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With their new champion, Rep. Tony Shipley, blazing the way, conservative Christians are fighting today to deny teens the right to doctor-patient confidentiality. Under their bill, which has been debated all morning in the House Judiciary Committee, any parent could demand to see their teen child's medical records under just about any circumstances. The idea is to prevent girls from sneaking to a doctor's office for pregnancy tests, etc., and it doesn't matter to proponents that the bill imperils $6 million in federal family planning money or that it might give child molesters access to their victims' records.
The committee's last meeting ended in partisan squabbling over Shipley's bill, and House Republican leaders went to their Democratic counterparts later to complain about what they saw as rude treatment. Shipley, who could use a few lessons in anger management, snapped at Democrats today. The committee just recessed for lunch. They'll come back this afternoon to argue some more.
At one point, Shipley, R-Kingsport, accused Rep. Henry Fincher, D-Cookeville, of "throwing up a smokescreen of ridiculous argument." Fincher contended federal regulations forbid Shipley's bill, and he wanted to postpone any vote until the state attorney general's office could provide an opinion on that issue.
: "So you don't even care what the attorney general says? You've made up your mind?"
: "Mr. Fincher, I do care. You just don't care what I think."
: "I'm sorry you feel hurt."
The bill was amended to let doctors withhold records if they think there's "imminent" danger of physical harm to the child. But there were questions about what exactly "imminent" means, and Republicans beat back attempts to include protection of the child's emotional health as well.
As Bobbie Patray, the glassy eyed high priestess of the state's Christian Right, watched with approval from the front row, Shipley assured the committee, "These children are not going to be put at risk at all." Democrats looked unconvinced.