Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tennessee Representative Proposes Death Certificates for Abortion

Tennessee State Representative Stacey Campfield has proposed legislation that would require "A death certificate for each induced termination of pregnancy which occurs in this state shall be filed with the office of vital records within ten (10) days after the procedure by the person in charge of the institution in which the induced termination of pregnancy was performed."

In his blog post on the proposed legislation, Campfield states his purpose as "This bill will give information to the state that is not available now on how many abortions are given each year as well as information on race, age, weight. It will also give consistency to when and what is a life based on factors that are already used and consistent. When we make the definition of life a little more consistent we can begin to treat it with the respect it deserves and not base it on whims of fancy." In truth, information on how many abortions are performed is already required to be reported to the State. In an interview, the Rep said, "All these people who say they are pro-life — at least we would see how many lives are being ended out there by abortions." The bill also does nothing to define "what is a life," and does not require death certificates for all miscarriages - State law does issue some certificates for miscarriage, depending on weight/age (500 grams or 22 weeks), but not for all, and not in the first trimester, when most abortions occur (the CDC estimates that 1.4% of abortions occur after 21 weeks). So at the same stage we would be issuing death certificates for most abortions, the State would not issue one for a miscarriage, because it wasn't far enough along. How's that for clearing up "what is life?" Thus far, we have a bill that does nothing that the Rep says it would do.

The pressing question, as mentioned by several folks in the roundup below, is privacy, as the effect would be that the State would essentially be creating a set of records identifying women who had abortions. Vital Records are publically available documents, and death certificates include parental information. It is not currently clear whether and how the State would handle requests for this information, or whether HIPAA laws would apply. HIPAA does not usually cover death certificates, but providing the certificates with parental details in this case would essentially be providing a living woman's medical record/history details to the requestor (rather than cause of death for a deceased person). I'm concerned that, if made available, these records could be used to intimidate/harass/target women who have had abortions. If so, that could put women and entire families in jeopardy.

It's not entirely surprising that this bill would do nothing in terms of using the information to target preventive services, provide reproductive healthcare to vulnerable populations, or otherwise take actual measures to reduce abortion. What it would do is create a climate of fear and privacy invasion for women and an additional reporting burden for providers (who currently have to report on abortions, but in a confidential manner and not within 10 days - nobody really needs that information within 10 days.)

So, Campfield, are you simply misinformed about the existing data collection requirements, or is this really an attempt to make an end run around state laws/medical privacy?

See Update, 2/16/07

A Roundup of Tennessee Bloggers:
  • The Rep Himself - Is it a Life?
  • Tiny Cat Pants - Stacey Campfield Wants in Your Medical Records; I Appeal to You Anti-Abortion Folks; Stace, Shall I Send My Used Tampons to You or to the Medical Examiner?
  • Tennessee Guerilla Women - TN Lawmaker Wants State to Call a Fetus a Person
  • Thoughts of an Average Woman - Death Certificates for Fetuses Would Identify Women
  • No Silence Here - More GOP Big Government
  • Cup of Joe Powell - Campfield Targets Women?
  • Volunteer Voters - More Talk of Certificates for Clumpy - "This bill accomplishes only one goal: getting Stacey Campfield's name in the paper. That's all this does. Campfield, by introducing this bill has done nothing for the unborn or the cause of Life. He is an embarrassment and impediment to it." - AC, we finally agree on something!
  • Salem's Lots - Here’s one for all you folks who want to cut out waste in government - Interesting fiscal perspective from a Dept. of Health Employee

    In the News:
  • Knoxville News-Sentinel - Abortions: Lawmaker touts death certificates

    Blogger Angel H. said...

    How in the world can there be a death certificate if there was never a birth?

    The thing that worries me the most about this is that the information will be used against those women having the abortions.

    11:52 AM  

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