Hooray For Our Side
Some, but certainly not all of you, are familiar with the Buffalo Springfield song from long ago commenting sarcastically about the protests of the Sixties. In the aftermath of the decision to reverse Roe v Wade, I am reminded of that insight. I have written in previous posts about our socio-cultural failure to discuss and think critically about important issues. Instead, we shout our position or our opposition across the street or the internet at the "other side". Abortion is one of those issues in capital letters. As a clinician, I am called upon at times to help women, families, to decide what to do with an unexpected pregnancy. It is always a heartrending, complicated and difficult decision. To call it a "choice" seems to me to trivialize it, making it sound like deciding which flavor of ice cream to get. I tell my patients that they have to choose between two wrong answers and that, whichever way they choose, there will be repercussions, regrets. For you see, there is no "right" or "correct" answer, despite what the extremists on both sides assert with such certainty. The 22 year old holding a sign extolling the rights to her body and the sixtyish woman standing up for the unborn have no idea how they feel about abortion unless they or someone they love has been there. They can think they know but they don't. It is only when you, your wife, your daughter is pregnant that you discover how you really think and feel about abortion. At this point, you might wonder what gives me, a man, the right to comment on a topic that is so solidly a female issue. Fair question. Back in the early eighties, I was hired by a very enlightened CEO of the local Planned Parenthood affiliate. I say enlightened because I was tasked with helping the counselors deal with the chronic emotional stress of helping pregnant women make the choice to end the pregnancy or continue to term. The counselors were obviously all pro-choice but that did not protect them from the emotionally-grueling stress and drain of dealing each day with women in obvious and understandable turmoil. The stereotype of the flight attendant breezing in for the procedure and then jetting off to Paris is just that, a stereotype. The real situation was more likely a fourteen year old minority or a 39 year old single mother of three grade school-aged kids.
Roe v Wade is the wrong question. Thinking that banning abortion is the answer is like thinking that banning guns is. The reality is that there will always be unexpected pregnancy and therefore abortion, just like there will always be guns. The analogy is apt, I think. The real legal issue, in my opinion, is not whether there should be abortion but when. I have a nephew through marriage who was born at 26 weeks. His early months and years were sometimes difficult but, when at eighteen I took him golfing, all that seemed not to matter. When did he start being a person? Isn't that the question we should be asking the courts to decide? The ultrasound has demystified the development of the fetus in utero and demonstrates clearly that there is an incipient human life. This is where it's gets difficult. And this is where the extremists on both sides make addressing the issue seem so impossible. The gun analogy helps, in my opinion. An AR-15 looks like a military weapon and therefore to me sends a wrong message. A bullet may be a bullet but the gun that fires it is part of the problem. In the pro-choice world, late term abortion is its AR-15. Other countries have addressed this reality. Most of the countries in Europe set the upper limit between 18-24 weeks. France, I believe, is 20 weeks. I believe strongly that we need to establish such a time frame through the federal courts so that it can be applied across all of the states.
Because this is real life, there is no simple, complete or perfect solution. It makes me angry to hear people who have only theoretical experience with abortion shouting "Hooray For Our Side."