Gov. Sarah Palin has come under increasing media scrutiny for her political positions. However, one that is medically relevant and seems pretty indefensible is her stance as mayor on rape kits. These are the exams performed on patients who claim they are victims of rape or sexual assault. During her tenure as mayor, her town Wasilla began charging victims for these exams. Eventually, the Alaskan legislature realized how presposterous this was and banned the practice. Initially, Palin denied any involvement through a spokesperson:
Palin spokeswoman Maria Comella said in an e-mail that the governor "does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test.""Gov. Palin's position could not be more clear," she said. "To suggest otherwise is a deliberate misrepresentation of her commitment to supporting victims and bringing violent criminals to justice."Comella would not answer other questions, including when Palin learned of Wasilla's policy or whether she tried to change it. The campaign cited the governor's record on domestic violence, including increasing funding for shelters.
However, further investigation found that Palin indeed did sign into law the budget cuts that forced victims to be charged for the rape kits:
Under Sarah Palin's administration, Wasilla cut funds that had previously paid for the medical exams and began charging victims or their health insurers the $500 to $1200 fees. Although Palin spokeswoman Maria Comella wrote USA Today earlier this week that the GOP vice presidential nominee "does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test...To suggest otherwise is a deliberate misrepresentation of her commitment to supporting victims and bringing violent criminals to justice," Palin, as mayor, fired police chief Irl Stambaugh and replaced him with Charlie Fannon, who with Palin's knowledge, slashed the budget for the exams and began charging the city's victims of sexual assault. The city budget documents demonstrate Palin read and signed off on the new budget. A year later, alarmed Alaska lawmakers passed legislation outlawing the practice.
For someone who is clearly running on the premise that as a mother of 5, she will champion women's rights if elected to higher office, this is a sad and shocking situation. Putting aside her views on abortion, this in itself should be a signal to people whose primary issue is women's rights whether Palin truly represents their interests. And, as health professionals, I would hope that this situation is not repeated in other locales, although it undoubtedly has been in the past.