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About Medicine & Morality

MAY 2000
BIOETHICS WATCH

By Nancy Valko, RN

Topics in this issue:

Abortionists
Abortion
Euthanasia
Family Planning
Stem Cells and Fetal Tissue


ABORTIONISTS

A Decision Between a Woman and Her Doctor?

Under new Rhode Island Department of Health rules, mid-level health professionals such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants and midwives will be allowed to perform abortion procedures, making Rhode Island one of just five states to allow mid-level health professionals to perform some types of abortions.

The new Rhode Island rules now also allow abortions after 18 weeks to be performed in doctors offices and clinics rather than in hospitals.

Rhode Island has the 5th highest rate of abortions in the nation. (Source: "State Revises Abortion Rules" by Ariel Sabar, Providence Journal, 12/28/99)

Comment: Everyone is familiar with the Roe v. Wade rhetoric of abortion as a decision between a woman and her doctor, yet 5 states have quietly moved to allow non-physicians to perform abortions legally. One of those states was Montana, where a state law mandating that abortions only be performed by a doctor was overturned in court last year.

Unnoticed by most people, pro-abortion groups like the American Nurses Association now refer to abortion as a decision between a woman and her health care provider. The reason for this is that the number of abortionists is declining as todays abortionists are getting older and retiring or leaving the abortion industry altogether and younger doctors are not flocking to work in abortion clinics. Therefore, to keep the abortion industry alive, rules are being changed. Note also that in RI, the decision to allow non-physician abortions was not made by the state legislature, but rather by the state health department. -- NV

Abortionists Facing Charges
Although it rarely makes national news, several abortionists have been facing disciplinary action from medical boards or even criminal charges in recent months. These are the most recent cases usually reported only in the local media.

ABORTION

Comment: The right to abortion is considered so sacred by some that it trumps even a born child's right to feel loved and wanted. Child experts often talk about psychological child abuse. How would these experts characterize this court case where the parents publicly regret not aborting this little boy? Hopefully, this child will receive help and not be permanently damaged by his parents' actions. - NV

 

Comment: It is significant that the patient herself was not reachable to speak for herself in this followup article. Rather than an "empowering choice", abortion does not make the average woman feel proud and satisfied.

The "noncompliance" with birth control, the pending repeat abortion, the relationship breakup, etc. are not surprising to those who have studied post-abortion trauma and dramatically refute the first article's conclusion which maintained "that psychological sequelae following abortion tend to be minor and that most women feel relieved, as Ms. B did". Obviously, the initial relief was fleeting and it's hard to defend this woman's most obvious current problems as "minor" or as a final solution to her previous crisis pregnancy.

It turns out that this abortion "success story" was a total failure and shows what pro-lifers have long maintained: abortion hurts women as well as the unborn babies.

Some abortion supporters have suggested that pro-life health care providers -- particularly OB/GYNs and religiously-affiliated hospitals -- provide "second-rate" care because they are biased and do not include all options like abortion. This article shows how promoting abortion is the real substandard level of care. -- NV

Comment: It's interesting that no other hospital or lawyer in Missouri had the same interpretation of the law and that the lawyer waited until the last baby died after 2 1/2 weeks to go to the media about this. Yet, the lawyer continues to maintain that his position is the correct one and that any distress to the families is due to the law -- not his legal advice.

The war over banning partial birth abortion has been particularly contentious in Missouri where pro-abortion Governor Mel Carnahan vetoed legislation twice before the Missouri legislature finally voted to override the veto. -- NV

Comment: One unintended consequence of opposing a partial birth abortion ban was that the abortionist had to describe what he does in an abortion -- and it's not a pretty picture. A description of amputation surgery would not be as stomach-turning.

It's always easier to defend abortion in the abstract without getting into the gory details. It would be interesting if women considering abortion were allowed to read a description of the abortion "procedure" using this abortionist's own testimony. For example, it should be a little disconcerting for anyone to find out that a first-trimester so-called "clump of cells" could be extracted whole with his or her little heart "visibly beating" or that the unborn baby's arm could be twisted off to dismember him or her in later-term abortion, not to mention the brain suctioning in the partial birth abortion technique.

Several years ago, I was often asked if I wished I had had an abortion with my daughter who had Down Syndrome and who later died of complications of pneumonia. For awhile, I considered that question an opportunity to inform the questioner about the latest advances in helping people with Down Syndrome.

But one day, I responded differently. I asked the questioner if she knew how an abortion was performed. Like most people, she said no. In just a few minutes, I described a first trimester suction abortion, a second-trimester D&E (this was years before the partial birth abortion technique was developed), and a third trimester hysterotomy. She gasped, "Oh, no, you couldn't do that to your baby!"

"Exactly", I told her. The truly important question wasn't how "defective" or even just unwanted my baby would be. The real question was whether I would be willing to have her killed and in such a horrible manner.

The answer was easy. -- NV

EUTHANASIA

Comment: Note that the parents, not the patient, made the initial contact with the doctor. Patients seeking assisted suicide usually cite fear of being a burden rather than pain as the reason they want to die. Family support for assisted suicide can be a subtle form of coercion in these instances.

