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GUEST COMMENTARY: No one is exempt from a tough pregnancy decision; don't make it harder

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Along with many women’s health advocates, I celebrate our governor’s recent veto of House Bill 1307 (a bill designed to limit access to abortion).

Thank you, Governor Nixon!

Access to abortion is an essential part of contraception. All methods of contraception have failure rates. Women get pregnant trying mightily not to.

As a physician, I have heard the stories — they are legion and nobody is exempt. It is an error in thinking to presume that a woman between puberty and menopause who has a uterus and who is sexually active with a man won’t get pregnant.

You think your method of birth control is sure-fire? You can be sure I have heard a story of a couple who got pregnant using that method.

If pregnancy isn’t compatible with the woman’s physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial health, then access to abortion is a part of her right to seek full health, to control her destiny.

Cancer, violence, poverty and despair can happen to pregnant women. In times of hardship, a woman must dig deep and find strength to consider her options and make her best choice. Those of us who care about women must support those choices, knowing they were made with the best that the woman has.

Contraception is essential to health care for women. To pretend that it is not is to deny the realities of the lives of women. It is integral to the health of women that they have access to all forms of family planning.

For women with chronic illness who are in their childbearing years, a plan regarding contraception is always a part of that care. Unintended pregnancy carries risk to both the mother and the baby. Some of these risks persist for a lifetime.

My opinions are grounded: 54 years of lived experience in the body of a woman and informed by over two decades of practice as a family physician.

HB 1307 would triple the required waiting period a woman must endure before she can have an abortion.

Presuming that a woman needs more time to consider a difficult decision such as seeking an abortion is misinformed, deeply disrespectful and dangerous. Many women choose abortion to save their lives and the lives of their children, whether due to co-existing illness, domestic violence or poverty. Placing obstacles in their way places their health and their lives at risk.

Women are capable people. We can make our own careful decisions and we do. We do not need someone else to tell us how to do that. In my experience, by the time a woman sees a physician she has already thought things through quite thoroughly and waited longer than she wanted. Pretending that this legislation is about safety or concern for women is deceitful.

Again, I celebrate Governor Nixon’s courage in vetoing this legislation. I shudder to consider that the legislature may likely have the votes to override his veto. I call on all fellow citizens to speak up and to legislators to stand up for the rights of women.

We can and we should work to keep abortion safe and legal and accessible and then work to make it increasingly rare. We can do this by increasing access to contraception, by decreasing poverty, by reducing domestic violence, and by empowering women.

Elizabeth Alleman is a family physician in Columbia.


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Comments

Joanne Schrader July 16, 2014 | 3:14 p.m.

Translation: Abortion on demand for any reason. Most people reject the extremism of this position no matter how softly it is pedaled. As a pro-life volunteer, I've met many mothers in crisis with an unplanned pregnancy. She considers abortion because she feels she has no choice -- no other way out of her present situation. Social, financial, spiritual, emotional, and physical circumstances are temporary and can be alleviated by less than the permanent lethal means of abortion. That is why pro-lifers offer tangible support to pregnant women such as the St. Raymond's Society, maternity homes, and other alternatives to abortion. Yet, abortion supporters fight against very real assistance to these moms.

Here are a few real world examples from personal experience: A woman learns she is pregnant and panics because her partner recently lost his job. She thinks "How can we afford to have a baby now?" It is not good for their financial health. Help is offered to this couple. Fast forward: Not only do they have their baby now, he landed a better job, and they decide to get married. If she had gone through with the abortion, no baby and perhaps a continued downward spiral. For another couple, it only took help with a propane bill.

In the end, abortion does not remove the situation that brought the woman to contemplate ending the life of her son or daughter. It only delivers a dead baby. If she is being abused, after the procedure she goes right back to an abusive home. Women should not have to choose between their jobs, education, shelter, etc. and their children. We must support and empower them both. Even in cases of fetal abnormalities, perinatal hospice should be offered.

As a home birth mom, I respect Dr. Alleman's support for midwifery. However, I must disagree with her stance on abortion. Finally, I ask "if abortion is such a good thing for women, why would you want it to be rare?"

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 16, 2014 | 5:40 p.m.

That something is legal doesn't mean it's inherently good or desirable. With some restrictions (mainly having to do with the minumum age of a potential purchaser and/or user) both alcoholic beverages and tobacco products are legal, but are they considered as being "good" for the health of the consumer?

I would like to see abortion remain legal, but as little actually resorted to as possible. My reasons for maintaining legality, as I've stated before, concern that making abortion illegal would create the same situation as the monumental error caused by the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Did making the manufacture and/or sale of alcohol cause Americans to cease consuming alcohol? If any American today believes it did, I'd question both their education and their sanity.

However, the Eighteenth Amendment certainly was a boon to organized crime, wasn't it?

Freedom is about choices, preferably about making and exercising intelligent ones, and on a case by case basis. The idea that we can simply legislate matters either into or out of existence is truly a bad and sad joke.

Yes, John (Schultz), should you read this, the above is a decidedly Libertarian stance.

(Report Comment)

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