Yesterday, Dr. Pippa Abston was a Huntsville pediatrician and a sometime blogger. But, as of today, she could be the author of a piece of legislation in the Alabama Senate.
On Wednesday, Abston wrote a post over at the left-leaning political blog Left in Alabama about SB12, a controversial abortion bill under consideration by the Alabama Senate that initially required women seeking an abortion to undergo an invasive vaginal ultrasound in some circumstances and an abdominal ultrasound in other circumstances. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Arab), has since said he plans to amend his bill to allow women to choose which government-mandated ultrasound they’d like to be forced to undergo and clarify language relating to miscarriages, but Dr. Abston still had many concerns with the bill’s effects on women.
“So far, the bill appears to still contain a specific requirement to do the narrated ultrasounds even if the doctor determines that the woman might kill or maim herself afterwards, or if she has a ‘psychological’ diagnosis,” Abston wrote in a blog post. “This leaves the physician to make a Hobson’s Choice between risking a patient’s death by suicide or death by coat-hanger.”
Abston also worried that the bill “still contains the encouragement for the father or grandparents to sue the woman if she doesn’t have the ultrasound.”
“It is inappropriate to use threats of physician imprisonment to push a political agenda having nothing to do with medical decision-making,” Abston told Weld in an e-mail. “If we don’t do something about this whole business, it will get worse.”
Dr. Abston said even a “good” bill, like one requiring a certain strep test, could be harmful. “What if a newer and better test came out and the old one wasn’t needed anymore?” Abston said. “It is not safe to tie our hands this way.”
Abston’s concerns led to her to craft a piece of proposed legislation to protect patients and doctors from medical procedures not in the best interest of the patient:
“No physician or healthcare provider licensed to practice in the State of Alabama shall be forced to perform any medical service or component of medical service by state or local regulatory authority, if the service or component of service is not medically necessary or would be harmful to the patient, and the patient does not desire it. This right to practice within the scope of a medical license supersedes any existing or future legislative act.”
She submitted her proposed bill, which she calls “The Right to Professional Medical Practice Act,” to several legislators, and one, Sen. Linda Coleman (D-Birmingham), bit:
“Just a quick post to let you know that I got a call just now from Senator Linda Coleman,” Abston posted at Left in Alabama Thursday. “She is really excited about the idea for a bill I sent her, and she says she will draft it TODAY!”
“I think she is going to use the title and wording as is,” Abston told Weld. “I’ve never written a proposed bill before and didn’t know exactly how to go about finding a sponsor, but Senator Coleman stepped up to the plate when I emailed her.”
According to Abston, the bill could be introduced as early as next week.
“This bill would remove a big chunk of the attack on women’s reproductive rights, and it would also protect patients and physicians from all sorts of similar interference with good practice,” Abston said. “I hope we can get it passed and that other states will take notice and do the same!”
Weld has requested confirmation and comment from Sen. Coleman, but she not yet responded to our request.
UPDATE Monday, March 5, 2012: An employee in Sen. Coleman’s state house office confirmed that the bill is being drafted and Sen. Coleman expects the bill to be introduced Tuesday.