Health Policy

February 12, 2024: Keep Your Politician out of My Doctor’s Office!

Posted on February 23, 2024 at 12:00 AM

By Karen Pataky, co-chair, Health Policy Task Force

That is, revise and renew protections for health care for America’s women. Let’s be clear: No one wants an abortion. But when contraception fails, many families do not have the resources to properly raise a or another child, which leaves some parents feel desperate.

Abortion has always been a class issue. A woman of affluence has usually had access to a credentialed physician in a private, sterile office for a safe abortion and for state-of-the-art contraception. Or that woman could travel to another country, such as Puerto Rico, Canada, or England. These women did not die from sepsis or hemorrhage.

Common terms for procedures in private American offices are “menstrual extraction,” “back-bay appendicitis,” and “taking care of it.”

Before Roe v Wade, desperate middle-class and poor women resorted to dangerous self-abortion procedures, including the use of the infamous coat hanger, swallowing or douching with toxic substances, or the “back alley” abortionist. During the 1950s and 1960s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that about 2,000 women per year died via hemorrhage or sepsis and accounted for 20% of all maternal deaths. Many of those women were already mothers and their families fell into crisis. When the CDC brought these tragic deaths to public notice in the early 1970s, many Americans were horrified and Roe v Wade was created to provide the same safe and private abortions previously only available to wealthy families.

The end of Roe v Wade sends us back to the caste system of medical care, where only the rich deserve state-of-the-art treatment for health concerns. This is un-American and must be remedied.

Let’s clarify some medical terms and correct inaccuracies. First, every normal pregnancy covers 40 weeks, which are divided into trimesters. The first trimester ends at 14 weeks. The second trimester ends at 28 weeks. The delivery date should be at 40 weeks. There is no truth to labeling for an abortion at 26 or 28 weeks aslate term. These abortions are rare and tragic and usually due to life-threatening maternal illness or severe fetal abnormalities.

“Democrats believe in abortion up to the time of birth” is another untrue accusation. But there are tragic circumstances that can occur between the 28th and 40th week of pregnancy due to the mother’s severe medical illness, such as eclampsia, malignant hypertension, pneumonia, or a fast-moving blood cancer. Or the fetus can develop complications. These crises are managed by inducing labor to ensure saving both lives, and are usually successful.

One last incorrect phrase: “the fetus is viable at 23 weeks”; 23 weeks is barely half way through the pregnancy. The term “viable” is correctly associated with evaluating the likely survival rates of premature births. But, in these dire circumstances, “viability” relates to the likelihood of survival only if the premature infant has immediate access to a state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). NICUs are not readily available in many states and should be more of an issue in discussing successful births.

We must fight back against the intrusion of politicians into the oversight of medical care for women or anyone else. We need to acknowledge that this is likely the beginning of an authoritarian takeover of America’s entire health care system. And no one will be safe from the MAGA Republicans’ evaluation of the worth of lives that do not concur with their orthodoxy. We women are the canary in the coal mine!

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