Flagged Bill: HB 107 – Perinatal Hospice – Rep. Stephen Handy

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Representative Stephen Handy (Republican – Layton)

Sometimes legislation walks a fine line between compassion and cruelty – upon first blush, proposed laws can sometimes seem benign or even somewhat helpful. But, once you start applying a law in the real world, a bit of personal reflection will cause you to quickly see where legislation may do more harm than good.

Utah Political Capitol reviews each bill at least once, giving each bill a review prior to deciding if it worth writing about. Most bills are snoozers (unless you really are passionate about massage licence sunset revocations); some bills are interesting and are placed in a queue to write about; some cause us to drop everything and immediately get an article; but one or two leave you with a general sense of unease that you can’t quite place.

Handy, who works in public relations, has now decided that his medical opinion ranks higher than a trained medical professional in all situations related to perinatal hospice. By adding an unnecessary layer of guilt and doubt, Handy isn’t creating sound policy for the state, rather he is pushing an ill-conceived agenda that amounts to little more than red meat for the base. 

This author had to sleep on HB 107 – Perinatal Hospice – from Representative Stephen Handy (Republican – Layton) before it became clear just how psychology devastating this proposed policy change may be for the people of Utah.

HB 107 would establish a new term in Utah law “Perinatal hospice” – which is defined as the “comprehensive support to the mother and her family from the time of the diagnosis of a lethal fetal anomaly, through the time of the child’s birth, and through the postpartum period, that focuses on alleviating fear and ensuring that the woman and her family experience the life and death of the child in a comfortable and supportive environment…”

This is an interesting thought that, on its own, is actually quite compassionate. If an expectant mother discovers that she will not be able to carry their child to term (or as the law also states, the child is not reasonably expected to survive three months after birth), the mother can take advantage of a service or services that could bring comfort to the mother, her family, and the fetus. The logic behind this is that, upon discovering that such services exist, the mother can then make a more informed decision as to what actions she wishes to take based on what she feels is the best for her, her family, and her God.

As the reader can well imagine (if they have not experienced it personally), the decision as to whether or not to carry a terminally ill or deceased fetus to term or to abort the pregnancy is a profoundly difficult and personal one with no easy decision.

But things start to take a turn into cruel territory as you begin to dive deeper into the legislation. Handy doesn’t just want to make sure that perinatal hospice isn’t just an option for mothers, no, no, he wants to require that expectant mothers are proactively made aware, through the presentation of electronic and/or physical brochure, that the “woman has the right to review, and should review (emphasis added), the perinatal hospice information” after hearing that their child is expected to die and is considering ending the pregnancy.

In fairness, by not requiring the mother to be informed, it is possible that a medical provider would choose not to, or simply forget, to provide information regarding perinatal hospice as an option for the mother. But this statement doesn’t give medical professionals the respect they deserve. A diagnosis of would most likely come from a trained obstetrician to a patient that they have a history with the patient. If a doctor isn’t providing all options, bigger questions should be asked.

But up to this point, the legislation is still relatively benign. What tips this bill over the edge can be found on line 328, which states that “In order to ensure that a woman’s consent to an abortion is truly an informed consent…[the mother will receive] a separate brochure…that presents perinatal hospice as the state’s preferred alternative to abortion of an unborn child diagnosed with a lethal fetal anomaly.”

This verbiage all but ensures that Handy isn’t looking for a mother actually have fair and equal access to information – rather Handy, who works in public relations, has now decided that his medical opinion ranks higher than a trained medical professional in all situations related to perinatal hospice.

This legislation effectively puts a thumb on the scales, potentially causing additional mental anguish and physical trauma to a mother that is already facing a heartbreaking decision. Never mind the fact that Handy doesn’t require insurance companies to cover such treatment, meaning that the state may also be placing additional financial burdens on a mother that they may not otherwise have made had they received fair, as opposed to biased, information.

Handy, by attempting to advance this subtle anti-choice legislation, is not looking to actually help citizens with sound policy – rather he is only ensuring that mothers and their families potentially suffer more. Yes, if a mother learns that perinatal hospice and feels that it is the best decision for her, her family, and her God, than she should absolutely pursue that route during such difficult times – but by adding an unnecessary layer of guilt and doubt, Handy isn’t creating sound policy for the state, rather he is pushing an ill-conceived agenda that amounts to little more than red meat for the base.

To contact Representative Handy, click here or call 801-979-8711 (Cell)

You can track this, and all of our other flagged bills, by clicking here. Need an explanation of scores? Click Here.

Impact on Average Utahn 1
Need for Legislation 0
Lemon Score 0
Overall Grade F

1 comment for “Flagged Bill: HB 107 – Perinatal Hospice – Rep. Stephen Handy

  1. February 10, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    As a mother who has lost an unborn child, and has two living children, I see this as extremely valuable legislation. The grief of losing a child, no matter what age that child, is the most intense grief anyone will ever experience.

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