Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CMA-backed bill prioritizes sexual risk-avoidance education

Randy Hultgren (R-IL 14th) has introduced the Abstinence Education Reallocation Act (H.R. 2874), which would restore funding for sexual risk avoidance education. The bill provides for grants on a competitive basis to public and private entities to provide qualified sexual risk avoidance education to youth and their parents. To qualify for funding, sexual risk avoidance education must be age appropriate, medically accurate, use an evidence-based approach, have as its sole purpose teaching of the skills and benefits of sexual abstinence as the optimal sexual health behavior for youth and include the following:
(A) The holistic health, economic, and societal benefits that can be gained by refraining from nonmarital sexual activity, through teaching practical skills that promote self-regulation, goal setting, and a focus on the future.

(B) The clear advantage of reserving human sexual activity for marriage, as a key contributing factor in the prevention of poverty and the preservation of physical and emotional health, based on social science research.

(C) The foundational components of a healthy relationship and related research regarding the individual, economic, and societal advantages of bearing children within the context of a committed marital relationship in order to form healthy marriages and safe and stable families.

(D) The skills needed to resist the negative influences of the pervasive sex-saturated culture that presents teenage sexual activity as an expected norm, with few risks or negative consequences.

(E) The understanding of how drugs, alcohol, and the irresponsible use of social media can negatively influence healthy sexual decision making and can contribute to aggressive sexual behavior.

(F) A focused priority on the superior health benefits of sexual abstinence, ensuring that any information provided on contraception does not exaggerate its effectiveness in preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies.
Valier Huber from NAEAValerie Huber, Executive Director, National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA): "This bill re-establishes a federal priority on sexual risk avoidance (SRA), an approach that offers the best sexual health outcomes for young people. While NAEA believes sex education should primarily be between parents and their children and then between physician and patient, we acknowledge that the federal government will continue to have a role in sex education in the schools and community.

"So long as that reality persists, it is vital that the focus be given to providing youth with the information and skills they need to make the healthiest choices. Currently, the federal sex education policy focuses on risk reduction, rather than risk avoidance, which means that teen sex is normalized and deemed 'safe' so long as they use a condom when they experiment sexually. We believe youth deserve better.

"Research confirms that the abstinence-centered risk avoidance message is effective. Twenty-two studies point to positive behavioral change from students who are part of a successful abstinent program. Abstinent teens are more likely to remain abstinent. When sexually experienced teens are part of an abstinence program, they have fewer partners, are no less likely to use a condom and are more likely to discontinue their sex activity.

"Over the last decade, condom usage among teens has increased, yet so has the infectivity rate of STDs among teens. Continuing to spend more money for contraceptive-centered sex education will not adequately address the problem because two of the most prevalent STDs (HSV and HPV) can be spread even with the use of a condom. Congress needs to hear from medical professionals who deeply care about the health futures of youth. Members of Congress should be encouraged to cosponsor H.R. 2874, which redirects existing funding to sexual risk avoidance education. We applaud Rep. Hultgren's leadership in introducing H.R. 2874. Changing sex education policy requires significant cosponsorship of this legislation."

Look for action item with this story. Use the pre-written note at the CMA Freedom2Care legislative action center to urge your Representative to cosponsor H.R. 2874 - Abstinence Education Reallocation Act of 2011.

CMA joins push to restore abstinence education funding
Coalition Letter Regarding Abstinence Education Hearing

Government health coverage mushrooms

Excerpted from "Census Numbers: The Trend Toward Government Coverage Continues," by Nina Owcharenko, (originally published in the Health Affairs Blog on September 14, 2011) --The percentage of Americans on government health programs continues to grow, while employer-based coverage continues to decline. According to the latest Census report, 31 percent of the population received coverage through the government in 2010 compared to 23 percent in 1987.

1 N. Munro, "The New Patent Puzzle," National Journal, March 2, 2002 pp. 628-9.
2 A. Pollack, "Debate on Human Cloning Turns to Patents," The New York Times, May 17, 2002, p. A12

In contrast, 64 percent of the population had private coverage in 2010, compared to 75.5 percent in 1987. Employer-based coverage declined from 62.1 percent in 1987 to 55.3 percent in 2010.

Most analysts, regardless of political views, generally agree that to make the system work better, there needs to be greater portability and continuity in health care coverage. This, however, is where the philosophical divide occurs. Those on the left generally see a larger role for government-based coverage, while those on the right see a greater role for individuals. One only needs to look at the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to see this take shape. The PPACA puts the trend toward government-based coverage on the fast track. The law will add an estimated 26 million people to Medicaid alone.

