Friday, January 27, 2012

I'm Not a Gynecologist But...

Our society has stuck with the “division of labor” concept because it works. Most people become skilled at one job or type of work and contract with others for different sets of expertise. Very few people can be doctors, fundraisers, lobbyists, lawyers, and politicians—at least, not with success. That is why, when I need a medical opinion, I go to my doctor. When I have a political concern, I call my representative. This isn't new, and it isn't rocket science. I don't think anyone has ever felt their water break and exclaimed, “Quick, call Warren County State Representative Kathy Rapp!”

This is one of the reasons House Bill 1077 is so infuriating. Sponsored by Rep. Rapp, this bill, currently under review in the state House Health Committee, is another effort by politicians to tell doctors what to do-- an irrational step beyond a politician's area of expertise that only anti-choice measures regularly seem to demand. The bill makes ultrasounds mandatory for all women seeking abortions. The bill demands a 24-hour wait period between ultrasound and abortion. And the bill requires, ridiculously, that the ultrasound screen be positioned so that women can see the image-- whether they want to or not.

While this bill is less extreme than similar bills that require women to look at the ultrasound as a condition for obtaining an abortion, the difference between the two is miniscule. It's like anti-choicers sit around and think, “Well, nobody seems to like it when we force women to look at the screen, so maybe we can just require that it be put in front of her and then she'll have to see it whether she wants to or not-- and it won't sound quite so bad because she could have just kept her eyes shut!” Aside from the fact that making a woman look at the unwanted bundle of dividing cells in her uterus is medically unnecessary and purely intended to guilt women into changing their (carefully considered) decisions, the fact that it pits the desires of patients against the would-be legal obligations of their doctors decreases trust for no good medical reason. And it's downright condescending.

Even more problematic is the mandatory 24-hour wait period. The vast majority of counties in Pennsylvania lack an abortion provider, so most women seeking this legal reproductive service have to travel a substantial distance to obtain it. They may have to take off work, find childcare, and arrange transportation to and from the clinic. How many low-income women can afford to do this on two separate days without serious consequences for their jobs or their incomes?  I don't see Rep. Rapp sponsoring any legislation that provides paid leave for government-mandated-but-medically-unnecessary appointments. The wait period serves two purposes: One, to make women go home and essentially sit in time-out in the hopes that they'll reconsider their perfectly reasonable choice, and two, to serve as just enough of a barrier that some women won't be able to make it back to their clinic for the abortion procedure itself. Who needs to ban abortions when you can just make it really, really hard to get to the clinics that provide them?

Nobody can deny that doctors are better-informed about good medical practice than politicians. So it's only rational to let them advise their patients-- without anti-choice politics meddling in the process. There's a reason I don't head to the State House when it's time for my yearly Pap smear-- frankly, I don't think those guys would even know where to begin. They are not doctors. But my gynecologist is. Why don't we all just stick to what we're good at. 

Janna Frieman is an intern with the ACLU-PA’s Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project. She is pursuing a master's in Social Policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That "bundle of dividing cells" is called a baby. You'll never be able to come up with a string of words that will manipulate that truth away.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Damian Davison said...

That's just isn't a baby, at that point any more than a pile of bricks is a house. Your religion tells you otherwise, but not everyone should be subjected to that belief system. You have every right to believe what you do...this is America. But,I have the right to disagree with you and have legislative policy unaffected by those beliefs. That's freedom from religion and it's every bit as important to Americans as the freedom of religion.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, this has nothing to do with religion. The greatest trick the pro-abortion movement ever pulled was to paint pro-lifers as uniformly religious zealots in an attempt to discredit them.

Anyone who has ever seen an ultrasound, even in the early weeks, realizes that they're looking at a baby. Bricks left untouched don't become a house, but babies left untouched are born - big difference.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't like smokers?...don't smoke
Don't like porn?...don't watch it
Don't like broccoli?...don't eat it
Don't like church?...don't go
Don't like abortion?...don't have one. You have that right. All these things are legal, so what you don't have a right to do is deny anyone else the right to choose any or all of the above. Is there a law requiring anyone wishing to buy cigarettes to look at photos of cancerous lungs? Is there a law requiring anyone that orders a Big Mac to look at photos of clogged arteries or a diseased heart? Are bomber pilots required to look at scenes of death (kids, included...actual kids, not embryos)before pressing the drop button?...nope. So, why this, then. Ask any anti-abortion organizer why they do what they do and a religious reason will come up, sooner or later. Know a lot of atheists in these groups? AAA doesn't stand for "Atheists Against Abortion". Of course, it's religiously motivated and, therefore, has no business clogging legislative progress. Liberty also includes the stuff you may not like.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous (the first one) said...

This is an issue of humanity and basic reason, not religion. Twice here abortion proponents have tried to name-check religion, which deflects from the reality of the situation. Can either of you articulate your positions without falling back on it?

