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Richard H. Carmona, M.D.

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Arizona Effort to Block Contraception Simply Bad Health Policy

Posted: 03/19/2012 5:45 pm

A recent push to block women from getting access to contraception shows the Arizona legislature is not operating from an evidence-based or reality-based point of view.

The legislature's recent actions actively create problems rather than trying to solve them. And, at best, they are wasting our time.

Whenever I've had to make a major decision as a doctor, cop or for a company I've worked for, I ask myself: What is the value proposition here? Will my decision bring added value to the population I have the privilege to serve?

These questions are clearly not being considered by the folks I like to call the "chronic politicians" at our state capitol and in Washington.

We have real problems here in Arizona, and there are reasonable and politically possible solutions to them. But it's pretty clear that solving problems isn't what these politicians hope to do. Instead, they seem intent on scoring political points rather than solving the problem.

Trying to block women from getting access to contraception or defunding Planned Parenthood is completely nonsensical from a policy standpoint. As the 17th Surgeon General of the United States, I can say without hesitation that these bills would be bad for public health and deleterious to the health of women.

The fact is that a bill allowing any employer to deny insurance coverage based on a moral objection -- along with giving an employer permission to ask for medical records showing why a woman is taking birth control -- opens up a set of problems that I'm sure its sponsors have not fully considered.

Do any of us actually want to live in a world where your boss can decide that he or she is morally opposed to mental health care? What if your employer was morally opposed to getting x-rays or antibiotics? How about just being forced to disclose your private medical information to your employer? Does any of that sound like something you want to do?

I sure don't want to live with that system, and I'd be willing to bet that most Democrats and Republicans don't either. What we're missing in this conversation is any kind of commitment to thoughtful policymaking.

When you follow these proposals to their logical conclusion, they make absolutely no sense. It's only if you're being whipped into a partisan frenzy and shouting canned talking points that any of this stuff even appears to have legitimacy.

I understand and support the exemption for religious groups not wanting to be involved in certain practices. But as the 17th Surgeon General of the United States, and now as a physician, I would want to ensure that -- notwithstanding the religious exemption -- all women who choose to do so have the opportunity to acquire comprehensive reproductive health care.

That's called finding a reasonable compromise - it's what our democracy is predicated on, our political leaders are supposed to do and what the people expect of us. There's nothing to compromise over with these bills the legislature is moving forward, and there's no legitimate policy reasoning behind them.

Richard Carmona is the 17th Surgeon General of the United States and a Democratic candidate for Senate in Arizona. Learn more about Rich on his website, carmonaforarizona.com.

 

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