Abortion Ban - Myth vs. Reality
Abortion Ban - Myth vs. Reality
Anti-choice propaganda combined with confusing medical and legal terms has obscured the true implications of the U.S. Supreme Court's regressive and dangerous ruling on abortion. The media is having trouble reporting accurately on this hot-button topic, due to its complexity. Some stories even question, or fail to grasp, the importance of this ruling. Make no mistake, last week's Supreme Court decision to uphold the federal abortion ban is a major setback, not just for women's health but for all patients and health-care providers in the United States.The decision to enforce the ban sets a dangerous precedent for political intrusion into our most private decisions about medical care, and it undermines the autonomy of every American. With this ruling, the court has declared, any time there is debate within the medical community, Congress has the right to cast the deciding vote. In essence, the door is open to let Big Brother dictate the type of health care you can (or cannot) receive. Medical decisions should be made by patients in consultation with their physicians, not politicians with an ax to grind or a constituency to impress.
A common misconception about the ban, often reported by the media, is that it is a ban on late term or "partial-birth abortions." In fact, there is no such thing as a "partial-birth abortion." This is not a medical term but rather a made-up slogan designed by anti-choice politicians to paint a misleading image in the public's mind.
In reality, the banned procedure is an intact dilation and evacuation. According to major medical associations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and health-care advocates such as Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health and Planned Parenthood, for some women in certain cases, it is absolutely the safest abortion method. This method can be used in the second trimester, long before a fetus is "viable" or able to survive outside the womb. Its impact reaches much farther than late term abortions, which are already closely regulated by the state.
Women undergo abortions in the second trimester for a number of health-related reasons. For example, the pregnancy may be harming their health by exacerbating a medical condition, such as a heart condition or kidney failure. Many severe fetal anomalies, such as the lack of a brain or kidneys are not detected, until the second trimester.
In addition to usurping the decision-making power of patients and doctors, the ruling ignores 30 years of well-established Supreme Court precedent. One of the protections codified in Roe vs. Wade, and reaffirmed by the court many times since then, is the need to protect women's health when restricting abortions. By refusing to allow an exception to the ban that would protect women's health, the court has severely undermined one of the key protections in Roe vs. Wade. Under the ban, a woman's life must be in danger before she can receive the type of care that many doctors believe is best.
This clearly goes against the best interests of patients and health-care providers. Most will agree that the point of health care is to protect our health. How can it be ethical to demand that a patient be on the verge of death before a doctor can treat them in the safest way possible? How is a doctor supposed to make this decision in a split second? If the doctor makes the wrong decision, he or she could face jail time. Is this what you want your doctor worrying about when he or she treats treat you or your daughter?
The restrictions won't end here. This ruling has given the green light to anti-choice politicians to pass all types of new restrictions on abortion. We can expect to see more bans such as the one the South Dakota legislature attempted to push through last year before giving their constituents the chance to vote.
The implications of this ruling are far reaching. Thoughtful citizens should be asking themselves, "What next?" Collectively, we defend a woman's right to make her own reproductive decisions, including the right to a safe and legal abortion, as well as the right of health-care providers, not politicians, to make critical medical decisions. President Bush has stated twice in as many days that politicians should not be telling generals how to do their jobs. They shouldn't be telling doctors either.
© 2007 The San Francisco Chronicle