram Law, Cuts to Family Planning

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The Texas Tribune ran an interesting interview with the doctors who head the American Medical Association and Texas Medical Association today. Topics included Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates, the American Care Act and its individual mandate, and the general politicization of healthcare.

The doctors interviewed were American Medical Association President Peter Carmel, a New Jersey-based pediatric neurosurgeon, and Texas Medical Association President Bruce Malone, an Austin orthopedic surgeon. There was an interesting — and very insightful nugget in there about the Republican Party's war on women's health. Carmel directly called out the sonogram law as a “needless, dangerous interference” in medicine, and both decried cuts to family planning and attacks on Planned Parenthood. Malone went so far as to call it “stupid.”

Read for yourself, formatting/emphasis mine:

TT: Where do you come down on Texas' abortion sonogram law, which requires a sonogram at least 24 hours ahead of an abortion and mandates that a doctor play the fetal heartbeat aloud and show the woman the image of the fetus?

Carmel: It is a needless, dangerous interference with the practice of medicine by politicians. And as physicians, we have to oppose all interference that we possibly can by politicians in the practice of medicine. There are all sorts of rules all over the country, with state legislatures trying to dictate what doctors do. In the state of Florida, it is illegal for a doctor to ask the family of a child whether there are guns in the home. You can ask about storage of chemicals, about fire alarms, fire escapes, open windows, how the windows are sealed. You're allowed to ask all those questions, but you cannot ask whether there are firearms in the home. Firearms are a major cause of childhood mortality and injury. It's so extreme as to be ludicrous. The important principle is, the government shouldn't interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. The government shouldn't practice medicine.

TT: And what about Texas lawmakers' efforts to slash spending on family planning? Now they're threatening not to participate in the Medicaid Women's Health Program if they can't exclude Planned Parenthood.

Malone: That would be a really stupid thing to do. Planned Parenthood does not do abortions in the state of Texas with state funds. So this is a very stupid political thing. It's not like the state of Texas has another safety net for these women for medical care. The Texas Medical Association doesn't want to get into the issue of whether a patient wants an elective abortion. That's not what we're dealing with. We're talking about well woman services, pap smears and breast exams, things that make public health sense. And we don't want to see those women who are vulnerable denied essential medical services because someone wants to debate an ethics issue. That's their right to debate that. That's fine, but these are essential medical services.

Carmel: What it sets up is two classes of patients. If you've got rocks, you've got the ability, you've got access to contraception, to women's health, to all of these things. If you're poor, we're going to deny you access to that kind of health. That's first of all not tolerable for medicine, and it can't be tolerable for Americans. No American would say, “Yes, the poor should get inferior treatment.”

Aww, Dr. Carmel's clearly spent too long in a Blue State. Actually, down here the Republicans do want to deny poor people treatment. We've seen it session after session after session.

It's important to note that these leaders in the field of medicine disagree with what the Republican legislature is doing — making women's health an ideological issue, rather than a medical one. Slashing funds to women's health and family planning services hurts all of us.

I'm glad that these distinguished doctors realize this. It's too bad our Republican legislators don't.  

About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She has previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Austin. In addition to serving as the president of Austin Young Democrats, she is also UCONN's #1 fan in Texas.

1 Comment

  1. TMA PAC and political activities
    Wouldn't it be nice if TMA put their money where there mouth was and did not continue to support candidates who are in favor of such an interference in the Doctor patient relationship and in favor of cutting things “that make public health sense”

    It would be nice of them to use their voice for good public health polices for all Texans, and not just to suck up to the establishment and be a cover for insurance company profiteering.  

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