Debate over STD bill continues in state legislature

By

March 28th, 2013

Lincoln, NE – The proposal by Omaha Sen. Sara Howard would allow doctors and other medical professionals to prescribe or provide samples of drugs to fight chlamydia and gonorrhea not only for patients, but for the patients’ sexual partners even if those partners did not come in to be examined.

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Howard says that would cut down on the risk that an untreated partner would reinfect a pregnant woman, leading to possible blindness or death of her baby. On Monday, senators rejected an amendment that would have required doctors to notify parents of either the patient or the partner if they were less than 18 years old. Today/Wednesday, Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial questioned Howard about what he said was an implication of that decision:

“Senator Howard, are you a parent?” said Christensen.

“No sir, I am not,” replied Howard.

“If you was a parent, and your child was raped, would you want to be notified?” said Christensen.

“Yes sir, I would,” said Howard.

“In this bill, we could literally have an underage child getting benefits that was raped – statutory rape. And we’re not protecting that because we don’t give parental notice,” said Christensen.

Christensen then expanded on that theme:

“When you guys voted down Monday the parental notification, you’re allowing statutory rape, which is illegal in this state, and we’re now condoning it,” said Christensen. “Statutory rape. You vote for this bill, in its current form, you’re saying statutory rape is okay.”

Nebraska law prohibits sexual contact between someone 19 or older and someone under 15 — commonly referred to as statutory rape. Howard’s bill would not change that law. Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers took exception to Christensen’s line of criticism:

Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers (Photo Courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers (Photo Courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

“He’s going to say I’m voting for statutory rape?” said Chambers. “He rambles. Now I’m talking about Sen. Christensen. He rambles. Talking about ‘Are you a parent? You want to know if your child was raped?’ What kind of craziness is that? It’s the craziness that comes from a disturbed, disordered mind,” said Chambers.
Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad said Christensen’s argument reminded her of a lesson from law school:
“If you have the facts, you pound on the facts,” Conrad said. “If you have the law, you pound on the law. If you don’t have either, you pound on the table. We’ve heard the pounding on the table, senators,” said Conrad.

Christensen didn’t back down:

“In this bill it doesn’t prohibit someone that’s of age, or underage, either one, from going in and getting medicine, or a prescription, for their partner, since it isn’t age-specific. And there is no notification to parents,” said Christensen.

Grand Island Sen. Mike Gloor urged his colleagues against moralizing in discussing a public health measure. Gloor recalled when he was an Air Force medic, and airmen would come in for inoculations if they contracted a sexually transmitted disease. He said the penicillin mixture used was the consistency of Elmer’s Glue, and some of his fellow medics would not warm it up before injecting it, insuring that it would remain as a painful lump in the patient’s backside for several days. Gloor said at first he thought that was brilliant, because the airmen never came back, until a doctor told the medics otherwise:

“You think they’re not coming back because they’re walking the straight and narrow,” Said Gloor. “And I’ll tell you the reason they’re not coming back is because they don’t want to be hurt like that again. You’re doing just the opposite of what you think you’re doing. Don’t moralize. Treat them.”

Making her final appeal for votes on her bill, LB528, Howard expressed surprise at how the debate had gone:

“I had no idea that supporting babies and families and opposing sexually transmitted diseases was controversial, nor should it be,” Howard said. “We have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable citizens. And maybe I’m a softy for that, but just the same, I would appreciate your green vote on LB528.”

Senators then voted 32-3 to give the bill first-round approval. It still needs two more votes before being sent to the governor.

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