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April 23, 2007

Abortion Ban is 'Partial,' at Least for Now

Those hoping to impose a national ban on abortion seem to have learned from the political success of our perennially failing drug policy to be patient and disguise their true intentions; the recent SCOTUS blessing of a 2003 federal ban on a specific surgical procedure was a critical second step in what had already been a long process. The first had been stacking the Supreme Court with four more devout Roman Catholic male justices following Reagan's appointment of Antonin Scalia in 1986. The second had been passage of the legislation itself while Congress was under rare GOP control in 2003. The third will be when the five men now in  firm control of the abortion issue at the highest level of judicial review do what comes naturally to them: restrict the scope of abortion in the US by redefining how it can be restricted by criminal prosecution.

For my colleagues in the medical marijuana movement who have yet to notice, that's quite similar to what's been happening in California since the Raich decision: federal and local law enforcement, aided by a medically uninformed and policy-compliant media, have been offering the same simplistic, pejorative 'explanation' of recent, highly visible  fluctuations in the numbers of  pot docs, certified patients, and dispensaries: medical use may be legitimate for a few sick and dying people, but for the majority with stay-out-of-jail cards, it's a scam. As a consequence, the distribution of medical pot is being pushed back out onto the street where distributors and patients alike face greater risk of arrest; even as the initiative itself is left intact.

Nor is this the first time the Supremes went into medical practice; sponsors of the 1914 Harrison Act hadn't sought a ban on heroin or cocaine; only the power to regulate them to comply with treaty obligations flowing from a series of international conferences sponsored by, you guessed it, the United States. Armed with a tax measure enforceable via the criminal code, the bureaucracy created by the new law soon began arresting those physicians prescribing most flagrantly for 'addicts' (but in compliance with the statute). Two subsequent 5-4, Supreme Court rulings had a decisive effect by endorsing a moralistic view of addiction and limiting how physicians could treat both it and various complex pain syndromes yet unknown.

The eventual result was to freeze medical knowledge of several poorly understood phenomena at the 1914 level, long before they could ever be studied by modern techniques in an unbiased setting. Even today, long after the policy was expanded into a perennially failing 'drug war' under the aegis of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, NIDA retains tight control of most 'research' into 'drugs of abuse' and Psychiatry has developed a drug-war-friendly schema for classifying emotional 'illness.' If my profession has even noticed that its right to make patient care decisions has once again been usurped by all three branches of the federal government, its leaders have yet to say so.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at April 23, 2007 02:35 AM