Debate over STD bill continues in state legislature
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 patientsâ€™ sexual partners even if those partners did not come in to be examined.[audio:https://kvnonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/legup3_27_13KVNOcorrection012.mp3]
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:
â€œSenator Howard, are you a parent?â€ said Christensen.
â€œNo sir, I am not,â€ replied Howard.
â€œIf you was a parent, and your child was raped, would you want to be notified?â€ said Christensen.
â€œYes sir, I would,â€ said Howard.
â€œIn this bill, we could literally have an underage child getting benefits that was raped â€“ statutory rape. And weâ€™re not protecting that because we donâ€™t give parental notice,â€ said Christensen.
Christensen then expanded on that theme:
â€œWhen you guys voted down Monday the parental notification, youâ€™re allowing statutory rape, which is illegal in this state, and weâ€™re now condoning it,â€ said Christensen. â€œStatutory rape. You vote for this bill, in its current form, youâ€™re saying statutory rape is okay.â€
Nebraska law prohibits sexual contact between someone 19 or older and someone under 15 — commonly referred to as statutory rape. Howardâ€™s bill would not change that law. Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers took exception to Christensenâ€™s line of criticism:
â€œHeâ€™s going to say Iâ€™m voting for statutory rape?â€ said Chambers. â€œHe rambles. Now Iâ€™m talking about Sen. Christensen. He rambles. Talking about â€˜Are you a parent? You want to know if your child was raped?â€™ What kind of craziness is that? Itâ€™s the craziness that comes from a disturbed, disordered mind,â€ said Chambers.
Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad said Christensenâ€™s argument reminded her of a lesson from law school:
â€œIf you have the facts, you pound on the facts,â€ Conrad said. â€œIf you have the law, you pound on the law. If you donâ€™t have either, you pound on the table. Weâ€™ve heard the pounding on the table, senators,â€ said Conrad.
Christensen didnâ€™t back down:
â€œIn this bill it doesnâ€™t prohibit someone thatâ€™s of age, or underage, either one, from going in and getting medicine, or a prescription, for their partner, since it isnâ€™t age-specific. And there is no notification to parents,â€ 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 Elmerâ€™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 patientâ€™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:
â€œYou think theyâ€™re not coming back because theyâ€™re walking the straight and narrow,â€ Said Gloor. â€œAnd Iâ€™ll tell you the reason theyâ€™re not coming back is because they donâ€™t want to be hurt like that again. Youâ€™re doing just the opposite of what you think youâ€™re doing. Donâ€™t moralize. Treat them.â€
Making her final appeal for votes on her bill, LB528, Howard expressed surprise at how the debate had gone:
â€œI had no idea that supporting babies and families and opposing sexually transmitted diseases was controversial, nor should it be,â€ Howard said. â€œWe have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable citizens. And maybe Iâ€™m a softy for that, but just the same, I would appreciate your green vote on LB528.â€
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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