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Jake and Dana: Please Ask This Question.

By MIKE MAGEE

In case you were trying to forget, the first Presidential Debate is this week.

Question: Would Healthy Women Create a Healthy Democracy?

When he assumed the role as the AMA’s 178th president on June 13, 2023, Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH focused on inequities in health care as a top priority for his year in office. In a memorable opening that day in Chicago, the Wisconsin anesthesiologist shared a personal mission with 700 AMA delegates centered on his then 4 year old son. Ethan was born 10 weeks premature at 2 lbs 7 oz.

Watching my son cling to life, I was struck by the painful reality that, even though I was a physician and now, a father, neither I, nor my husband, could donate blood simply because we are gay. Discriminatory policies—policies rooted in stigma, not science—barred us from doing the most humane of acts, donating our blood.”

Dr. Ehrenfeld used that story as a jumping off point to share his priorities as their new President. He pledged that day to seek justice and equity, highlighting:

“Black women are at least three times as likely as white women to die as a result of their pregnancy.

“Black men are 50% more likely to die following elective surgery.

“LGBTQ+ teens and young adults suffer higher rates of mental health challenges that often go undiagnosed.”

He also warned, in the shadow of the Dobbs decision on June 24, 2022, of  “… discouraging trends related to health outcomes—maternal mortality rates in the U.S. are more than double those of other well-resourced nations, for instance—and are becoming more prevalent.”

But when it came to the politics of reproductive health access, he chose his words carefully and took a quieter tone with the audience of politically savvy doctors from red and blue states.

Certain aspects of the countrys political climate have become dangerously polarized. Politicians and judges are making decisions about health care formerly reserved for patients and physicians and patients…” he said.

This statement, coming one year after Dobbs, clearly did not mirror, in intensity, the words of his predecessor, Jack Resneck Jr.,MD, who wrote on the day of the decision, “The American Medical Association is deeply disturbed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn nearly a half century of precedent protecting patients’ right to critical reproductive health care…In alignment with our long-held position that the early termination of a pregnancy is a medical matter between the patient and physician, subject only to the physician’s clinical judgment and the patient’s informed consent, the AMA condemns the high court’s interpretation in this case.”

That sentiment was reinforced by the nation’s 25,000 OBGYNs, 60% of whom are women. Their association (ACOG) wrote, “Today’s decision is a direct blow to bodily autonomy, reproductive health, patient safety, and health equity in the United States. Reversing the constitutional protection for safe, legal abortion established by the Supreme Court nearly 50 years ago exposes pregnant people to arbitrary state-based restrictions, regulations, and bans that will leave many people unable to access needed medical care.”

Statements on behalf of the American Nurses Association, and the organizational arms for both physicians associates (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) were equally forthright.

There are 4.2 million nurses, over 1 million doctors, and over 1/2 million PAs and NPs in the US. And as the latest US Census Report headlined, “Your health care is in women’s hands. Women hold 76% of all health care jobs.” This includes 90% of all nursing positions66% of PAs, and 55% of all current Medical School slots.

Not surprisingly, as women numbers have risen, traditional oaths for the caring professions have reflected changing priorities. For example, the women majority 2022 entering class of Penn State’s College of Medicine for the first time gave top billing in their professional oath to patients, not to the gods: By all that I hold highest, I promise my patients competence, integrity, candor, personal commitment to their best interest, compassion, and absolute discretion, and confidentiality within the law.”

Seven years earlier, the American Nurses Association (ANA), created a formal Code of Ethics, which largely supplanted the 1893 Nightingale Pledge, with a four pillared Code which celebrated Autonomy (patient self-determination), Beneficence (kindness and charity), Justice,(fairness) and Nonmaleficence (do no harm), as anchors to Nursing’s 9 Provisions (or Pledges) that commit to: compassion and respect, patient-focus, advocacy, active decision making, self-health, ethical environment, scholarly pursuit, collaborative teamwork, professional integrity and social justice.

During Dr. Ehrenfeld’s one-year tenure following the Dobbs decision women’s access to health care deteriorated in red state after red state, a point reflected in clear losses for Republicans on statewide initiatives supporting abortion access from Kansas to Kentucky, and Vermont to Michigan. But as the Kaiser Family Foundation reported this year, “As of April 2024, 14 states have implemented abortion bans, 11 states have placed gestational limits on abortion between 6 and 22 weeks…” Add to this that 1 in 5 current OB residents say they have decided to steer away from restrictive red states when they pursue practice opportunities on graduation.

And still, red states embracing MAGA’s marriage to White Nationalists seem to have doubled down on everything from restricting access to medication abortion and contraception, to book banning, to limiting  LBGTQ+ rights and promoting prayer in public schools in the hopes of achieving a Christian Nationalist society.

