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Canary in the Coal Mine: Women's Healthcare

Updated: Feb 16, 2019

On Friday morning, Senate Labor/Health took testimony on HB0103 Abortion - reporting requirements. Because the committee was pressed for time (they spent 90 minutes on the air ambulance bill), Chairman Scott asked if there was anyone who had come to make testimony on HB0103 who could not return next Wednesday. Two doctors said that they could not be present. Chairman Scott explained that, due to lack of time, they would hear that testimony, get an overview from the bill's sponsor, and work the bill next Wednesday.

Dr. Rene Hinkle, an OB/Gyn in Cheyenne, who also serves on the Board of Medicine, testified against the bill, stating that it is unnecessary because the reporting requirements already exist in statute. She - correctly - pointed out that passing this bill is really just intended to harass the existing providers. Dr. Hinkle went on to explain that some requirements in the bill are impossible, for example, determining the gestational age of a fetus prior to 10 weeks. She reminded the Committee that the Board of Medicine's role is not to play enforcer of state statute, as this bill would have them do.

Chairman Scott asked her, as a member of the Board of Medicine, if it is true that doctors are not reporting all that they should - in general. (He made clear he was speaking about all docs, not just abortion providers.) Dr. Hinkle said that there had been some issues that the Board was working on.

Dr. Taylor Haynes reiterated the misinformation that is being cited for this bill - namely, that only abortion providers are refusing to report - and testified that he believes that reporting is not happening so now they need "the stick."

Rep. Clem then provided an overview of the bill. He stated that "in no way is this about abortion or limiting the ability to get an abortion or a provider's ability to provide one." (This felt disingenuous at best.) He framed the bill as a way to collect better data in order to make better healthcare policy decisions and shared a document with committee members that describes the information that the CDC collects on communicable diseases. (He glossed over the fact - one that he was called out on directly when presenting on the floor of the House - that communicable diseases pose an immediate health threat to the general population and therefore should have specific reporting requirements.) He explained the challenge of designing the bill to balance the competing interests of collecting more data while providing more privacy to women and frames himself as a champion of that privacy.

Sen. Scott complimented Rep. Clem on this and indicated that he, himself, wanted to offer a standing committee amendment. He does not describe the amendment but noted that the committee members have copies in their boxes. He repeated his plan to will work the bill at Senate Labor/Health's final meeting on Wednesday. (Worth noting here: We're into another deadline period. Any bills that have not cleared committee in the second chamber by Wednesday, 2/20, are dead. And so forth.)

The Chairman also made a closing note about HB0140 Abortion - 48 hour waiting period: He said that they would not have time to hear the bill and informed the bill's sponsor that it would not be heard. He added, somewhat enigmatically, "There are so few abortions in the state, it would affect very few people, anyway."

With that, the Senate Labor/Health Committee adjourned until Wednesday.

That gives all of us time to reach out to the members of Senate Labor/Health. To remind them that reporting requirements already exist in statute. To remind them that women's healthcare does not require further barriers to access. To remind them that Wyoming already has a healthcare crisis and a shortage of medical professionals and this only serves to make hiring more complicated: What doc wants to come to a state with unnecessary and duplicative reporting requirements where the Legislature has made clear it finds you, and your ilk, untrustworthy?

Though the members of our Legislature don't seem to be making the connection that women's healthcare is the canary in the coal mine for all healthcare, in much the same way that women's economic security is the harbinger for broader economic development, we know that you make this connection. We know that this is your lived experience. It is our job to make our Legislators understand, too, and act accordingly.

And if they don't? Let's replace them.

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