Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Quick Thoughts On Various Bills

Several more bills in the Utah Legislature have come to my attention, and I don't have time to write a separate post on each one, so I'm going to comment briefly on each.

HB 260 purports to fight pornography by making a registry of pornographic websites and stiffening penalties on people who provide the stuff to minors. While I hate pornography and everything it stands for, and would rather be shot than be in any way responsible for distributing it to minors, I think this law is a bad idea. There is some debate over whether or not it is constitutional; I think it probably is, but not everything that's constitutional is a good idea. Issues of constitutionality and legal fights aside, though, I just don't think it's feasible to make a registry of porn sites. New ones pop up every second. Not only that, but I don't believe HB 260 cuts any slack to ISP's who do everything they can to verify the age of their users, but are deceived. I think the intent is to make them fear severe penalties so that they will be bullied into not tolerating porn. I'm not a big fan of government bullying people to choose not to participate in something that has already been ruled their right to do. If any bullying is to be done, it should be done by society. And finally, this will cost money. Legislators are already clamoring for more funding for education, an expense that is disproportionately burdensome in Utah because of the large percentage of the population in the school-age demographic. It's nice to protect kids from porn, but I wouldn't do it at the expense of their education.

The best, most efficient defense against children accessing internet porn is, as always, PARENTS. Parents who don't allow their children to have computers in their room. Parents who regularly check caches and histories. Government isn't required to solve all problems.

HB 25 would allow midwives to be licensed and practice their limited form of medicine in Utah. I'm fer it. I actually seriously considered having Bagel at home with a midwife, but I couldn't find one in the Logan area. I'd found one a couple years ago, but she lived just across the border in Idaho where it is legal for midwives to give basic prenatal care; after she moved to Wyoming, the closest midwife was in Layton, about 1 hour's drive away. Right now in Utah, if you want to have your baby with a midwife, you have to drive to Idaho to get your prenatal care, and when she delivers the baby, she has to function as a friend who just happened to be by your side when the baby came out. Under this bill, midwives who are licensed would be allowed to do routine things like Doppler (listening to the baby's heartbeat), administering anesthetics and single doses of oxytocin, and performing episiotomies (for the uninitiated, that's cutting the birth opening bigger so that it doesn't tear, and sewing it back up afterward). In the event of an emergency, a licensed midwife is required to call a doctor for back-up. That pretty much sums up the medical needs of mothers like me who aren't high-risk, have a history of fast, easy labors, and really don't have $4000 in the bank. (A typical hospital birth and prenatal care costs $3000-4000 and many insurances here have a $4000 pregnancy deductible. The quote I got from the midwife for the package deal was $750.)

Birth is an intimate experience and hospital stays are a large expense. I would think it would be an infringement on women's reproductive rights to require them to choose between giving birth in a hospital and giving birth unattended at home, which is basically the choice that current law allows.

SB227 /HB223 /HB316 are bills (being coordinated with an impressive variety of people) to allow illegal immigrants (and in one version, legal immigrants) to have a separate class of driver's license. A study (wish I had the link, but out of time) was recently done that found that many illegal immigrants are coming to Utah to get driver's licenses because it's one of the states that allows that sort of thing, and some of them even used their license to register to vote. Also, a lot of foreigners come (legally) to train at Hill Air Force Base, and they need driver's licenses too.

Some people don't want illegal aliens to have driver's licenses because they can be used as proof of citizenship, and some people don't want to prohibit illegal aliens from getting licenses because letting them have licenses helps them get insurance for their cars and makes their driving safer. I think this sounds like a nice compromise between both of those reasonable positions-- the illegal aliens still get their licenses, and the special licenses they get are not valid for certain citizenship-proving purposes. The downside is that this generates a de facto register of illegal aliens in Utah. But then again, nobody's making them get driver's licenses-- if they want to stay incognito, they can take the bus or get a ride; and the database will be privately administered, since the state is already not allowed to track illegal aliens. I support this one.