Which brings us to the fast approaching 2024 Presidential debate. Women’s reproductive autonomy will be well represented. It is arguably the premier equity and justice issue before us, central to both America’s patients and their caring health professionals. But let’s not forget it is also central to the health of our democracy.

John J. Patrick PhD, in his book Understanding Democracy, lists the ideals of democracy to include “civility, honesty, charity, compassion, courage, loyalty, patriotism, and self restraint.”

What other form of government is there that so closely aligns with the aspirational pledges and oaths of our doctors, nurses, and body politic?

Mike Magee MD is a Medical Historian and regular contributor to THCB. He is the author of CODE BLUE: Inside America’s Medical Industrial Complex.

“What’s Up With The Alitos?”

By MIKE MAGEE

The 1st Presidential debate is just around the corner. What should be Jake and Dana’s 1st CNN question. Here’s a suggestion:

What’s up with the Alito’s these days?

Justice Sam weighed in with tipping the American scale (by virtue of his decisions) toward “godliness,” while a seemingly unhinged flag-flying Martha-Ann invited the world inside their marriage, declaring “He never controls me.” Good to know.

Making it clear that her visceral reaction to a neighbor’s PRIDE flag was faith-based, she revealed a short-fuse and a long memory. As she said, “I want a Sacred Heart of Jesus flag because I have to look across the lagoon at the pride flag for the next month. I said (to Sam), ‘When you are free of this nonsense, I’m putting it up.’”

Harvard sociologist, Robert Putnam, and his co-author, Notre-Dame political scientist David Campbell, made it clear in 2010 that something was up with gender, religion and politics in their publication, “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.” In two sweeping surveys reported in the book, they revealed a change in attitudes that began to gain steam in 1970. To their surprise, “By 2006, majorities of every religious tradition except Mormons had come to favor women clergy. Nearly three-quarters of Americans said that women have too little influence in religion, a view that is widely shared across virtually all religious traditions and by both men and women.”

A recent AEI survey this year that catalogued religious affiliation of Boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (1965-1980), Millennials (1981-1996), and Gen Z (1997-2012) showed that women (in much greater numbers than men) apparently have had just about enough when it comes to religious subjugation. Only 14% of the baby boomer women were self-described religious “nones,” while 34% of Millennials and a whooping 39% of Gen Z’s were turning their backs on male-led religions.

The problem, experts say, tracks back to the concept of “complementarianism”, a belief that the Bible supports strictly different roles for men and women, and that “wives should submit to their husbands.”

Subjugation of women historically has taken many forms. The most recent has been the elimination of health care access with the Dobbs decision and reversal of Roe v. Wade. But placing a lid on women’s autonomy has a rich history in America. Take for example divorce.  It was outlawed in most states south of the Mason-Dixon line until the mid-19th century. As legal historian Lawrence Friedman explained, “Essentially husband and wife were one flesh; but the man was the owner of that flesh.”

In 1847, Wisconsin newspaperman and editor of the Racine Argus, Marshall Mason Strong, warned in an editorial that the “domestic sphere” was under attack with men being “degraded, the wife unsexed, and children uncared for.” Strong lamented the loss of women’s “finer sensibilities” with “every trait of loveliness blotted out.”

Two centuries later, the majority of women are having none of it, delivering political defeat after political defeat to religious conservatives after the Dobbs decision. That decision was the culmination of a carefully planned and executed conservative takeover of the Supreme Court with Justice Alito in the lead. His intent, according to Yale legal scholar Neil S. Siegel, was to protect “Americans who hold traditionalist conservative beliefs about speech, religion, guns, crime, race, gender, sexuality and the family. These Americans were previously majorities in the real or imagined past, but they increasingly find themselves in the minority.”

What do the Alito’s fear most? They fear that traditionalists like themselves will be “branded as bigots.” Justice Alito said as much in his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges (same sex marriage). He wrote with some sense of drama “Those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes. If they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

His campaign to “protect majorities-turned-minorities” was also on full view five months before the 2016 Presidential election in his dissent after the Court declined to hear the case of a Washington State pharmacist who refused to fill prescribed contraceptives on religious grounds. Stormans, Inc. v. Wiesman, left standing according to Alito, was “likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications…If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.”

AEI has little encouragement to offer the Alito’s.

The survey’s conclusion is rather stark: “None of this is good news for America’s places of worship. Many of these young women are gone for good. Studies consistently show that people who leave religion rarely come back, even if they hold on to some of their formative beliefs and practices. The decline in religious participation and membership has provoked a good deal of concern and consternation, but these latest trends represent a four-alarm warning.

And therein lies the problem. The recent actions of the Alito’s simply dig the hole deeper, as they await a reckoning with demographic fate. For the Alito’s, “the moment has revealed the man (and the woman).”

Mike Magee MD is a Medical Historian and a regular THCB contributor. He is the author of CODE BLUE: Inside America’s Medical-Industrial Complex. (Grove/2020)

Are AI Clinical Protocols A Dobb-ist Trojan Horse?

