#trending

A group blog on regional web trends by the Knoxville News Sentinel web staff
Contributing Authors
Recent Tweets @knoxnews
Posts tagged "legislature"

It’s my turn for the #trending column this Sunday. In order to write a less impassioned but more informed piece, I did a TON of research earlier this week . I wanted to make everything I found available to readers who were interested as it wasn’t as easy as you might think to find information from both sides of the aisle on this hotbed issue. 

First, I’ll give you a little taste of my column: 

Monday, I learned via Twitter that state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, proposed a bill mandating ultrasounds for women seeking to have an abortion. Many clinics already perform ultrasounds to gauge the gestational age of the fetus, but Tracy’s bill proposes a detailed ultrasound that, if the patient refuses to view, will be described to her in detail.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, as of Feb. 1, eight states have laws requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound, but what is the purpose? Proponents claim that women who can see and hear the fetus will refuse to go through with the procedure. This logic is often shrouded in the phrase “informed consent.” In that spirit, I sought to become as informed as possible.

It’s easy to find arguments that feed whichever rhetoric you choose to espouse. With automatic filters in major search engines, it is difficult to find balanced results from which one might truly become informed. Thankfully, I have DuckDuckGo to rely on — a search engine which doesn’t track or filter bubble.

— I started by reading the text of the bill itself and breaking down what each section of the bill meant. 

— This article from The American Independent was one of the first resources I found. It led me to several of the following articles, studies and data.  

— 1983 article in the “New England Journal of Medicine” by  that anti-abortionists like to quote to “prove” that ultrasounds deter women from having abortions. The study spoke with two women whose ultimate response was “I believe it is human.” 

— I was trying to find information on what year ultrasounds became a part of standard care in obstetrics and gynecology to see if there was any intrinsic value to the Fletcher and Evans paper of 1983. After a couple of hours searching, this was the closest I could find: NIH study from 1979 stating that they still don’t recommend routine use of ultrasounds.

— Jeanne Monahan wrote a (short) paper on ultrasound policy that looks staggeringly similar to many of the legislative movements over the last few years. Included in the footnotes of her report are studies, articles and other related links. 

— If you’ve read my ramblings on Tumblr before, you’re aware of my obsession with infographics. This article from Remapping Debate had some good information on the legislative movement in 2012 to circumvent Roe v. Wade with laws such as the pre-abortion ultrasound. Included, was a colorful state-by-state infographic showing the varying strictness of abortion laws in our nation.

Using that graphic and the “Requirements for Utlrasound” document below, I studied other states which have enacted similar laws.

— I found several good resources at the Guttmacher Institute:

— The Washington Post did an article in 2010 on the abortion rates in countries with universal healthcare. 

— Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health conducted a study that I very much wanted to read, but it was only offered for pay, so I had to settle for a summary and several slides in a PowerPoint presentation

I found this study very interesting — it changed my mind in a small part of this issue. 

— Finally, the Tennessean did a phenomenal project last year called Abortion in Tennessee.” Extraordinary reporting. 

The state of Tennessee has landed atop yet another list — this one compiled by D.C.-based reporter Tim Murphy of Mother Jones. In it, Murphy names Tennessee as No. 1 worst legislature in the U.S.

Murphy jokes that the results are scientific in nature, but in truth, it isn’t revealed how he came to the conclusions he did. Regardless, he does spell out examples for each state.

image
(Sen. Stacey Campfield was cited numerous times in Mother Jones’ about the
worst legislatures nationwide. Photo by Saul Young/KNS)

As for Tennessee? Here are some of the reasons that Tennessee’s legislature is the worst — or craziest — in the nation, according to Murphy.

  • Gov. Bill Haslam’s signing of the “gateway body parts” bill that legislates an abstinence-only sexual education program, which would prohibit teachers from discussing almost any sexual activity during sex ed class.

  • Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield’s “Don’t Say Gay" bill, which sought to bar any discussion of homosexuality in elementary schools.

  • Campfield’s remarks about the origin of AIDS, in which he says this in a radio interview:

"It was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men It was an airline pilot, I believe, if I recall correctly. …

My understanding and correct me if I’m wrong, Mr. Science, on this, but my understanding also is that it is virtually — not completely impossible — it’s virtually impossible to contract AIDS outside of blood transfusions through heterosexual sex. It’s virtually impossible. If you are having anal sex, yes, you are much more likely to contract AIDS.”

  • The “monkey bill,” a piece of legislation that aimed to “provide guidelines for teachers answering students’ questions about evolution, global warming and other scientific subjects” like global warming.

  • Legislation introduced by Republican state Sen. Bo Watson to “crack down on the scourge of transgender citizens, by introducing legislation that, per ThinkProgress, “would institute a $50 fine for anybody who does not use the public restroom or dressing room that matches the sex identification on his or her birth certificate.”

  • Fake rumor circulated through a state email account by Republican state Rep. Kelly Keisling that asserts Obama was planning a “fake assassination attempt as a pretext for imposing martial law in the United States.”

If you’re curious what other examples Murphy cited, or if you want to read about other states’ goofs, check out the story on Mother Jones. And it’s worth noting, for those who may not know, Mother Jones is considered a politically liberal website.