I don't expect any major legislative victory to overturn the status quo, but that validates nothing. Slavery and many other conventions that we now hold as barbaric were once legal in "civil" societies.

Alas, it seems there's little appetite around here to acknowledge that the least bit of planning could prevent the most unnecessary suffering, for mother and unborn child alike. Where is your humanity?

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where is the GOP's humanity when they oppose trying to educate young people about birth control? Where is the GOP's humanity when trying to make morning after pills more easily accessable, thus eliminating the need for abortions? The GOP is pro-life inside the womb. When the kid's born, they'll complain about education initiatives or any other government program that may promote the quality of life. But, they're quick to send kids off to die in an oil war or execute criminals or let the less fortunate go to sleep hungry and sick...where's the humanity in these cases?

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I can go with the premise that non-religious reasons exist for being against abortion. But, what about birth control? To limit the accessibility of birth control education and services is morally wrong, when considering that the likely option for people with unwanted pregnancies happens to be abortion. And yet, the Republicans fight these efforts every time. People have sex; hard to believe, but true. Pregnancy can be an unwanted byproduct of sex. Birth control is a cheap, easy alternative to abortion. People that choose to have abortions already have thought about the decision and making them go through medically unnecessary procedures to satisfy a politician's sense of self-righteousness is absurd.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will the supporters of this bill also support covering the additional cost involved with waiting periods and additional time required for ultrasounds? Since there are few places to have abortions in PA, women must plan, take off work, provide child care, etc to have a procedure done. Those opposed to this should be ready to pick up the tab to cover the additional costs? If they truly believe in the moral bankruptcy of abortions, what's a few bucks next to saving the babies that they claim are killed? Any of them willing to adopt one of these babies?

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous (the first one) said...

You'll have to find someone else to attempt a defense of GOP policy. Partisanship is a foolish exercise in my opinion.

And between the last two Anons you've set up enough straw men to assure distraction from the original issue for all time. We're not discussing cigarettes, big macs, war, education or capital punishment.

If there is one key point it's that this issue has become so polarized that it suffocates our chances to focus on the actual problem - planning and the education that makes it effective. The million+ abortions that take place in this country every year are, in large part and by their would-be mothers' own admissions, due to lack of planning.

I agree, GOP deserves heavy blame for refusing to support education that could reduce something they so adamantly protest. But Dems have gotten equally comfortable fighting a battle loudly over the symptom - abortion - while relegating planning education to the second tier.

But I have to say it one more time for fear it was not apparent earlier in this chain - we're lying to ourselves if we can't admit a baby in utero is anything other than a baby. Call it an embryo or anything else - if a disrupting force were not introduced it would likely develop just fine. A Supreme Court ruling cannot change the laws of nature and that unborn child should be equally deserving of our humanity.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Anon, you can't oppose something for religious reasons and then ask opponents to argue against you "without name-checking religion."

There is no non-religious argument that says an embryo is a baby. That's why we have different words for them. You can cite "humanity and basic reason" as an appeal to a higher authority, if you like, but that's not actually an argument - and in fact, many human cultures throughout history have practiced not only legal abortion, but legal infanticide. Hell, in Ancient Roman culture, from which we derive most of US law, it was legal to kill a child up until their teens.

You can make a valid argument that a fetus at a certain stage of development can be delivered and survive outside the mother's body, and at that point I begin to see a valid argument that is based in something other than religion. Before that point, however, you have no non-religious leg to stand on. To call a zygote or a blastula a "baby" is ludicrous from every perspective except one based solely in religion.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Greg said...

I'm sorry but that mass of cells is not a baby. There is no accepted definition of baby that says it is. You may call it that, but most contempary forms of the definitions for baby define it as a child. Those cells are far from a child.

You could argue that those dividing cells are a living (in the same sense that any set of cells are living). But that's far as you can go with science on the matter.

And being as how we make it a habit of killing off cells (via drinking) or other lower life forms (animals for food, virus when we are sick) then destroy that growing mass is no more inhumane than killing a chicken for dinner or taking a shot of penicillin to kill a bug.

In otherwords it's value is only that which you as a person place onto it. It is no more important in a purely objective since than any other massing of cells.

It all comes down to perspective.

Now if you want to make this an issue of basic reason then ultimately it fails. Basic reason permits us to find all kinds of excuses to take a life. We are capable of justifying any number of acts under basic reason.

Basic reason says don't bring a child into the world that you do not want. Basic reason says do not bring a child into this world you can't afford.

Now that doesn't mean that a person should use abortion as a form of birth control. But the idea that all abortions are due to bad planning is ludicrous at best. There are a number of reasons why someone gets pregnant.

None of which removes one simply fact. Unless you as a pro life supporter are prepared to help cover the cost of a life that someone else does not want then you should stay out of their business.

