By Guy Page
S.37, the gender-affirming/abortion services law, intentionally lowers medical standards for abortion and transgender care providers, Vermont Right to Life policy analyst Sharon Toborg told the House Health Care Committee Tuesday afternoon.
Toborg also shared that children ages 12 and up are allowed by state law to keep their insurance information confidential from parents. This information appeared to shock even strong S.37 supporters on the board, and was verified by Rep. Brian Cina (P-Burlington), who provides counseling services to minors.
Toborg’s testimony begins at about the two-hour, 10 minute mark of the committee’s You Tube video. Testifying last, Toborg listed four specific instances of medical practice ‘rules for thee but not for me’ in the bill, which is supported by Planned Parenthood of New England, the state’s largest provider of abortions and transgender care referrals.
Telehealth abortion/transgender providers don’t need to be licensed where out-of-state patients live – The Vermont Board of Medical Practices clearly states telehealth providers must be licensed both in Vermont and in the state where their patient is receiving services via telehealth. To do otherwise is “unprofessional conduct” subject to board discipline.
Except, not for abortion-transgender services, Toborg said.
“S.37 proposes to carve out an exception to that standard. This lowering of the standard is very concerning to us,” Toborg said. “It sets a dangerous standard for loosening the standard for providing politically favored services,” and results in care that is “less protective of the public,” she said.
Pregnancy center speech targeted, abortion/transgender speech protected against any challenge – S.37 “unfairly and unconstitutionally targets pregnancy centers” helping women bring children to term by empowering the Vermont Attorney General to investigate, issue subpoenas, and punish any pregnancy center marketing and advertising claims deemed false. Meanwhile, under S37 abortion and transgender service providers are held harmless from any legal challenges.
VRLC disputes S.37’s implication that pregnancy centers “provide confusing, misleading, or inaccurate information,” Toborg said. Senate testimony revealed that not a single complaint has been filed against the pregnancy centers, and that they receive high marks in customer satisfaction.
If enacted into law, S.37 “will have a chilling effect on the centers’ speech, particularly since the Vermont AG has been openly hostile against them,” Toborg said. Vermont AG Charity Clark made a campaign video specifically promising to use existing consumer protection legislation to target pregnancy centers.
Similar punitive legislation has been struck down in other states, including California. The committee was advised to remove the section infringing on pregnancy center speech or else likely face a court challenge costly to Vermont taxpayers.
Pregnancy center medical directors targeted; abortion clinics don’t even have MD medical directors – While most Vermont pregnancy centers have their own MD medical directors, PPNE currently does not. PPNE has an interim clinic director who is not an MD who oversees 17 clinics in three states, Maine NH and VT. In addition, PPNE employs non-physicians to perform surgical abortions and medicationl abortions,” Toborg said.
(VDC called PPNE to speak to its medical director. We left a message on an answering machine. They haven’t called back.)
“If a pregnancy center medical director is going to be held medically responsible and legally responsible for the actions of the staff and volunteers, as proposed in S37, why shouldn’t Planned Parenthood’s director be as well?,” Toborg asked.
Planned Parenthood also recruits and trains 14-year-old volunteers as sexual health educators for peers, she added.
Health insurance favors abortion over prenatal care, live birth – S.37 makes abortions free, but not health care for mothers seeking to bring children to bring their pregnancy to term. “Under the health insurance provisions of S37, if the state is going to eliminate co-pays and co-insurance for abortion, it should eliminate co-pays for prenatal care and live birth as well,” Toborg said.
Finally, the Health Care Committee members appeared surprised – even shocked – when Toborg mentioned that a child of 12 can keep confidential from their parents any health insurance information.
Can’t the parent just read the list of services on the insurance bill?, one member asked. Not if the child has entered into a legal agreement of confidentiality with the insurance company, Toborg said.
Silence. “Whoa,” one committee member said.
“I have heard something like this,” Rep. Brian Cina, a counselor, confirmed to other committee members. “I have heard that from parents that they have called the insurance company to ask a question about me geting paid for the kid…and there have been issues with them talking to the parents until the kid gets on the phone.”
Cina urged further testimony. “We’ll check into this,” another board member promised. Other than the youth confidentiality issue, Toborg’s testimony incited no comments or questions.
Testimony will continue all week and into next week.
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.