Roe v Wade at 42

Thursday, January 22nd was the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision on Roe v Wade effectively legalizing abortion on demand in the United States.  The debate on the issue is one that has never not been polarized.  In 2015 there are many places in the nation where Roe v Wade is purely academic due to obstructionist laws and policies surrounding elective pregnancy termination.  Further efforts to disable and/or overturn Roe v Wade can be expected from the heavily conservative pro-life 114th Congress.

A couple of months ago, just a couple weeks after the November General Election, I was taking it easy at home one morning when my phone rang.  It was a phone banker calling from a pro-life organization to ask me for money.  I cut the guy off and asked him point blank that if abortion on demand was to be completely outlawed, what should happen to those who are caught providing elective pregnancy terminations and to those seeking out and receiving such a service.  It totally caught the guy by surprise as he obviously was not expecting to have to field such a candid question from a pro-choice proponent.  It put him on the spot and he had to tap dance and come up with a quick response.  He stated that anyone who breaks the law should be subject to punishment but refused to detail what those punishments should be.

In my dealings online and in person with some of the more rabid members of the pro-life lobby, some advocate for draconian punishments for physicians and health care professionals who provide direct and supportive care for patients opting to terminate pregnancies and for those same patients.  Some have gone as far as to advocate for the Death Penalty for abortion providers.  Some have already carried out their own brand of justice on physicians such as Dr. George Tiller.  I shudder to think what some of the punishments would entail if Roe v Wade were ever to be overturned and abortion on demand were to be completely outlawed.

Back to my call from the pro-life phone banker.  I explained to him that my views on the issue come from being a mid-level health care professional, specifically a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) who provided obstetrical anesthesia in the hinterland for ten years.  When I am in the driver’s seat of an emergent C-section at 2 AM my contract is with the woman.  We in anesthesia operate on the premise that Momma can make a new baby but baby can’t make a new Momma so don’t kill the factory.  If it ever came down to a choice between the two, Momma’s life always came first.  I also explained to him that even though I am now a non-believer in deity and religion that I had the same views even when I was a believer.  I understood even as a person of faith that there was a segment of the population that was going to seek pregnancy termination regardless what my views on the matter were and for that reason it should be available, easily accessible, safe and well regulated.  I then told the caller that I was not trying to sway him away from or get him to vacate his position.  I only wanted him to think it through and to be careful what he wished for because of the extremist factions in his camp.    After I managed to waste some eighteen plus minutes of the phone banker’s time the call dropped, well either that or he hung up in frustration.  To our mutual credit the discussion was amicable and never degenerated into epithets or name calling.  I say that because in so many exchanges with pro-life people I have often been dismissed as a “baby killer.”

On a personal note I will say that as an adult male in my mid-50’s with no children, I will never be one who will have to deal with the issue of elective pregnancy termination in the first person.  Such a predicament is a crisis of the most personal sort.  Knowing what I know I believe it needs to be a service that is not only available but affordable, accessible, safe and regulated.

Roe v Wade

Image by c-span.org