MEDICAL PRIVACY: Senate Bill Still Stalled Over Abortion
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair James Jeffords (R-VT) said Friday he would not bring the medical privacy bill to the Senate floor "until opposing sides on the abortion issue work out their differences" on whether minors' medical records "should remain private," the Nando Times reports. At issue is an amendment proposed by ranking member Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) that would preserve the rights of minors in states that lack parental notification laws, allowing them to receive abortions and birth control without first having to notify parents. But abortion opponents maintain that Kennedy's amendment "is an effort to preempt state laws that require minors to get their parents' permission before getting an abortion," Nando Times reports. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) said, "We do not believe that the federal government should interfere in the intimate relationships that exist between parents and their children." He added, "States should be allowed to enact laws regarding minors' rights without federal interference." Jeffords said the "controversial and complicated" bill would be unlikely to pass in the Senate without first winning bipartisan support from committee members, adding that he will attempt to gain the support from at least half of the committee's eight Democrats before he schedules a committee vote. "We've been talking to both sides, but there's no indication they're moving toward a compromise," said a committee spokesperson. And given the members' unyielding stances on abortion, "compromise seems unlikely," the Nando Times reports. The health insurance and pharmaceutical industries are pressuring Senate Republican leaders "to force a breakthrough on the abortion dispute" and head off action by HHS, which must draft federal rules for electronic medical records by Feb. 21, 2000. Although industry lobbyists have urged legislators to slip a rider into the Labor-HHS appropriations bill to delay HHS Secretary Donna Shalala's February deadline, but "Jeffords said Friday he would oppose such a rider" (O'Rourke, 9/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.