Even without PPACA, existing government-based coverage (Medicare and Medicaid) is fiscally unsustainable. Depending on assumptions of the Medicare Trustees or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Actuary, Medicare faces long-term unfunded liabilities between $24.6 trillion and $36.8 trillion.

Those on the right (including myself) who oppose the government-based model see an alternative path toward portability and continuity based on individual ownership and market-based competition. The Heritage Foundation’s Saving the American Dream plan empowers individuals and families to own and control their health insurance. It establishes individual tax relief for people to buy coverage in a marketplace where insurers and providers are accountable to meeting consumers’ needs of higher quality at lower costs. It also reforms Medicare and Medicaid, putting them on a sustainable path forward.
Recent estimates by the CMS actuaries project that by 2020, government will control 50 percent of all health care spending in the country. Americans should take note that the health care system is moving to the tipping point where it will be more government-run than private.

Dave Steven, MD, MA (Ethics)Dave Steven, MD, MA (Ethics): "While a majority of CMDA members oppose PPACA, it is wise to examine the opposing views, especially when those views come from Christian professional colleagues who may disagree with you.

"Those who support Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are largely involved in care for the poor, or are those who are very concerned about it. Many work in domestic mission outreaches in the inner city. They are troubled by the inequities of our present healthcare system and its neglect for the disenfranchised. Their concerns are real. I hear them from my children who live in inner city Memphis and work with Christ Community Health. They tell stories of patients being seen in the ER but not being able to get follow-up -- even simple things like a suture removal. They are troubled when specialists are unwilling to see Medicaid patients. People in this camp see the potential for broader government funding to solve the problems they deal with everyday, especially with the working uninsured. Their hearts are full of compassion. They have acted upon on their convictions by sacrificing for those that the Lord commanded us to care for. But at the same time, many with this view tend to ignore or discount the high cost that the new healthcare system will impose. They conclude that society needs to deal with the access problem first and cost concerns second. They may minimize the concern that raising the nation's annual healthcare bill (as predicted of PPACA) will make it harder to deal with costs when a day of financial reckoning inevitably arrives.

"In another camp are those who prioritize their concern over the perilous state of healthcare financing. They see it as unsustainable, or they oppose increased government intrusion. These physicians are more likely to be in private practice or employed by a healthcare business. Some have concluded that Medicaid and Medicare patients cost them more than they are reimbursed. Many refuse to accept patients in these categories, or they limit their numbers. They justify that decision with comments like, 'If the government programs put me out of business, I won't be able to help anyone.' They feel overburdened, doing more for less, struggling with mountains of paperwork and regulations. They favor non-government initiatives to solve the financial crisis in healthcare: tort reform, decreased bureaucracy, less regulation, competition, etc. Perhaps sometime forgotten by this group is that these proposals do not release them from God's command to take care of the poor. Nor will these proposals necessarily provide care for the poor, at least in the near term. And there is no assurance that these proposals will actually solve the problems in our current healthcare system.

"Debate is healthy -- if done in the right spirit. Whether you favor or oppose increasing government funding of healthcare depends on fundamental views about social order and your life experiences. Christians will disagree. While Christ gave us some moral imperatives (care for the poor), much of the healthcare debate is not about a moral issue. While we can and should fulfill our moral obligations no matter our various views, the healthcare debate is more a wisdom issue. And a first step as we seek wisdom is to start where Scripture tells us to begin in James 3:17, Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced.'"

If we start there, we will be closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ long before the debate is over!"

CMDA's Healthcare Reform Resource Page
Webcast: 7 Key Principles of Healthcare Reform

