Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Intolerance of No Choice

In regard to a number of comments sent to me lately, I would like to articulate the following. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but I would like to point out a few things about misconceived notions. First, most abortions ARE NOT some form of birth control, although I’ve heard of women who got pregnant because pharmacists would not fill their birth control prescriptions. Another problem. Second, most abortions are performed on married women. Third, a majority of terminations are performed because of actual medical problems, not necessarily putting the mother’s life at risk, but then again that is not our business. But the fact is that for a number of medical reasons, women who are having planned babies are advised to terminate. But my point is that this is all an issue between doctor and patient and no more our concern than any other procedure. I wonder whether there would be a debate if the procedure were one that only men underwent.

I know of many women who have had abortions, and not one is sorry she had the abortion. I know of no one who “wanted” it, but nonetheless each understood why it was the right decision for her. My attitude is not cavalier, but it is based on medical rather than religious belief. It is never a decision taken lightly. But if abortion is not made available to all women, regardless of station in life, there will be worse tragedy.

Choice works both ways. For instance, a woman I knew, pregnant for the first time at 40, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although not for religious reasons, she refused an abortion. She felt she could deal with the cancer later despite the admonition that cancer is much more aggressive in a pregnant woman. She had a healthy baby but sadly did not live to see his first birthday. But it was her choice. We mourned and if I could go back in time, knowing what the result would be, perhaps I would have said something. But I said nothing because I felt strongly that it had to be her decision.

In a perfect world, there would certainly never be a need for abortion, whatever the reason, but to believe that abortion is another form of birth control is a mistaken concept that is put forward particularly by men who would prefer to misinform and control. Even if every single pregnancy in the world were a planned one, there would, unfortunately still be a need for termination of certain pregnancies, and I don't mean because it would not be a "perfect" baby, but because it could be a tragic outcome, such as grossly compromised child who might or might live a short time, or one who is already dead in utero. I in fact know a woman who was carrying a much wanted baby. The doctor informed her the fetus was no longer alive around the fourth month, but for his own insane reasons told the woman she had to carry to term because "it would be better." For whom, I don't know. But it took an incredible emotional toll on her to carry a dead baby all those months and suffer the oohs and aahs of people who didn't know. How could they be aware of such a cruel thing being perpetrated? And then, as you mentioned, there are the cases of rape, incest, danger to the woman’s life, etc. But why should a woman be under scrutiny and subject to passing a "test" for an abortion as if she were on trial? Once more, it is a medical procedure and as such should be treated like all other medical procedures—as a matter between doctor and patient.

Every woman who has not had to wrestle with this tough decision must feel relieved, but that cannot in any way make you self-righteous or smug. I imagine everyone is acquainted with women who have had an abortion but may not even be aware of it. Be more tolerant. One is entitled to beliefs but not to foist them on others.

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