Medical ethics vs. religious politics
The U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions, along with a variety of health care services for women. The Virginia General Assembly last week approved legislation that requires abortion clinics to be regulated as hospitals, and providers say the stricter regulations will force many of them out of business. Both measures were pushed by anti-abortion activists. Should personal and religious views be allowed to prevent women from having access to a legal medical procedure?
I cannot figure out why the reproductive rights of women cannot be left alone by politicians and others who disagree with the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion.
I do not like the fact that abortions happen. Honestly, in these days of the ready availability of so many types of contraception, it is hard for me to understand why anyone who doesn't want to get pregnant ...gets pregnant. I don't believe in the "oops" phenomenon, amongst the vast numbers of women who are in child bearing age. It is simply too easy now to not get pregnant.
But when a woman does get pregnant, and does not want to be pregnant, I cannot figure out why people - politicians and others - just don't leave them alone.
Opponents of abortion want to protect the unborn fetus. OK, I get it. But those same protectors of the fetus turn their attention away from the babies once they are born. There is no outcry to take care of the children once they are here. In fact, lawmakers right now are proposing budget cuts that will cut funding for education of these little children. Headstart programs are being targeted for cuts. Health care for children has not been a priority of lawmakers in this country.
So, the hue and cry over the "rights" of the unborn fetus are particularly troubling.
The United States Congress wants to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood as a budget initiative, and again, I might not be so irritated if those same lawmakers seemed concerned about how to make life palatable for the children who have been born and who live desperate and miserable lives.
If abortion were outlawed, and everyone delivered the babies they conceived, then what? The fetuses would all be protected. They would be born...but if their mothers didn't want them, and there was no extended family to take care of them, what would the anti-abortion proponents want to do then?
Surely, they would not want the federal government to become involved, perhaps building orphanages for them, and voting for more dollars for public education. That would be big government, and so many people think big government is responsible for much of what is fiscally wrong with America.
If those unwanted kids were allowed to simply exist in environments where they were not loved or wanted, and began to act out because of the emptiness they felt, becoming criminals or untreated mentally ill individuals, I again wonder what the cry would be of those who fight so hard for the unborn fetus. Would there be a hue and cry for the "rights" of these children who would be causing confusion in American society?
They probably would vote for more dollars to build more prisons, to house these trouble-makers. They would sigh at the fact that the crime rate was rising and the recidivism rate was also rising.
But the unborn fetuses would have been protected.
There is a danger when any of us insert our personal and political beliefs to become issues when it comes to practicing medicine. Early in America's history, white hospitals would not treat black patients, and many people died because of it. The fact that personal and political beliefs are the bullies driving policy as concerns Planned Parenthood and clinics which provide, in addition to general women's health care, abortions, is troubling, it is wrong, and it is unethical.
I see it as no less unethical as would be a surgeon refusing to perform surgery on a person because he or she had raped someone. Sometimes, what we are called to do is unpleasant and distasteful, but is defined within the confines of our professions.
My prayer is that more women use contraceptives so that they are not faced with the terrible moment of considering having an abortion. I pray that more and more adults talk to teens about sex so that perhaps some teen pregnancy can be reduced. I pray that women who decide to get abortions will be able to do so without fearing for their lives.
And I pray that politicians and religious do-gooders will get out of the way and let women choose what they want to do with their bodies.
Susan K. Smith
March 3, 2011; 6:43 PM ET
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