Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Lawmakers Given Blanket License to Practice Medicine

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Lawmakers Given Blanket License to Practice Medicine

Article excerpt

Government has a peculiar talent for giving doctors a psychological hotfoot.

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the now famous Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services case has, in effect, handed a carload of matches to playful legislatures whose members are free to light fires under physicians in every state.

More to the point, the court has given legislators a blanket license to practice medicine. Here, as in many places, they want to rise to the challenge.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Byron Raymond White, joining Chief Justice William Rehnquist in the majority opinion, seem to have themselves embarked on new careers as medical practitioners. Witness these likely results in the aftermath of the court's 5-4 decision upholding the constitutionality of Missouri's restrictive statutes on abortion rights:

Legislators will decide for doctors if or when they must order amniocentesis, an expensive and invasive test sought by anti-abortion forces as a means of gauging fetal viability during pregnancy.

Legislators are free to write the scripts for doctors who offer medical counseling to pregnant patients.

Legislators may impose, if they wish, restrictions to prevent doctors, nurses and other professionals from participating in the care of patients whose medical conditions call for termination of pregnancy in a public hospital.

They can establish licensing requirements that could, if the court rules as expected in a pending Illinois case, shut down private clinics whose doctors perform abortions.

All the while, the court still holds (Roe vs. Wade) that abortion is a woman's constitutional right. In practice, however, it has given legislators everywhere a medical diploma, along with unfettered rights to meddle in the treatment of pregnant women and curtail their rights.

"I expect imbecilic legislators to copy the (Missouri) law and restrict the rights of women," said Dr. Schales Atkinson, the chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Presbyterian Hospital.

Most affected, he said, will be the women without money or political connections. For all others, he predicts, abortions will continue. …

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