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Tennessee Bill Proposes Fetus Death Certificate

Posted Aug 26 2008 4:27pm
A Republican legislator in Tennessee has proposed a bill that would require doc's to file a certificate of death for aborted fetuses . Rep. Stacey Campfield says that this would give them a way to track the number of abortions performed every year. The thing is, the Office of Vital Records already tracks and makes this information public. What it doesn't track, or make public, is who - which would be on the death certificate. At least the woman's social security number, if not also name.

Of course, this is blatantly problematic, for the HIPAA violation if nothing else. Abortions are a medical procedure, and thus are covered by the HIPAA privacy laws; you cannot identify who had one on those grounds alone. HIPAA excluded, it's still an invasion of privacy. And on top of all of that, it grants a sort of back-end moral agency to a fetus. A death certificate implicitly requires the ability to die, dying requires status as a human life, not a potential human life.

And this is of course not to knock the view of those who do think a fetus is a moral agent, or a human life worth according all the rights of every human to. But the fact of the matter is, right now our law does not grant those rights to a fetus, and this seems like a very underhanded way to do so.

The obliteration of privacy is certainly the more pressing concern, though - it seems like a tactic designed to strongarm women to either not have abortions, flee to other states, or to unlicensed/unscrupulous abortion providers for an under the table (so to speak) abortion. Do we really want to return to those days? Can anyone see any validity to this law other than the extension of a right to life due to assigning human status to a fetus? (And again, I grant that this is a view many people hold, and realize many people would like abortion to be illegal based on this alone. Am I missing something aside from this?)
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