By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
I do not favor big government or change, yet almost daily I see change in Alabama government and I also see it growing.
We have laws and especially systems of government that are in dire need of reform, therefore change is necessary and sometimes even growth. When we change a law or reform a system it should be because it has become institutionally flawed, was wrong from its inception or is needed due to dramatic changes in society structurally.
Two bills that face our legislature fit these models for either change or growth. There are many but two are on my mind at the moment.
The first is SB 262 a bill concerning elder abuse that has languished for almost six years without passage. Only the passionate commitment of Tammy Irons has kept this bill from the legislative lost and found.
According to Irons, the bill will create an inter-agency council. The coalition will consist of 26 agencies, governmental and non-governmental, which will work across already established agencies to combat elder abuse. Irons says the legislation will give the state the ability to “Fight it, prevent it and prosecute it.”
As a reporter I have seen elder abuse, beating, sexual assault, theft of property and on and on.
As a son I have given elder care, my wife and I gave six years of our lives to take care of sick and dying parents. I have carried my father in my arms like a child and tucked him into bed at night, I have waited patiently, singing hymns as my wife’s mother slipped away, holding her hand as she took her last breath.
I have also talked with doctors who have told me tales of adult children so sorry that they kept their mothers on life support so they could continue to collect her social security payments.
When we moved my parents in to a home next door to us, we found that many of their expensive and prized possessions had been systematically stolen by the care giver we had hired.
The state is faced with implementing this agency because of the breakdown of the traditional family. Most of us would like to see a return to family values but that is a job that the state is ill equipped to legislate. So, we are faced with SB 262 and government intervention. SB262 is an act that is needed because of dramatic structural changes in society.
A bill that has also been blocked for years is SB314 a bill that would permit a man and wife to have their child born in their own home with the aid of a midwife. After years the bill has passed out of a Senate committee but with a killing list of amendments. Babies have been born at home for centuries. It is not midwifery that is new but hospital births. Now, I understand that lawmakers have rightful concerns about the safety of child birth but whether to have ones child at home with a midwife’s assistance or in a hospital should be the parent choice not the state. It is a very un-conservative notion to tell parents how than can birth their children.
Of course, this bill isn’t about parents, it is about the medical establishment. Behind every bill stands a lobbyist. It does not take a genius to see the man behind the curtain. Home birth was legal in Alabama until some well-meaning busybody made it illegal in 1976. Outlawing home birth was wrong from its inception.
The birth of a child and the loss of a parent are events that can be deeply emotional and can change a person forever. Two things we humans know–but in many ways do not fully understand–are birth and death. We are the only creatures who know that one day we will die and this knowledge makes us different than any other living thing.
When legislation touches matters of the process of bringing forth life and those matters dealing with the care of the elderly, there are always hard choices, or at least there should be. Our legislature should finally act on these bills in a favorable way.