Enlightening the View
January 24, 2024
by Jeffrey Barrows, DO, MA (Bioethics)
Since the overturn of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June 2022, the acrimony within the abortion debate has increased exponentially, accompanied by a marked increase in the amount of misinformation contained in the debate. These trends were exemplified by a recent segment on The View discussing a unanimous Fifth Circuit Appeals Court opinion on the Biden administration’s attempt to use a 1986 law to force healthcare professionals to perform abortions in pro-life states under so-called emergency conditions. CMDA is one of the plaintiffs in this case, along with the state of Texas and the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG).
First the facts.
The 1986 law being leveraged in this way is entitled the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA for short. I vividly remember this law being passed in 1986, because I was practicing OB/Gyn in a rural hospital in Ohio at the time. The purpose of the law was to stop “patient dumping” from smaller hospitals to larger referral hospitals, and I was thankful our hospital had successfully avoided that unethical practice. Regardless, it had become quite common for smaller rural hospitals with tight budgets to transfer complicated patients who were uninsured and unable to pay their medical bills to larger hospitals that were more likely to be able to absorb the often-large expense of properly caring for those patients. Naturally, these larger referral hospitals complained about what was happening; thus, EMTALA was created and passed by Congress. It successfully solved the problem of patient dumping.
The underlying purpose of the law is critical to understand, because the original law had nothing to do with abortion. In fact, the law doesn’t even contain the word abortion. However, it did deal with the clinical scenario of a woman in labor, specifically stating the physician must be able to certify that the transfer of a woman in labor must provide a clear benefit, either to the mother or to the unborn child, that outweighs any associated risk. I distinctly remember this because that clause often applied to me as I would regularly need to transfer sick pregnant women in early labor. And Congress added language to EMTALA saying hospitals must be sure to protect the “unborn child.”
The law sat quietly in the federal statutes for 36 years until 2022, when someone within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) came up with the “brilliant” idea of leveraging this law so that a woman who presents to an emergency room in a pro-life state needing an abortion could force the healthcare professionals in that hospital to perform the abortion, regardless of state or local laws. As one of those pro-life states, Texas promptly filed suit in federal court against HHS to seek a preliminary injunction protecting their hospitals from being forced into performing abortions. We at CMDA and AAPLOG joined the case to protect our members. Not surprisingly, the Federal District Court of Northern Texas was unimpressed with HHS’s argument and issued a preliminary and then permanent injunction, preventing HHS from enforcing this new interpretation of the law in Texas or against our members. Recently, their opinion was unanimously upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Enter The View.
At the beginning of the segment, one of the regular co-hosts grossly mischaracterized the EMTALA Act as a “…law that would require Texas hospitals to provide abortions to women whose lives are at risk due to pregnancy.” That statement is completely false, since the original purpose of the law was to stop patient dumping and didn’t even contain the word “abortion,” but does require protecting the “unborn child.” Nevertheless, facts become inconvenient to this co-host since she went on to state, “…so…they’re okay with forced childbirth, even if it kills someone because they’re so pro-life.” That statement is so inflammatory and false that it’s hard to even know where to start. Without any attempt at nuance, this co-host is saying that pro-life healthcare professionals are willing to allow a woman to die in labor because they don’t believe in abortion, a blatantly false accusation. What is particularly alarming is the complete lack of accountability for making these outlandish statements in a public setting such as a popular TV show. They are not only false and grossly misleading, but these and similar statements are also dangerous.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.
Another co-host of The View then launched into a discussion of how “draconian” the pro-life position is when there is no allowance for exceptions in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother. She then made the statement that “…states like Texas are not operating in good faith.” This implies there are no exceptions for abortion in Texas. The truth is that Texas law does contain a specific exception to allow abortion to save the life of the mother.
A third co-host expanded on the extreme example of a clinical situation in which there are only moments available to make a decision to save the life of the mother. “You can’t say you are pro-life and let someone die in front of you. The woman is right in front of you…dying…and they’re saying you can’t help them.” The fact is that no one is saying that any woman with a truly life-threatening obstetrical complication shouldn’t be helped or delivered. We might talk about an alternative to abortion, which is early delivery, but NO ONE is saying you can’t help them. Why can’t we have a productive conversation instead of making these unfounded inflammatory remarks?
Another co-host started out on solid ground by actually naming and quoting from the law. She then went on to talk about the infamous straw man of ectopic pregnancy, stating that the federal ruling somehow allows the healthcare professional to only stabilize the woman with an ectopic pregnancy, but not have to fully treat her. My rural hospital had bylaws forbidding elective abortion, but I would never have tried to transfer a patient with an ectopic pregnancy because treating it was somehow associated with elective abortion. I and all credible pro-life healthcare professionals treat those women to the best of our ability even though the child is tragically unable to survive. We would never transfer a patient because of her ectopic pregnancy, this is another instance of disinformation from The View.
The conversation continued around this imaginary life-threatening situation with additional comments by the initial co-host that this is a “power play” in which a pro-life person “…wants to make sure they have control over someone else’s body, whether it kills them or not. And you don’t care whether it kills them.” She then concludes with “…and yet you are sitting there, allowing this torture to happen. That’s what’s wrong…you are torturing someone, and you know it. Shame on you!” Of course, she was roundly applauded by the audience for this grossly false tirade describing pro-life healthcare professionals as sadistic monsters. In a normal world, this statement would be laughable, but because so many people are beginning to believe the pro-life movement is evil, these false accusations are finding fertile ground in an increasingly pagan culture. It has reached the point that those who make these outlandish statements are seen as repositories of wisdom and insight, rather than fools.
The segment concluded with one co-host grossly mischaracterizing the Fifth Circuit ruling by stating, “This federal law that this judge ruled against found that if a doctor performed an abortion and saved a woman’s life, that doctor was protected criminally and civilly. That was put there to protect the doctors.” She went on to wrongly describe the background of the law by stating that the law came from “…when poor women went to a hospital that didn’t accept Medicare, they would send them to another hospital that would perhaps do it for free….” The “it” of course is abortion. Beyond being nonsensical, these statements are once again false because the original law has nothing to do with abortion. Another co-host just couldn’t keep herself from adding the racial piece, “If you were a black woman and ended up in a white hospital, that’s what they did. They threw you to someplace else.”
While I don’t have the space to detail all the mischaracterizations and lies contained within this short nine-minute segment, I want to end by pointing out that The View is certainly not alone in promoting these lies. Multiple media venues and shows are towing the same line, and, frankly, it is dangerous. Not only do these lies mislead the various audiences of these programs, but they also inculcate and strengthen a mindset opposed to protecting unborn life and increasingly endanger those who stand up for unborn life.
This is the epitome of evil.