Weekly Pulse: Single-Payer Bills Pass Vermont Senate, House

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

The Vermont state Senate passed legislation to create a single-payer health insurance system, Paul Waldman reports for TAPPED. Since the state House has already passed a similar bill, all that’s left to do is reconcile the two pieces of legislation before the governor signs it into law.

Waldman stresses that there are still many details to work out, including how the system will be funded. Vermont might end up with a system like France’s where everyone has basic public insurance, which most people supplement with additional private coverage. The most important thing, Waldman argues, is that Vermont is moving to sever the link between employment and health insurance.

Roe showdown

Anti-choicers are gunning for a Roe v. Wade showdown in the Supreme Court before Obama can appoint any more justices. At the behest of an unnamed conservative group, Republican state Rep. John LaBruzzo of Louisiana has introduced a bill that would ban all abortions, even to save the woman’s life. The original bill upped the anti-choice ante by criminalizing not only doctors who perform abortions, but also women who procure them. LaBruzzo has since promised to scale the bill back to just criminalizing doctors. This is all blatantly unconstitutional, of course,. but as Kate Sheppard explains in Mother Jones, that’s precisely the point:

The Constitution, of course, is exactly what LaBruzzo is targeting. He admits his proposal is intended as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional right to privacy included the right to abortions in some circumstances. LaBruzzo says he’d like his bill to become law and “immediately go to court,” and he told a local paper that an unnamed conservative religious group asked him to propose the law for exactly that purpose.

Drug pushers in your living room

Martha Rosenberg poses a provocative question at AlterNet: Does anyone remember a time before “Ask Your Doctor” ads overran the airwaves, Internet, buses, billboards, and seemingly every other medium? Direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug advertising has become so ubiquitous that it’s easy to forget that it was illegal until the late ’90s. In the days before DTC, drug advertising was limited to medical journals, prescription pads, golf towels, and pill-shaped stress balls distributed in doctors’ offices–which makes sense. The whole point of making a drug prescription-only is to put the decision-making power in the hands of doctors. Now, drug companies advertise to consumers for the same reason that food companies advertise to children. It’s called “pester power.”

DTC drug ads encourage consumers to self-diagnose based on vague and sometimes nearly universal symptoms like poor sleep, daytime drowsiness, anxiety, and depression. Once consumers are convinced they’re suffering from industry-hyped constructs like “erectile dysfunction” and “premenstrual dysphoric disorder,” they’re going to badger their doctors for prescriptions.

That’s not to say that these terms don’t encompass legitimate health problems, but rather that DTC markets products in such vague terms that a lot of healthy people are sure to be clamoring for drugs they don’t need. Typically, neither the patient nor the doctor is paying the full cost of the drug, so patients are more likely to ask and doctors have little incentive to say no.

Greenwashing air fresheners

A reader seeks the counsel of Grist’s earthy advice columnist Umbra on the issue of air fresheners. Some of these odor-concealing aerosols are touting themselves as green for adopting all-natural propellants. Does that make them healthier, or greener? Only marginally, says Umbra. Air fresheners still contain formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, and other questionable chemicals.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.



Don't sidestep the Abortion issue.

The abortion issue was used successfully against Kerry, with lethal consequences. Obama's campaign needs to tackle this charge head-on, instead of playing defense. He certainly isn't on the losing side of this debate, not by a long shot - and especially not in the Christian context.

Given that abortions have been occurring since the beginning of time, and given the tunnel vision and hysterical tones adopted by many conservative Christians on this subject, it's interesting that the number of times the word "abortion" appears in the Bible is: exactly ZERO. Jesus' mission on earth was to effect a change of heart and soul - to almost the exclusion of affairs of the world. He showed little desire to change the political or social landscape, and seemed averse to dismantling laws of the time - hence "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, give to God what is God's".

The New Testament also emphasizes the importance of motivations of the heart over the deed. For example, the exhortation in Matthew 5:27-28: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (NIV). Passing laws against abortion would have little impact on one's desire to have one. Overturning Roe v. Wade would do little to effect a change of heart.

Many in the pro-life movement bring up the numbers of abortions since the beginning of time, to draw comparisons to the holocaust - and to juxtapose these against the numbers of war casualties. The key deception here is that the hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq resulted from the decision of one man, or one cabal of men; one key decision that robbed so many of their lives. In contrast, the millions of abortions are a result of millions of personal decisions and desires - desires that that (as explained above) won't change by outlawing abortion.

My personal position on this issue is nuanced - I do believe that life begins at conception. The point to be emphasized, however, is that the legality of abortions should never have been a rallying cry for Christians, who would do better to instead address the root causes of poverty and other social ailments behind such a decision.

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The Most Radioactive of Topics - Abortion

Good afternoon, everyone.

There are few topics more radioactive than abortion.  There are folks on either extreme that simply can not and will not abide by any sort of compromise.  I can certainly respect deeply held morals.  If someone considers abortion murder then I can see why it would be a hot-button issue.  If someone considers the right of the prospective mother to decide whether or not to bring the child to term is a sacred and unassailable right, then I can understand why some might see any restriction as the thin end of the wedge.

I can understand these points of view, and I can respect them.  However, these extremes are if not actually wrong, certainly unhelpful in resolving this matter.  The current regime of Roe v. Wade (as heavily modified by Casey v. Planned Parenthood) is unsustainable.  It is not the place of the judiciary to decide broad issues of policy as I see it.  Moreover, such a regime lasts as long as there is a majority of Supreme Court justices whom support it.  That may be more durable than a legislative regime, but it is far less reflective of the views of the electorate.

I have some thoughts on what may prove a workable legislative solution.  It would make neither extreme happy, but I think it would accomodate everyone as well as anything possibly can.  And I think reading Casey would be a great primer!

Read on?

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Obama latest words on abortion are still problematic

This may be overkill, but some folks may have overlooked the historical and legal framework that makes even Senator Obama's latest position worrisome to the pro-choice community and to those, like me, who believe that a woman's health is a matter only for her and her physician.
So here's a final attempt to get the point over by pointing folks to a nice recent post by Frank James at The Swamp. The senator may still have some clarification to do to get everyone on the same page.

http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/pol itics/blog/2008/07/obamas_lateterm_abort ion_probl.html

Quoting from a colleague with a legal background, James writes:

<>Subsequent cases in the Supreme Court and lower courts have said states cannot ban abortions where the doctor deems them necessary to protect a woman's physical and mental health. Lower courts have taken that to mean a state cannot prohibit an abortion--even one post-viability--if the woman would suffer severe emotional harm without it. Nowhere do those cases impose criteria of "serious clinical mental health diseases."
That's not what the law is today. The Court has said the Constitution prohibits states from banning post-viability abortions unless those laws contain a broad mental health exception---one that includes mental distress and severe emotional harm. Abortion rights groups have fought for decades to preserve these exceptions, and I'm awfully curious what they will think about limiting them to women with mental disease or mental illness./

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Fundies already pushing to test Roe

This didn't take long. Radical Christian fundamentalists are already pushing a bill in the Kentucky legislature to ban abortion except when the woman's life is in danger:

Thirty-six state representatives are sponsoring a bill that would ban abortion in Kentucky except when a woman's life is in danger -- a bill designed to trigger a challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that made abortion legal.

The bill, filed Wednesday, would have no effect if it became law. That's because the U.S. Supreme Court declared abortion to be a constitutional right in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, overriding state laws to the contrary. But anti-abortion activists hope that an increasingly conservative court would overturn Roe.

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