Dear Senator Marrero,
I’m writing because I am gravely concerned about the implications of SB 1065 on the women of Tennessee and because I am confused and depressed to find that you are sponsoring it. You have always been such a strong advocate for women’s rights in this state and someone who understood the importance of keeping the State out of a woman’s medical decisions. This bill, though, is the exact opposite of that. It gives the State unprecedented abilities to intrude into the lives of women and to force conforming behavior that isn’t necessarily in a patient’s best interest.
I know that you are deeply concerned about the infant mortality rates in this state, especially in Memphis. I, too, am deeply concerned. The picture of the tiny coffins in the Commercial Appeal is heart wrenching. But this bill not only intrudes upon pregnant women in ways that basically give control of their bodies to the State for the length of their pregnancies, it places the blame squarely on mothers for tragedies that often have no cause. Women lose pregnancies all the time. It doesn’t mean they’re drug addicts or alcoholics. It just means they have bad luck.
And while, yes, any doctor will tell you that the best way to assure a successful pregnancy is to see your healthcare provider regularly, using the threat of drug testing women if they don’t can only backfire. Women who are on drugs will not go to the doctor if they know it means they’ll be drug tested. Any doctor will tell you that when a patient is unhealthy–and drug use makes one unhealthy–it is even more crucial for women to go to the doctor while they’re pregnant.
My concerns are that this bill gives the State the power to coerce me to seek medical care and to punish me (though conveniently not through legal mechanisms) if I don’t. I am also gravely concerned that this bill, if passed into law, will discourage women from seeking prenatal care.
But discussion of your bill has spread around the internet. I am the blogger at Tiny Cat Pants. I talked about it there yesterday.
I also posted it at Shakesville, a large feminist blog.
The health community is also now aware of it.
And I invite you to read the comments on those posts and to follow the links to other posts discussing this to see the problems women have with this bill.
In closing, I’d like to ask if you’ve met with Barbara Clinton, who runs the Center for Health Services at Vanderbilt, which oversees the Maternal Infant Health Outreach Worker (MIHOW) programs that operate throughout the South. The MIHOW program in Memphis has had dramatic success in lowering infant mortality rates among participants. And I am convinced that the successes they have can be replicated on a broader scale. If you’d like me to arrange a meeting, I’d be more than happy to.