Articles

This section of readings is split into three categories of interest: Sociological Research, Personal Material and Net/Newsaper Material.

PERSONAL Material

Article 1 - No, I am NOT a "Rock." On Abortion and Waiting Room Men

Article 2 - Why I Provide Abortions


No, I am NOT a "Rock."

On Abortion and Waiting Room Men

Were I asked to name the single pop tune that had the most to teach us, I would name "I am a Rock," even though it requires a keen grasp of irony.† On the face of it the Simon and Garfunkle tune offers a pernicious stereotype, a caricature of sealed off, bottled up males. Allowing for how this fits far too many Conon-like dunderheads, I contend it does not fit most American men- and the more we can do to move "many" to "most," the better.

If you want in-your-face evidence that a good many guys are not†"rocks," spend a little time with over 500,000 males annually found in the waiting rooms of the nation's nearly 400 abortion clinics (about half of all abortion-seeking women generally have a man sitting by in the clinic or doctor's waiting room).† And if you want to help move "many" out and into the ranks of most (feeling) men, please join me in an on-going effort to reinvent the clinic experience of the waiting room men.

I have been there, both as one of them, and soon thereafter, as a sociologist trying to find out more about them (and thereby, about me).† To get deliberately ahead of the story below, what I found was moving and poignant, as might be expected.† But it was also exasperating and even infuriating, two outcomes that took me by surprise, and have me ever since eager to gain the support of feminist women in an urgent reform campaign.

Back in the 1970s, when "Nancy," a former lover, nervously called a month or so after we had broken up, I was shocked to learn she was pregnant, and we were going to have an abortion.† Both parts of that phone sentence knocked me over.† We had enjoyed an intimate two-year relationship, and I knew she had been on the pill before we met and throughout our live-in love affair.† What I did not know, "Nancy" softly explained, was that severe headaches had had her go off the pill, "just for a little time," and she had now resumed taking it after getting a better prescription.† Nor had I known that before calling to tell me "our" decision "Nancy" had taken several days to make up her mind alone about what to do about her pregnancy.

"Nancy" was quick to get me to promise that I would discuss this with no one, absolutely no one - and I was quick to agree.† Something inside told me this was a mistake, however, and over the years since I have realized over and again how true that was.† Scores of males I have interviewed since have told me I was the first person they had ever told of their part in an abortion months or even years before.† Many cried with the relief disclosure and processing makes possible.† We would sit in the back of a dinner in a booth I had "reserved" for an hour's interview, and still be there hours later, with crumbled kleenex tissues strewn about, and a sympathetic waitress hovering nearby to keep the coffee cups filled.

(Feminists could model a deep-reaching improvement by encouraging guys to seek counseling immediately on learning of their part in creating an unwanted and ill-timed pregnancy... rather than seal their lips, as is common today.† Men need an opportunity to explore what might be hard for them. To get over a loss of control. To discuss religious and spiritual thoughts.† To deal with a feeling of helplessness, and to define a role that helps normalize the experience. Few can deal well by themselves with the enormity of the situation, though many have learned since childhood how to bit their lip, and focus outside themselves on bravely "doing the right thing.")

After catching my breath, and assuring "Nancy" of my full support, I agreed to go with her that weekend to a distant suburban Abortion Clinic she had located ("No one could possibly know us out there").† The Clinic required two visits, each separated by at least a week. The first was for education and any counseling you might request.† The second for one last mandatory meeting with a counselor, and then, the procedure itself.

I was quite confused, as I had no previous experience with what was clearly a crisis.† Nor had I ever heard any males discuss the matter - either in real life† or in the press or on the media.† With two wonderful young sons living nearby at the home of my former wife, I was ambivalent about suddenly becoming a new father.† How would I explain this to my boys, even as I knew they would be intrigued and shyly supportive. How would I explain this to my folks and my friends - even though I knew they would smile, shrug, or hold their peace. Above all, I felt honor-bound to back up "Nancy" in whatever decision she finally reached ... though our two previous years together suggested to me she might not be as resolved as she had said.

Sitting with four other couples in a small room adjacent to the Clinic Waiting Room, I learned in detail for the first time about the abortion process.† The young staffer was cool and competent, in sharp contrast to the eight of us uneasy learners.† Afterwards I asked to speak privately to her, and explained that I resented her breezy reference to a mere "clump of tissue," something as easily discarded as any other unwanted "stuff."† She was startled, and insisted her mentors had given her this language, and no one had ever complained before. We agreed to leave it at that, though I felt chilled.† I also asked if there were any take-away pamphlets or articles written for males with "frequently asked questions," and I was not surprised by her surprise and turn down.

At "Nancy's" insistence I agreed not to discuss our situation with anyone, including her.† Instead, a very long week later we drove again to the Clinic, this time for an early-morning mandatory counseling session, after which "Nancy" could have her abortion.† As fate would have it, our counselor turned out not to be the "sweet young thing" with whom I had differed a week ago.† Instead we were very fortunate to be ushered into the office of the no-nonsense, highly-intuitive, and very caring Director of the Clinic.† She asked a few searching questions of each of us, and then to our utter astonishment, told us she was not going to authorize the abortion ... at least not at that time.

