Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dr. Tiller and Late Term Abortions

We are all aware of the murder of Dr. Tiller, who ran a clinic that performed late term abortions in Kansas, one of only 3 in the country. His death is one more example of how extremist thinking can lead to dangerous behavior. There are those who, while saying they abhor this murder, will be hoping that his clinic will now close. They assume, like most of us, to know why women have late term abortions. In their view the choice is obvious -- at that stage all women should be preparing for a live birth. Yet I suspect if they knew what life for that newborn would be like, assuming survival of labor and delivery they might want to reconsider. Would they inflict that life on their own child?

Have a look at this interview over at Anderson Cooper's page at CNN and, while you are at it, make certain that you read the actual letter (a task that some of the more sanctimonious commenters clearly failed to do). Then, ask yourself - if this happened to you or a loved one, what would you do? What decision would you make?

If you would like to read more stories, go to A Heartbreaking Choice.

It is evident from these stories that the women who choose a late term abortion are not doing so out of convenience. They are horrified at the options that lie before them and angry at the cruel trick being played on them - pregnancy without the reward as one poster put it. They wish for a miracle that will prevent the inevitable, which is either death or a difficult, painful, and short life. In the case of Down's Syndrome, they often do not know where on the spectrum the fetus is unless there are other obvious abnormalities. All of them feel the pangs of guilt along with grief, no matter how certain they are that termination is the right choice.

I have said before that medical science has pushed the envelope in determining viability outside the womb. It has also pushed the envelope in identifying conditions that are, as described to several posters, "incompatible with life." I don't believe it serves any purpose to deny women all of the options available to them in such circumstances. I don't believe that our legislators are capable of setting arbitrary limits on when abortions can be performed. I do believe that medical science can best provide the facts to the couple involved and that the parents, in consultation with those they trust, are best able to make the decision on how to proceed. If anything is going to be legislated it needs to be done with the full participation and concurrence of the medical community.

Dr. Tiller and his clinic provided a service that was, and still is, needed. Argue if you like about when life begins and whether abortion is right or wrong, but do not ever assume you know what the right choice is for a woman who is seeking a late term abortion until you have taken that journey yourself.


The North Coast said...

Medical practitioners I've discussed this with state emphatically that the ONLY time a late-term abortion is ever done is when it is medically necessary- either to save the mother's life or because the baby has such severe defects that it could not live outside the womb, such as the lack of a spinal cord, or a brain that is only a brain stem, or a comparably serious defect that dooms the child at birth.

Late term abortions are NEVER done for convenience or from "choice"- they are done because there is no alternative except the death of the mother, or the birth of a child who will probably be stillborn or unable to live without life support. They are rare, accordingly.

The religious conservatives have completely distorted this sensitive issue to serve their purposes. And, while these people did not directly instigate the murder of this doctor, they laid the ideological groundwork that enabled his killer to justify himself.

Kheris said...