Labeling as "bad medicine" a gag rule that would slash the federal funding of health clinics that even mention abortion as a patient option, Maryland medical experts have called on the state's congressional delegation to once again help squash it.
Legislation to block the gag regulations was passed by a wide margin last week but President Bush is expected to veto the bill. The gag rule was imposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"We're sending a strong message to the . . . delegation to once again work to override the president's promised veto," Dr. David A. Nagey, director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said yesterday.
Nagey spoke for a group of experts from UM and Johns Hopkins University, independent social workers and midwives.
If a Bush veto holds up, Nagey said, he will be forced to practice "bad medicine" or violate the regulation.
"Title 10 funds have never been used for abortions," Nagey said. "In fact, each year these funds help prevent 1.2 million unintended pregnancies nationwide and over 1,200 unwanted Maryland pregnancies."
He and the others at a news conference at the People's Community Health Center on Greenmount Avenue, -- one of 95 health centers whose funding is threatened -- agreed that the "real issues" are:
* Discrimination against 100,000 poor women -- a third minorities -- who will get incomplete information while affluent women still will be able to learn about options.
* Malpractice, since health workers would be forced to disregard medical ethics.
* Government intrusion into lives of women and doctor-patient relationships.
Anna Osztreicher, administrator at the Western Center for Women's Health Care at the University of Maryland at Baltimore, said she cannot accept "ideologically driven ideas" interfering with her practice.
"We see HIV-infected pregnant women in the clinic," she said. "Suppose I don't tell this patient that, since there is a 30 percent chance her baby might also develop the HIV infection, she might want to consider abortion. Suppose she has the baby and it becomes HIV-infected. Then, I could be sued."
Dr. Melvin Stern, of the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians, said, "The fundamental issue here is one of censorship of the relationship between a physician and his patient. Regulating us to withhold information is certainly very unethical [and] it's probably illegal."