That’s a Rapp: PA Legislator Revealed as Puppet of Anti-Abortion Lobbyists
A recent analysis by a good-government nonprofit of the mandatory-ultrasound bills popping up around the country confirms that state Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Forest/McKean), the legislator who introduced Pennsylvania’s mandatory-ultrasound bill, is carrying water for anti-abortion lobbyists.
Rapp’s disingenuous justification for HB 1077, titled the Woman’s Right-to-Know Act, wasn’t exactly a secret. (The legislator went into a frightful tailspin under the diplomatic-but-direct fire of Marty Moss-Coane’s questions on her recent appearance WHYY’s Radio Times. More on that in a minute.)
But the D.C.-based Sunlight Foundation, through text analysis, has proved that 13 ultrasound bills almost exactly match the language used in model legislation written by Americans United for Life (AUL), a big-time anti-choice lobbying organization. Model legislation is essentially a wish list that lobbyists craft and deliver to their legislators in the hopes that their “model” becomes real law. Legislators are not obliged to reveal the source of their bill.
“Kristi Hamrick, a spokesman for the anti-abortion Americans United for Life, confirmed that the group authored a model bill, titled “The Woman’s Ultrasound Right to Know Act” that appears to have been the inspiration for a number of the bills currently under consideration. A Sunlight Foundation analysis that uses technology called SuperFastMatch shows the AUL bill has instances of text matching with all 13 bills to which we compared it.”
The 13 bills included Pennsylvania’s, which has been temporarily shelved. Legislators say the bill is on hold pending further medical analysis, but critics believe it’s on hold until after the Republican primary in April.
Incidentally, AUL doesn’t just write wish-list legislation—it also writes wish-list investigations. In July 2011, the AUL penned a “special report” on Planned Parenthood, which was picked up Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Gainesville), who then used it as a pretext to launch a real investigation into Planned Parenthood, which the Susan G. Komen Foundation then used as a pretext for severing grants to Planned Parenthood. (When it comes to laws designed to restrict access to abortion, pretext is the name of the game. Red flags that invite closer analysis are Sudden Concern for Women’s Health and, failing that, Defense of Liberty/Constitutionalism.)
Host Moss-Coane asked Rapp if there is any evidence that ultrasounds change a woman’s decision to have an abortion.
Rapp said yes, but conceded the evidence was anecdotal. She relayed a story in which one woman in Rhode Island regretted her abortion. It’s unclear who this woman is, what she was or wasn’t told by her doctor, or if the procedure took place in Rhode Island, where informed consent laws mandate a doctor’s disclosure of information to the patient, including gestational age.
“I think if there’s one case where a woman says, ‘I was not given the information’—and quite frankly it bothers me that the medical profession would want to withhold any information about any test to a patient because I think no matter what the procedure you’re facing that you should have all the facts in front of you before you decide to to any type of procedure,” Rapp said.
Second, as the New York Times reported in 2010, there have been no studies in the United States conducted on the impact of mandatory-ultrasound requirements. Studies in British Columbia concluded that “73 percent of patients wanted to see an image if offered the chance. Eighty-four percent of the 254 women who viewed sonograms said it did not make the experience more difficult, and none reversed her decision.”
“In some instances, the ultrasounds have affected women in ways not intended by anti-abortion strategists,” according to the Times story. “Because human features may barely be detectable during much of the first trimester, when 9 of 10 abortions are performed, some women find viewing the images reassuring.”
Scrambling, Rapp invoked a name often thrown around in these debates.
“Even Dr. Gosnell in Philadelphia was using the ultrasound,” the legislator said.
If the justification for a state-mandated medically unnecessary medical procedure is that Gosnell was doing it, it’s not a compelling one. Gosnell, not even a certified OB/GYN, conducted an illegal operation and is facing drug trafficking and murder charges. It’s true that since his arrest, his name has become a political kitchen sink of sorts, but it’s as if Rapp wasn’t advised by her party how to distort the Gosnell case for gain.
Then, Rapp insisted that ultrasounds are already done much of the time before an abortion anyway. Moss-Coane then asked the obvious question: “If that’s true, then why do you need to mandate them?”
“The component that is not currently law is that the women should have the right to view the screen, and that is the part that not being done,” said Rapp, referring to is the fact that HB 1077 mandates that the doctor must tilt the screen toward the woman’s face. Instead of keeping his or her eye on the tool pushed into the patient’s vagina, the doctor is required to watch the patient’s eyes and mark whether or not she watched the ultrasound on documents that will be kept on file by the state.
Yet there is no evidence that doctors—in cases in which ultrasounds are done for medical reasons before an abortion—are “not allowing” women to view the screen.
“Why does the state want to force a woman to make that decision, at a difficult time in her life?” Moss-Coane asked.
Rapp: “We’re not forcing the woman to view the ultrasound. She can choose not to view the ultrasound.”
This is true. As noted by MSNBC political commentator Rachel Maddow, the state has stopped just short of strapping women into one of those Clockwork Orange contraptions and forcing her eyelids open.
On why the doctor should be mandated to record whether or not the patient chose to point her eyeballs toward the screen, Rapp said: “There are many forms that hospitals and physicians have to fill out and send on to the Department of Health. The health profession is highly regulated in the state of Pennsylvania.”
It’s only paperwork, OK?
In the wrap-up, Moss-Coane questioned Rapp about the total lack of support of medical organizations to the bill, which had the politician, incredibly, calling for more “transparency” in medical profession.
Before letting her go, Moss-Coane asked point-blank if Rapp hoped that this mandate would help make women change their minds about proceeding with their scheduled abortion.
Stuttering, Rapp admitted as much.
So, to recap, Rapp is unaware that the scant evidence studying the impact of ultrasounds on the decision to have an abortion not only disproves her baseless hope that women will change their minds, but also indicates that it might actually make it easier for women. She argues it’s cool because Gosnell did it. Then admits the real meat of the bill is getting the doctor to point the screen at the patient’s face. She blows off the creepiness of a doctor recording the woman’s eyeball movements for state data collection as just more paperwork. And she ends by criticizing the medical community for not being more “transparent.” Then, a few days later, it’s confirmed she got her law from hardcore anti-choice lobbyists.
As Rapp disjointedly prattles on about caring for women, the AUL has posted its next goal for Pennsylvania: “coerced abortion prevention.”