By MIKE MAGEE

For most loyalist Americans at the turn of the 19th century, Justice John Marshall Harlan’s decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905). was a “slam dunk.” In it, he elected to force a reluctant Methodist minister in Massachusetts to undergo Smallpox vaccination during a regional epidemic or pay a fine.

Justice Harlan wrote at the time: “Real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own, whether in respect of his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others.”

What could possibly go wrong here? Of course, citizens had not fully considered the “unintended consequences,” let alone the presence of President Wilson and others focused on “strengthening the American stock.”

This involved a two-prong attack on “the enemy without” and “the enemy within.”

The The Immigration Act of 1924, signed by President Calvin Coolidge, was the culmination of an attack on “the enemy without.” Quotas for immigration were set according to the 1890 Census which had the effect of advantaging the selective influx of Anglo-Saxons over Eastern Europeans and Italians. Asians (except Japanese and Filipinos) were banned.

As for “the enemy within,” rooters for the cause of weeding out “undesirable human traits” from the American populace had the firm support of premier academics from almost every elite university across the nation. This came in the form of new departments focused on advancing the “Eugenics Movement,” an excessively discriminatory, quasi-academic approach based on the work of Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin.

Isolationists and Segregationists picked up the thread and ran with it focused on vulnerable members of the community labeled as paupers, mentally disabled, dwarfs, promiscuous or criminal.

In a strategy eerily reminiscent of that employed by Mississippi Pro-Life advocates in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in 2021, Dr. Albert Priddy, activist director of the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, teamed up with radical Virginia state senator Aubrey Strode to hand pick and literally make a “federal case” out of a young institutionalized teen resident named Carrie Buck.

Their goal was to force the nation’s highest courts to sanction state sponsored mandated sterilization.

In a strange twist of fate, the Dobbs name was central to this case as well.

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The Voice of Democracy is Young and Female

By MIKE MAGEE

“Don’t call me a saint,” said founder of the early 1930’s Catholic Workers Movement, Dorothy Day. “I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.” Oddly enough, says Jesuit writer, James Martin, “That quote is probably the biggest obstacle to her canonization…Given that quote, would Dorothy really want to be canonized?”

This week’s election results were a sliver of bright light in what has been a rather dark period. But it is at times like this that quiet heroes emerge. If courage has a face, this morning, as results across the land show a sweeping victory for Democrats, and specifically those advancing the cause of women’s autonomy in managing their own health decisions with their doctors, it belongs to a young woman from Kentucky named Hadley.

In the final weeks of the Kentucky governor’s race, as Politico reported, Andy Beshear gave voice to the woman who directly addressed his opponent on camera.  “Anyone who believes there should be no exceptions for rape and incest could never understand what it’s like to stand in my shoes. This is to you, Daniel Cameron. To tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather who raped her is unthinkable.”

Absorbing the results of the elections with the rest of us are Governor Chris Christie, Governor Ron DeSantis, Ambassador Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Senator Tim Scott who took the stage last Wednesday evening in Miami at the 3rd Republican Primary Debate. No doubt they are surrounded by consultants trying to figure out how best to spin this issue. As Dobbs has played out in states like Kansas, Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin and beyond, political scientists are likely reminding that in politics, “Sometimes when you win, you lose.”

Court packing on a federal level, and even more importantly by Republican leaders on the state level, has tipped the power of our nation toward minority rule, allowing repugnant leaders to seize control of our legal system. That power has been used over the past decade to allow passage of laws that attack existing rights such as women’s power and autonomy over their own bodies, or construct barriers that obstruct the popular will of the people.  Examples include promoting  extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression, dead ending the Dream Act, or allowing citizen access to weapons of war and a permitless gun-carry law in Florida.

Understandably, citizens have wondered, “Will our Democracy die.” Hadley’s courageous decision reflects a stubborn and determined stance, by she and many others throughout this land, to assure the answer is, “No. Not on my watch!”

Her image and words will be lasting for three major reasons. They prove that:

  1. A healthy democracy requires participation and engagement of citizens.
  2. Freedom and autonomy, including access to health professionals, is sacred and personal.
  3. Women will not accept second class citizenship.

Trump no doubt remains unaware that he has lost everything. Many of his most ardent supporters, including Leonard Leo, the mastermind behind the court packing scheme that brought us the Dobbs decision, remain firmly in a state of denial. But even they must admit this morning, as they stare into Hadley’s eyes, and listen to her steady voice, they have met their match. And she is a young woman who’s message is clear, “Enough is enough!”

Likely channeling another woman’s spirit from a century ago, Hadley’s courage (listen here) was more human than super-human. As Dorothy Day quietly proclaimed, “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.”

