Doctors … and the State.. Getting Up in Our Business

Debbie says:

No sooner did we put up Sunday’s blog post about “virgins” being refused transvaginal ultrasounds for unscientific reasons than I came across two other related stories about inappropriate medical decision-making. Since the stories are clearly related, Laurie and I thought we’d share the other two.

Colorado is one of a handful of states with robust abortion coverage statewide, but that isn’t keeping at least two of its Catholic hospitals from taking other measures to control women’s reproductive capacities. Jennifer Brown, writing for the Colorado Sun has the story of Mercy Hospital, part of a hospital chain operated by Centura, which will now only permit a woman to get her tubes tied during a C-section if she has cancer.

“This is a very small number of women, and what an arbitrary exception,” [Dr. ] Kimberly Priebe said.

“What about women with hypertension, diabetes, blood clotting disorders, uterine abnormalities, and the many other risk factors that can make pregnancy deadly? It seems the Catholic church does not want a woman dying of cancer but during pregnancy is OK?”

Priebe is an OB-GYN in Durango, a small city where Mercy is the only hospital, so there are few alternatives for women who want their tubes tied during C-section surgery–a quick, easy and inexpensive alternative to a separate surgery.

Side note:  I once worked with a woman who was pregnant with twins. When she told her doctor she wanted her tubes tied, he tried to bully her with “What if one of them doesn’t survive?” She fiercely answered “Tie those tubes even if they’re both dead!” I’ve never forgotten her.

At any rate, this is a completely blatant attempt by a Catholic hospital chain to take over what should be a woman’s choice, and it has the absolute opposite of medical justification. Medically, we have Dr. Priebe’s partial list of other reasons above. And, as Brown notes, St. Anthony Summit Hospital, also in the Centura chain, and the only hospital in all of Summit County, is taking the same position.


In Florida, where books are too dangerous for school classrooms, apparently high-school girls’ menstrual periods are about to be fodder for school records. The American Academy of Pediatrics has long advocated for female athletes to discuss their menstrual periods with their pediatricians, because period abnormalities could be a sign of “low energy availability, pregnancy, or other gynecologic or medical conditions.” These discussions are, as the form above shows, optional. But Florida is threatening to make the mandatory, and have the records be kept at the school, not the doctor’s office.

Christopher O’Donnell, writing for the Tampa Bay <I>Times</i> points out that the proposed change:

has raised concerns about invasion of students’ privacy. It’s also raised questions about whether the information could be used in cases against women and girls charged with violating Florida’s new 15-week abortion law. Social media buzz has also suggested the move is intended to prevent transgender students from participating in high school sports. Florida passed a law in 2021 banning transgender female students from competing in women’s and girls’ sports.

So when medical information is legitimately useful (but not required), the state can make it required — and deeply threatening, not just to pregnant students and trans students, but to anyone who has a reason to keep their menstrual history from their school principal.

Put together with the transvaginal ultrasound story linked above, we begin to see a pattern in this week’s news, reflecting the long history of the medical establishment and the government wielding their power to control women’s bodies. In the wake of the Dobbs decision, the MAGA Republicans’ violent and dangerous transphobia, and the anti-LGBT hysteria sweeping the country, these trends bear not only watching, but concerted resistance.


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