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Montana GOP working hard to realize its own worst nightmare – bureaucratic-led death panels

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Montana GOP working hard to realize its own worst nightmare – bureaucratic-led death panels

Feb 02, 2023 | 10:36 am ET
By Darrell Ehrlick
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Montana GOP working hard to realize its own worst nightmare – bureaucratic-led death panels
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Illustration by Kaiser Health News.

Republicans, it turns out, were right: We should be concerned about death panels.

But instead of standing as sentinels for such roving packs of death squads, as the rhetoric went not so long ago, it is the Republicans who are leading a charge in Montana to realize their own worst nightmare.

The State of Montana wants a bunch of bureaucrats – commonly called “state employees” – to make life and death decisions.

By engaging in a long-distance game of legislative one-upsmanship, lawmakers are competing to out-GOP each other when it comes to draconian abortion laws. Here under the Big Sky, state lawmakers are contemplating making women who are covered by Medicaid get pre-authorization for their abortions.

The state has reasoned that just because doctors are not filling out paperwork to its exacting standards (which is, by the way, not required), it must suggest that taxpayers have been footing the bill for about 5,400 abortions in the past 11 years, a conclusion that should be questioned. Furthermore, lawmakers are assuming that every one of those abortions was done on whim and not medically necessary.

As if it’s not bad enough to deal with an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, as if it’s not enough of a stigma to be on Medicaid, Republican lawmakers are going to require doctors and patient to disclose the most personal details, including the woman’s most recent menstrual cycle, to be part of the government record.

Then, assuming some medical providers and patients are determined enough to jump through those bureaucratic hoops, someone in state government gets to decide whether the woman can have an abortion.

Imagine the humiliation of going through those steps only to be told that the state, not the doctor, has determined your medical outcome.

Instead, we should be thanking doctors and healthcare providers that they’re willing to have these tough, personal and private conversations. And instead of shunning women and treating them like suspects in a police line-up, we should respect their autonomy and conclude that no matter what reason they give for not wanting a pregnancy, maybe we should respect that reason, and move on to other state business.

Maybe the government shouldn’t be involved with personal healthcare decisions. Maybe lawmakers aren’t doctors and shouldn’t be adding more bureaucracy, something the GOP allegedly supports.

For those of us who have children – and wanted them – they’re exhausting, demanding and sometimes, can even be jerks. It’s hard enough to raise children even under the best of circumstances, which includes stable home, income and food. We should be celebrating the wisdom and discretion of those who decide the time isn’t right.

And it’s not as if we’re dangerously low on humans on a planet that has eight billion of us.

For a state and a political party (Republicans) that despises red-tape, government rules, dictating medical decisions, death panels, and paying for social welfare programs that include “welfare queens,” this seems all wrong.

To have the details of your most private and painful decisions scrutinized and part of a government record has a chilling effect to probably turn away most women. To have the state force an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy borders on insane.

Where will these lawmakers be when the family can’t afford the rapidly increasing cost of housing? Or food?

If it’s anything like the recent legislative sessions, they’ll be looking at ways to reduce the social welfare programs, including making residents jump through more hoops to gain access to programs like the Children’s Insurance Program or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

And how does the GOP, the alleged party of family values, expect a mother to both work and raise a family? If they truly cared about families, they’d invest more in home, food and programs like paid medical leave that would allow more time for people to be with their families.

If Montana lawmakers were really so concerned about abortions in the Treasure State, maybe they should look at the forces leading women to believe they need abortion – lack of access to birth control, wages that have historically lagged behind the rest of the nation, or lack of affordable housing.

Once again, lawmakers have engaged in a moral war, but they’ve misread the entire situation. Abortion is not so much a moral or even medical issue. It’s one of economics. Solve healthcare or work on housing or improve job prospects and I bet the abortion rate will decrease.