Mike Magee MD is a Medical Historian and regular contributor to THCB. He is the author of CODE BLUE: Inside America’s Medical Industrial Complex.

The One Question FOX News Moderators Should Ask Tonight

Editor Note: This article was published a week after the Republican Party Primary debate

BY MIKE MAGEE

This evening, the Republican Party will sponsor their first Primary Debate. It will be historic in featuring the absence of their lead contender for the 2024 Presidential campaign, a candidate  who appears committed to the destruction of their own political party

Events over the past year clearly have confirmed that we are a “work in progress” even as we stubbornly affirm our good intentions to create a society committed to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

With the Dobbs’ decision, our Supreme Court has unleashed long-abandoned regressive state laws designed to reinforce selective patriarchy and undermine the stability and confidence of America’s women and families. As a result, our nation’s health professionals, and the patients they care for, potentially find themselves “on the wrong side of the law.”

Three months ago, our former President decided to deliver a message to North Carolina Republican supporters claiming that he was engaged in the “final battle” with “corrupt” forces, most especially the “Deep State” that was “out to get him.” This is the same state that politically birthed Mark Meadows, former Congressman from the 11th District of North Carolina, a position he resigned to become Trump’s Chief of Staff on March 21, 2020. That ultimately landed him a position on the roster of 19 individuals indicted by District Attorney Fani Willis on RICO charges for conspiracy and racketeering.

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Can Missouri Pass The Muster

BY MIKE MAGEE

A case has been made that a logical approach to reforming America’s violent and racist leanings would be to adopt the values and practices of Health Care for All. These include a commitment to compassion, understanding, and partnership; extending the linkages between individual, family, community and society; addressing fear and worry for individuals and populations; and promoting an optimistic and equitable future for all Americans. 

Nurses and doctors and pharmacists and other health professionals pledge oaths and spend years training to exhibit and practice these values in the course of providing preventive and interventional care to select Americans. Imagine the effect of delivering these many benefits in an equitable way, in all communities, with the intent of making not only Americans, but also the American culture healthy.

Or we could simply continue to accept the values exhibited by the Missouri State Legislature, where misogyny and brass knuckles have risen to the top of their legislative calendar.

In June, 2021, a Missouri News-Press editorial commented that “one vote last week might strike some as a sign that Missouri’s lawmakers could use some help with time management and prioritization.” The Republican led body had soundly passed HB 1462 which included Section 571.020 and 571.107 which read “This act repeals prohibitions on the possession and selling of brass knuckles, firearm silencers, and switchblade knives.” The same act addressed the taxpayer burden for possession of their weaponry by providing “that all sales of firearms and ammunition made in this state shall be exempt from state and local sales taxes.”

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The “Comstockery” of Justice Clarence Thomas

BY MIKE MAGEE

“When we think about the past, we think about history. When we think about the future, we think about science. Science builds upon the past, but also simultaneously denies it.” These are the words of Jim Secord, a Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. His research and teaching are on the history of science from the late eighteenth century to the present, with a special focus on Darwinian evolution. 

His perspective is especially relevant when it comes to the recent Dobbs decision. The history of this contemporary struggle is as clear as is the science disputed by modern day left and right. It began on March 7, 1844, with the birth of this man, Anthony Comstock, in New Canaan, Connecticut. Raised in a strict Christian home, his religiosity intensified during a two-year stint in the Union Army during the Civil War.

A member of the 17th Connecticut Infantry, he took great offense to the profanity and debauchery he witnessed in and among his fellow soldiers. With the strong support of church-based groups of the day, and as the self-proclaimed “weeder in God’s garden”, he sought out a purpose and found a political vehicle in New York City’s Young Men’s Christian Association, and parlayed that to a post as the United States Postal Inspector.

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It’s Time for No

BY KIM BELLARD

We all – well, most of us – try to be agreeable.  It’s usually a better social lubricant to say “yes” than “no.”  It’s widely considered to be better for your career to be the one who always says “yes” instead of being the troublesome worker who often says “no.”  “Yes, dear” is a safer marital strategy than “no” or “not again.”  But, like most conventional wisdoms, these deserve to be challenged. 

I’ve read several articles recently where “no” is the suggested strategy, and I think there’s something there.  Especially for healthcare.  

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The Shocking Impact of an Ancestor’s Secret Abortion

BY MICHAEL MILLENSON

When my siblings and I were young, we were fascinated by my father’s Uncle Byron. Handsome and confident, he drove a big, 1960s-era Chrysler Imperial, had a glamorous job — an executive at a Baltimore radio station — and radiated panache.

He also was part of a small family mystery. His father, Louis, was married three times, and Byron was raised by Wife № 3. But he was the biological child of Wife № 2, who died just a few years after his birth from an unknown cause.

Thanks to some persistent genealogical research, I recently discovered that cause: Annie Millenson had a botched abortion, and it killed her. It also destroyed her surviving family.

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