Christian ethic prevails in law banning human patents

Excerpted from "U.S. makes embryo patenting ban permanent," Baptist Press News. September 21, 2011--The United States now has a permanent ban on issuing patents on human embryos. President Obama signed the prohibition into law Sept. 16 as part of a patent reform measure titled the America Invents Act. The pro-life language in the bill restricts the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from issuing a patent on a "human organism."
The new law makes permanent a ban on embryo patenting that has been approved each year since 2004 as part of the annual spending bill for the Commerce, Justice and State departments. The original bill, sponsored by former Rep. Dave Weldon, R.-Fla., met strong opposition at the time from the biotechnology industry, which sought the ability to patent human beings created by cloning or other methods.
Pro-life advocates who had backed inclusion of the ban in the patent reform measure applauded the newly enacted prohibition.
Jonathan ImbodyJonathan Imbody, CMDA Vice President for Government Relations: "In God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis explained the battle over two distinct worldviews that often clash in our culture (and in Congress):
"[W]here the Materialist would simply ask about a proposed action, 'Will it increase the happiness of the majority?', the Christian might have to say, 'Even if it does increase the happiness of the majority, we can’t do it. It is unjust.'
"The Christian and the Materialist hold different beliefs about the universe. They can’t both be right. The one who is wrong will act in a way which simply doesn’t fit the real universe. Consequently, with the best will in the world, he will be helping his fellow creatures to their destruction."
"The new patent reform law nails down an important ethical principle consistent with the Christian worldview--that human beings at any stage of development are not patentable subject matter.
"Since 1987, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) maintained an internal policy consistent with this stance, but some researchers less concerned about the ethics of experimenting with human organisms wanted to get around that policy.
"Some researchers, for example, aimed at patenting and marketing human embryos with certain genetic profiles as 'models' for studying inheritable diseases. In 2001, the University of Missouri at Columbia requested and actually received a patent on a method for producing cloned mammals--a patented method that failed to exclude humans.
"An amendment offered in Congress in 2004 by Florida pro-life physician Rep. Dave Weldon temporarily protected the USPTO policy but required approval by Congress each year, as an appropriations bill rider. Making the Weldon amendment permanent law now legally bans the exploitation of human beings at any stage of development for patent licensing and financial gain.
"In this provision of the new patent law, the Christian ethic prevails over the utilitarian, materialist ethic--a battle which Lewis explains thus:
"To the Materialist things like nations, classes, civilizations must be more important than individuals, because the individuals live only seventy odd years each and the group may last for centuries. But to the Christian, individuals are more important, for they live eternally; and races, civilizations and the like, are in comparison the creatures of a day."
CMDA Letter to Congress
Stem Cell Research Lacks Basic Ethics

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Money to Planned Parenthood?

Excerpt from Obama Administration Circumvents N.H. Executive Council from the National Review. September 14, 2011--In response to the New Hampshire Executive Council’s decision to cut of taxpayer funds for Planned Parenthood, the Obama administration announced last week  that they would oversee the awarding off family planning contracts in New Hampshire. This means that that there is a good chance that New Hampshire Planned Parenthood affiliates will recover the $1.8 million in taxpayer funds that they previously lost.

Here is some background. This summer, the New Hampshire state legislature approved $1.8 million in state funds for Planned Parenthood. However, New Hampshire, unlike many other states, has an Executive Council which oversees state contracting. The Executive Council usually stays out of controversial issues. But this summer, the Executive Council overturned the decision of the state legislature and blocked state funding for Planned Parenthood. Three of the five members of the Executive Council thought it was inappropriate for the state to be subsidizing an organization that performs abortions.

However, the heavy handed response of the Obama administration — effectively nullifying New Hampshire decision —  should come as no surprise. This summer, Indiana decided to cut off Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood, reducing taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood anywhere from $2 to $3 million. The Obama administration responded by telling the state it could not implement the new law. Specifically, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Donald Berwick stated that “Medicaid programs may not exclude qualified health care providers from providing services that are funded under the program because of a provider’s scope of practice.” The Obama administration filed a lawsuit and a judge issued a preliminary injunction requiring Indiana to continue Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood.

So far this year, six other states including Kansas, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin have cut funding to Planned Parenthood, saving taxpayers over $60 million. These states should be applauded. But overall, the Obama administration’s actions show that pro-lifers would do well to renew their push to defund Planned Parenthood at the federal level.

Jonathan Imbody, CMA Vice President for Government Relations: "Most lawmakers and taxpayers are hardly in a mood to spend more--especially on grants to scandalized abortion businesses posing as nonprofits.

"New Hampshire followed the lead of the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240-185 to cut off federal subsidies to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is a billion-dollar 'nonprofit' enterprise that in one year alone performed 332,278 abortions and received $363.2 million in taxpayer funding, according to its 2009 annual report.

"An in-depth scan of this behemoth abortion business reveals a conglomerate more fit for federal investigation than federal subsidy. Every week or so it seems that a new scandal documented with statistical and videotaped evidence exposes Planned Parenthood as corrupt.

"As Ohio Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt notes, 'For the sake of abortion, Planned Parenthood holds itself above the law, ignoring mandatory reporting requirements, skirting parental consent, and aiding and abetting child sex trafficking.'