It's as simple as that.

7:15 PM  
Anonymous Keanus said...

To further Greg's and Chris's points, the claim made by Anonymous (the first one) is bogus. The claim is fundamentally a religious or philosophical claim, not a biological one. Zygotes, embryos and fetuses all have the potential to develop into an individual baby (or multiple babies in the case of a zygote) but it's only the potential and nothing more. Too many normal events, aside from an induced abortion, can terminate the path to birth. To ascribe to them the quality of being a baby is to embellish their reality beyond reason, which is why the issue is religious/philosophical and not scientific.

I should also add that Anonymous (the first one) in calling those he/she disagrees with "pro-abortion" is deliberately trying load the deck. I work with a PP clinic and no one I know or have ever met—medical staff, administrators, volunteers or patients—is "pro-abortion." Their sole concern is good medical care for the patients, including access to safe risk-free abortions, when called for. Banning or tightening restrictions on abortion will only lead to more clinics like that of Kermit Gosnell, not fewer. And such actions will never reduce the rate of abortion

9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous (the first one) said...

@Chris – What relevance does Ancient Roman culture have here? They also had abundant slavery and denied women the right to vote or hold office so they weren’t exactly the beacon of civility you may have thought.

And yes, there is one great non-religious argument to oppose abortion: Our existence. Both of us are products of the womb, which should be enough empirical evidence to understand the consequences of abortion without falling back on religion. To have humanity in this case implies a common hope that each among us is allowed the same chance at life. It’s called humanity because it’s shared among humans, not deities.

Finally, if you’re staking your entire position on which term should be applied over the timeframe of a few weeks then you’ve missed the whole point. A label doesn’t provide cover to extinguish a human life.

@Greg “Now that doesn't mean that a person should use abortion as a form of birth control.” This is the key.

“But the idea that all abortions are due to bad planning is ludicrous at best.” <-- Nobody said all abortions are due to bad planning, just the majority. Look into it.

@Keanus – I think it’s fair to refer to a commenter who supports the abortion case as an “abortion proponent” and equally so about an abortion rights movement. In fact, I’m not sure a more accurate label exists.

Also, if by your characterization of my perspective as a “philosophical claim” you mean to suggest it’s based on reason then I would have to agree. You offered that “zygotes, embryos and fetuses all have the potential to develop into an individual baby,” so to subject the unborn at any of these stages to abortion would mean that potential for life must be extinguished, right? Haven’t we crossed the threshold of sensibility when we’re just willing to accept this on such a massive scale?

I’m not suggesting we seek to ban abortion because you’re right – we’ll see a return to illegal clinics. But far too much planning education takes place after the fact. We’re failing both the unborn and the would-be mother if the damage is already done by the time we get around to discussing options.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Greg said...

The virtue of humanity gives us a choice. We have free will. And the price for free will is that people will do things we don't agree with.

Not everyone values our existence in the same terms. Or even in equal terms. And it's obvious based on how the world works that people in general feel that some are more important than others.

Some would even question the wisdom or logic of bringing a child into existence if you can not properly provide for it. Or you do not want it.

And I've heard the counter before "If you do not want it/can't afford it then give it up for adoption" And to be honest that a bogus response. In a pay for health system it is not logical to even consider having a kid you intend to give up. The hospital cost alone are enough to indebt you. We provide no form of help for people who do not desire to have a child. So before we take abortion off the table for the sake of pure human existence we need to first improve the existence of the current living.

Also I have looked at the studies on abortion. And I'd have to say, so far it's not coming back that most abortions are due to bad planning. I'd have to say there is no real majority reason on why an abortion occurs aside from the person not wanting the child.

Whether or not we've crossed any thresholds of sensibilties is of course a matter of opinion. In a society that still promotes going to war to solve problems I'd have to say we do not prize life above all else. We create plenty of rules and laws that give us a prescribe justification for taking another life.

To some people aborition is not different. But then again some of us don't beleive that the fetus constitutes real life to begin with. Being as how we can not agree on the term of when life as we find it sacrosanct begins it's hard to claim that we are being unreasonable when we decide that abortion is ok.

In my opinion until such time as the fetus is able to support itself it's not truly alive. It has no more rights to a life than any other form of parasite.

It has the potential for life sure, but that doesn't grant it the same rights as a living being. No more so than having the potential to be a NFL player doesn't grant you the money of that position.

As far as planning education goes, that's really a separate issue apart from abortion. Whether or not there is any planning involved doesn't remove whether or not abortition is illegal.

You can do all the planning in the world and still find yourself in a position to want to abort a pregnancy.

While I do find the education in that realm lacking, it is itself an entirely seperate issue from whether or not abortion should be legal.

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Gynecologist Florida said...

Well its all up to u if u dont want something dont go for it..

11:47 AM  

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