Illustration by Christine Hipp.


They’re three digits that, in sequence, hold a lot of weight. You memorized this number as a young child and grew up with the notion that, with a few quick clicks, you could be at a hospital with professional medical staff to help you.

Think again.

With the passage of H.R. 358, the House of Representatives is set on changing this ideology. The bill, which passed last Thursday by a vote of 251 to 172, includes a provision that would allow hospitals to refuse to perform emergency abortions. Doing so would override the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which states that a hospital must treat a pregnant woman in a life-threatening situation or transfer her to a facility that will.

Proponents have dubbed this the “Protect Life Act,” while pro-choice advocates call it the “Let Women Die Act.” The latter moniker is a much more accurate depiction of the bill, no matter on which side of the abortion debate you find yourself.

Not only is it a violation of the aforementioned EMTALA, but it wholly contradicts the Hippocratic Oath, a doctor’s ethical code of conduct. The oath reads that a doctor “will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required” and “must tread with care in matters of life and death.”

Physician or not, the bare bones idea behind this bill defies logic. It’s valuing the life of an unborn person over that of a living human being, one whose life is in jeopardy. If a pregnant woman has serious problems during her term — say, if she’s hemorrhaging — and is refused service because she needs an abortion, the likelihood that she and her fetus will die goes up drastically. The bill purports that one’s morality, whether it is embedded in religious beliefs or entirely separate from them, supersedes a life-or-death situation. If made into law, it would allow for gross negligence as a doctor and as a human being.

Although this bill likely won’t make it past the Senate (and even if it did, President Obama has already said he would veto it), the fact that it was even proposed on the floors of Congress is deplorable. Moreover, the fact that this outrageous bill and others like it have made their way to Capitol Hill (as addressed in Nikki Pritchard’s recently published City on a Hill Press feature, “Reproductive Rights Restricted Across the Country”) signals a paradigm shift in what politicians consider illogical.

While those within this university may be shocked that such a measure could be passed by a legislative body, clearly the extreme nature of H.R. 358 did not dawn on 251 people. So even if this bill isn’t signed into law, who’s to say it won’t be revived in the future with renewed fervor and legislative backing? That possibility alone should concern all American citizens, regardless of gender or political affiliation.

In a time when so many Americans are already fighting for their economic well-being, women should not have to be faced with the possibility that they could be in a literal fight for their lives without the assistance of medical professionals.