"I meet on a monthly basis with New Hampshire's pro-life senator, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who as the state's Attorney General argued a case before the Supreme Court against Planned Parenthood regarding parental notification on abortion. (Click here to watch a YouTube video of Sen. Ayotte discussing that case and other Planned Parenthood issues with my friend Marjorie Dannenfelser.) Of the current federal intrusion into New Hampshire's decision to defund Planned Parenthood, Sen. Ayotte rightly notes that 'the administration should respect the state's right to make this decision.'

"Unfortunately, the reach of the federal bureaucracy into medicine has mushroomed to the point where states are losing their historical and Constitutional ability to guide the health care of their own citizens. Battles over states de-funding Planned Parenthood … states opposing the individual insurance mandate in 'Obamacare' … and faith-based organizations fighting the conscience-nullifying HHS mandate to fund potentially abortifacient contraceptives--are also in a sense battles for your own freedoms as a healthcare professional. Turning back the overreach of the federal government into medicine will ultimately help restore more control to healthcare professionals to follow their own conscientiously held standards and professional judgment. "

New policy disregards cost, conscience
Two views on contraceptive mandate

  1. To urge the administration to rescind its recent mandate to fund potentially abortifacient contraceptives, submit your comment before the September 30 deadline to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.
  2. Urge your U.S. Representative to co-sponsor the (click here:) Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.
  3. Urge your U.S. Senators to co-sponsor the (click here:) Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.

Targeting Women

Excerpt from Targeting Woman from the New York Times, September 8, 2011-- A lawsuit filed in Kansas this month has opened a new front in the legal war over women’s reproductive rights. Since last year, 13 states, including Kansas, have enacted laws banning insurance coverage of abortion in the health insurance exchanges created by the federal healthcare reform law. Some states have gone even further, aggressively restricting abortion coverage even in private insurance plans sold outside the exchanges.

The Kansas statute forbids abortion coverage (except to save a woman’s life) in comprehensive insurance plans sold in the state, but permits companies to sell a separate rider covering abortion care for an additional cost. It also bars abortion services in policies sold after 2014 in the new exchanges. That part of the law, which also contains only a single exception limited to life endangerment, does not allow for a separate rider for broader abortion coverage.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in Federal District Court in Kansas, argues persuasively that the law is unconstitutional because it essentially levies a tax on a constitutionally protected procedure. It also charges that the ban on abortion coverage amounts to sex discrimination because it prevents women from buying plans covering all of their health care needs while imposing no limitations on men’s medical needs.

The suit comes amid a flurry of court decisions on other abortion-related restrictions. In recent weeks, federal judges in Indiana, Kansas and North Carolina have granted preliminary injunctions against state measures barring the use of Medicaid and federal family-planning money at Planned Parenthood clinics serving low-income women. In late June, a federal district judge in South Dakota blocked as unconstitutional a state law imposing a 72-hour waiting period for abortion services, the longest in the country. The same law also subjects women seeking abortions to counseling at so-called pregnancy help centers run by antiabortion activists.

In July, a federal judge in Kansas preliminarily enjoined a new licensing law that imposes onerous and medically unnecessary requirements on the state’s three remaining abortion providers. Unfortunately, an Arizona state court refused this month to block several bad provisions enacted in 2009, including one limiting the work of nurse practitioners, which has caused Planned Parenthood to scale back its services. These cases, some of which are being appealed, are testing whether the antiabortion movement will get its way. It shouldn’t. Click here for full story from The New York Times.

Mailee R. Smith Staff Counsel, Americans United for Life (AUL): "When pro-life candidates won landslide victories in the 2010 election cycle, we knew that the 2011 state legislative sessions would be successful and exciting. Indeed, more than 70 life-affirming, abortion-related measures were enacted in 2011. And with those successes, we expected the typical knee-jerk reaction from abortion advocates: litigation.

"While the litigation front has been fairly quiet over the last few years, the legislative successes of 2011 dealt a significant financial blow to the abortion industry. Recent lawsuits filed by abortion advocates demonstrate what really motivates their agenda: money. At the prospect of losing millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates are fighting back. Of the dozen cases filed in the last several months, half of them involve funding, including state laws 'de-funding' abortion providers.

"Abortion advocates are also targeting 'informed consent' laws—those laws directing abortion providers to give women information about risks and alternatives. A recent study by Priscilla K. Coleman and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that women with a history of abortion had an 81 percent higher risk of subsequent mental health problems. Yet abortion advocates continue to hide this information from women and insist that taxpayer funding is necessary because abortion is critical part of women’s 'health care.'

"What women really need is informed, compassionate care that allows them to walk away from abortion. But the abortion industry wants to protect its bottom-line—at the expense of women’s health and lives."

CMDA Ethics Statement: Abortion