This article is also typical of an emerging genre in medical journals over the last several years: A "courageous" but anonymous doctor defends his termination of a similarly anonymous patient he deeply cared about. This article, like the others, involves a doctor with a natural distaste for causing death but who is confronted by a heroic patient who challenges his ideals. After a period of angst, the physician complies with the death request, but suffers during the process. Later, frequent ruminations about the event result in a new wisdom about the terrible injustice of hard and fast rules about killing.

The obvious purpose of these articles is to convince other doctors and nurses that assisted suicide and euthanasia are necessary medical options and that current laws against killing the sick should be changed. -- NV

 

Comment: It is ironic that Kevorkian, who has long also promoted lethal experimentation and organ harvesting on death row inmates should share this award with a crusader against the death penalty.
It is outrageous that Kevorkian, who craved the spotlight and boasted that no one would be able to stop him from perfoming his lethal services until his final trial, is called a selfless believer by people who should know better. -- NV

 

Comment: Note the estimated percentage of cases NOT reported to the government. -- NV

 

FAMILY PLANNING

Buenos Aires, Argentina -- More than 60 pro-life organizations that promote respect for human life in Argentina have published a declaration about a series of so-called "reproductive health" bills being considered by the National Congress, the Legislature of the City of Buenos Aires, and the Provincial Legislatures.

They warn that in the language of international organizations, "reproductive health" "always includes abortion through surgical or chemical means, and attempts against the liberty and rights of families and individual persons."

"Therefore, should a law on 'reproductive health' or 'responsible procreation' be required, it must:

"1. Respect the first of human rights: the right to life of the unborn, from the first instant of conception.

"2. Respect the inalienable rights of parents to impart sexual education to their children.

"3. Guarantee integral care for the mother and unborn child during the pregnancy and birth; for the mother after the birth, for the newborn child during the first year of life.

"4. Guarantee health agents the right to conscientious objection, that is, not to indicate contraceptive methods with probable abortive effects, if this is against their ethical convictions.

"5. Guarantee the right to information, calling for information in simple, comprehensible language on the mechanisms of action and secondary effects of contraceptive methods and their probable or possible anti-implantation, in other words, abortive effects.

"6. Respect for the ethical, cultural and religious ideas of the family in the prevention of sexually transmitted sicknesses.

"7. Respect for justice and equity in the allocation of funds, such as in the area of health, where people have needs that are as urgent, or more urgent, than the reproductive."

(Item is quoted in its entirety from the Pro-Life Infonet News. Source: Zenit News Agency, 5/25/2000)

 

Comment: The real point of this article occurs at the end: "free" contraceptives for all.

But one problem with this is that virtually all contraceptive devices are an abortifacient at least some of the time. For example, one of the recognzied actions of the Pill is that it can make the uterine lining inhospitable to the new embryo, thus causing an early abortion without the woman even knowing conception had occurred. How often this happens is unknown, but most women using the Pill have never been told this (see next item).

So-called "emergency contraception" is acknowledged to cause this action if conception has occurred but because pregnancy has been redefined to mean implantation of the embryo in the womb, abortion supporters deny this is an early abortion. Ditto the intrauterine device, Depo-Provera, etc.

This is quite different from the ovulatory suppression action that Dr. John Rock thought his Pill produced. And, of course, he never foresaw the societal impact of his invention. Pope Paul VI and Humanae Vitae did.

What is also disturbing in the article is the endorsement of "confidentiality" (read "secrecy") for teens obtaining the Pill and other devices. Personally, I am horrified that my 14 year-old daughter, who is just starting to develop, can get powerful hormones without my knowledge. Some of the known complications of the Pill are blood clots and depression. This would be devastating to her but shrugged off by the people who would give her the Pill.

Lastly, the "everybody does it, including Catholics" justification for the Pill and other contraceptive devices shows the need for more education -- not public funding. --NV

 

STEM CELLS, FETAL TISSUE

Comment: Despite actors Christopher Reeve's and Michael J. Fox's testimony on stem cells and embryo research, using embryos and aborted fetal tissue that "would be thrown out, anyway" is not necessary for medical progress in treating diseases. While opposition to ethics of using such tissue does not depend on current or potential alternatives, there would be less incentive to do research using ethically acceptable sources of tissue if we just accepted the use of aborted babies and surplus embryos and allowed taxpayer money to flow to National Institutes of Health [NIH] researchers and others. It's a "dirty little secret" in research that money flows most easily to trendy research areas rather than to the best research.

Following is the response from Richard Doerflinger of the National Council of Catholic Bishops Pro-Life Committee on this latest diabetes research breakthrough:

"The cells are from dead adult donors. They're not stem cells, but mature islet cells. There was some interest in getting such cells from fetal tissue after abortions back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but researchers found that the cells were too immature to produce much insulin and the fetal organs were too small. In these new successful transplants they needed two donor pancreases for each patient. Key to the advance was a new immunosuppressant drug with fewer side-effects. This is the second indication in recent weeks that embryonic stem cells are unnecessary to medical progress toward curing diabetes.

In the March 2000 issue of Nature Medicine, University of Florida researchers reported that they had reversed insulin-dependent diabetes in mice using adult pancreatic stem cells.

'The next step is take this into humans', one of them said." (Reuters, Feb. 28--Rich Doerflinger)


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