The Supreme Court thinks Congress knows more about women’s health than does the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

And: Why I continue to be grateful for the lessons I learn from my mother

My mother, from whom I learned so much about social justice, freedom of thought, women’s potential, and the need to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, sent the following news release from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (The addition of bold and italic styles are mine, just for emphasis.)

ACOG NEWS RELEASE

For Release: April 18, 2007
Contact: ACOG Office of Communications
  (202) 484-3321
  communications@acog.org

ACOG Statement on the US Supreme Court Decision Upholding the
Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003

Washington, DCDespite the fact that the safety advantages of intact dilatation and evacuation (intact D&E) procedures are widely recognized—in medical texts, peer-reviewed studies, clinical practice, and in mainstream, medical care in the United States—the US Supreme Court today upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (ACOG) amicus brief opposing the Ban, the Act will chill doctors from providing a wide range of procedures used to perform induced abortions or to treat cases of miscarriage and will gravely endanger the health of women in this country.

“Today’s decision to uphold the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 is shameful and incomprehensible to those of us who have dedicated our lives to caring for women,” said Douglas W. Laube, MD, MEd, ACOG president. “It leaves no doubt that women’s health in America is perceived as being of little consequence.

“We have seen a steady erosion of women’s reproductive rights in this country. The Supreme Court’s action today, though stunning, in many ways isn’t surprising given the current culture in which scientific knowledge frequently takes a back seat to subjective opinion,” he added.

This decision discounts and disregards the medical consensus that intact D&E is safest and offers significant benefits for women suffering from certain conditions that make the potential complications of non-intact D&E especially dangerous. Moreover, it diminishes the doctor-patient relationship by preventing physicians from using their clinical experience and judgment.

“On behalf of the 51,000 ACOG members who strive to provide the very best possible medical care to the women we serve, I can only hope that in the future, science will again be at the core of decision-making that affects the life and well-being of all of us,” said Dr. Laube.

# # #

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is the national medical organization representing over 51,000 members who provide health care for women.

~~~~~~

She sent this as part of a comment on a different post, and I asked her if I could reproduce some of that here. She agreed.

What I was most touched by in her comment was that she seemed to be identifying a concern that goes beyond this monumental decision and points to a problem with so much of our approach to social policy as a nation: we seem to be unable, as a country, to act compassionately. She fears that the rhetoric on both sides of this issue miss, sometimes, the concerns of people like her who feel pain at the thought of the loss of an aborted baby and who also feel pain at the fate of unwanted children who are born into situations over which they have no control.

Her comment points to problems that our abortion debates in the US so rarely touch on with the depth they require: that our economic system and political system are not oriented toward being supportive of working families. Our lack of universal health care, of living wages, and of inclusive, family-friendly workplace policies for example, put pregnant women under strains that they should not have to face and cause families to suffer financial hardship and the interpersonal stresses that come from that. Politicized health care policy keeps effective contraception out of the hands of people who need it most resulting in more unwanted pregnancies all while restricting women’s ability to deal with them.

We in the US have become well-socialized into a system that pits against each other groups that actually share many common interests, and does so in a way that a privileged few benefit while the rest of us fight each other. That so many feel so threatened makes it harder for us to feel compassion for one another. And without that compassion it is hard to imagine policies that can ease the conflicts. It is a truly dangerous cycle.

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5 Comments

Filed under abortion, activism, Advocacy, Info, and Activism, culture, Gender, Gonzales v. Carhart, Health, News and politics, pro-choice, public discourse, sex, sex and health

5 responses to “The Supreme Court thinks Congress knows more about women’s health than does the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

  1. Alex

    “The Supreme Court’s action today, though stunning, in many ways isn’t surprising given the current culture in which scientific knowledge frequently takes a back seat to subjective opinion”.
    After American policies on stem cell research and global warming this does not come as much of a surprise.

    “And without that compassion it is hard to imagine policies that can ease the conflicts.”
    Are there policies that can ease this particular conflict? I admit this is a subject I don’t think much about, and I hope I don’t have to decide on (generally pro-choice though).
    Still aren’t most of the serious anti-abortionists against the destruction of any cell after fertilization, where as most of the people in favour of abortion think there is no issue until the foetus can survive or develops neurons. So the arguments are incompatible, and any policy that treads between them is going to be criticised by both sides as being useless.
    Though you are right in that we do need compassion for the people which these health policies affect. Politicising of any medical service is just going to cause problems for the people who need the service.

  2. ryan

    “feel pain at the fate of unwanted children who are born into situations over which they have no control.”

    so the answer to this is to abort the pregnancy. dont you think that the individuals involved should take responsibility for their acts and do the right thing? I guess i just dont understand this partial abortion thing could someone explain to me why a woman would want one? thanks

  3. hatbox

    Ryan – this type of abortion is typically used when the life or health of the woman is in danger, and when the fetus is either already dead or so deformed as to be unable to survive.

  4. Actually, hatbox, given the way the law was written, my understanding is that banned a procedure that involved killing a fetus depending on its positioning, so it would seem to only apply to live fetuses. Tom Joaquin promises a more thorough exploration of that line-drawing. (And of course the statement above makes it clear that regardless what specifically the ban applies to, phsicians will be concerned about providing other procedures as well.)

    I think it’s important for people who share Ryan’s question to know that this specific procedure is used in a small minority of abortion procedures, but that its infrequency is not a sign that it is never necessary. I would welcome a comment by a physician who could explain why sometimes this particular procedure is the best choice. I doubt if any woman wants this procedure. I think what some women need sometimes is an abortion when this is the procedure that is medically indicated.

    It’s also important to remember that late term abortions are so infrequent partly because of improvements in women’s health care, including the protection of access to early abortions when necessary. Decisions like this one erode women’s access to health care, which can’t be good for them or for their families.

  5. The procedure is typically used in cases of hydrocephaly that are so severe that the fetus’ brain has been destroyed [or nearly so] and the fetus’ head is too large to safely pass through the birth canal. Hydrocephaly normally does not occur [or is not diagnosable, I forget which] until the pregnancy is well advanced, generally late-ish in the second trimester.

    This is why the doctor “sucks out the brain,” although the real action here is that all that excess fluid that so grossly deformed the head is what is being sucked out. The brain, already irreparably damaged by the abnormal accumulation of fluid, is sucked out too, of course, but that’s kind of beside the point. This collapses the head to somewhere near normal size so that the now-dead fetus can be delivered vaginally.

    The only alternative to this [admittedly gruesome-sounding] procedure is to deliver the live fetus by caesarean section and allow it to die. If I remember correctly, death usually occurs a few minutes or so after delivery.

    Although my blog post isn’t especially well-written, I did include some links where I found some good information. Check them out, use their information if you find it helpful.