Instead, the Clinic Director urged us to go off and really talk this through, as she had concluded from our halting answers that we were not yet resolved.† We had until the Clinic closed at 4pm to return if and when we achieved a very honest closure, or, we could come back the following week, or not at all.

We spent one of the longest afternoons of my life wandering around the suburban neighborhood, talking softly about every possible alternative, including my willingness (which I had been only barely aware of) to take the baby and raise it as a single father (Lord only knows how!). There was also the availability of older women relatives of hers possibly willing to do the same (though none had any knowledge of our situation).† And, of course, we could place the child for adoption, though "Nancy" judged this the least acceptable of the options.

"Nancy" cried, I cried, we cried, and neighbors looked on uneasily.† We would briefly resolve to bring the fetus to term, or as we preferred to say, have our baby ... only soon thereafter to leave that trance-like state and plummet back to earth. "Nancy's" folks would be greatly hurt by her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, her career (which was very satisfying) would be thrown for a loss, and we were no longer in a loving relationship and had no intention to resume one.† Just before the Clinic closed its doors at 4pm, we met again with the Director, and this time got her authorization. Several years later, with the memory still a "live nerve" source of both pain and relief, I found myself drawn to research the subject of men and abortion.† I have never understood sociologists who study topics they have not "lived," and who dare to offer "findings" at one remove.† I respect their effort at immersion and empathy, but have my doubts.† I am also disappointed with colleagues who knowingly "plow a well-plowed field," who grind out still another article or book on an arcane topic first mulled by the discipline's forefathers Comte and Saint-Simon, and probably far better said by Harriet Martineau, our re-discovered "mother" of sociology.† My two-part test - at least for myself and the sociologists I honor - is whether a social issues research subject has thus far earned little warranted attention, and whether or not I have "walked a mile in the moccasins" of the Other.

In 1983, I began a self-financed research project with the help of Lynn Seng (now my wife) and writer Garry McLouth, a new friend I met when we both appeared on a "Donohue-on-NBC" NEWS discussion of men and abortion.†

I began by visiting several Abortion Clinics in Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh, and around the Philadelphia area.† I found more than I had bargained for, e.g., a downtown Clinic in Philadelphia operated by a feminist advocacy group told† waiting room males who asked for access to a bathroom to go across the street to a pizza parlor and ask there. At the largest Clinic in midtown Manhattan I asked why the pamphlet rack was empty and filled with old cigarette butts. It was explained that filling it fell to the last hired staffer, and she was just too busy to care.

Convinced by my tour that the situation was worse than when I had sat, paced, perspired, and jumped up to ask every passing staffer about "Nancy's" well-being,† years earlier in a clinic waiting room, I got Gary and Lynn to help me draft a survey for use with guys at the clinics.† After testing our survey form out on my male undergrads, we tried to get clinics to place the survey in their waiting room.

To our dismay, all of the 45 affiliates run by Planned Parenthood refused.† This unexpected rebuff was only made clear much later when the PP Research Director was quoted in a TIME magazine article about our work explaining that as far as she cared, "it doesn't matter how much men scream and holler that they are being left out.† There are some things they are never going to be able to experience fully. I say tough luck." (Leo,Time, Sept.26, 1983; 78) On its publication I got a secret call in a disguised voice from a member allegedly of her staff apologizing abjectly for this viewpoint, and assuring me it was not held by other PP professionals).

Other turndowns explained that death threats regularly aimed at Clinic personnel left them no energy or time to circulate and collect surveys. Or that the males would not want to be bothered.† Or that many of the males were functional illiterates.† Or that for-profit owners of the Clinic did not support drawing any attention to their business.†† And so on.

We persisted, nevertheless, and slowly managed to secure 1000 surveys from men in the waiting rooms of 32 cooperating clinics in 18 states. Gary and I (mostly Gary) interviewed about 200 of the guys, and after laborious key-punching the voluminous data, we three (mostly me) wrote the first - and still the only - academic book on the subject - Men and Abortion: Lessons, Losses, and Love†(1984). Thanks in part to some media attention the book soon got I was actually able to get one local clinic to attempt the reforms we advocated.† After I attended a staff meeting and listened around the table to the pros and cons of various reforms, the Clinic actually put some of them into operation. Every Saturday morning the newest counselor went into the waiting room area and offered counseling. Free pamphlets were stocked in a rack. And after-abortion counseling was also offered to the guys.

When I checked back three months later I was astonished and crestfallen to learn the entire project had been shutdown. It turned out that nearly every guy had signed up, and many had refused to leave even after their partner was ready to go because they had not yet had their chance at counseling.† As well, the young staffer made the mistake of telling others some of the dramatic tales she was hearing, and envious senior staffers were insisting that they should replace her.† Since her entire day was now taken up working with males, her caseload of clinic patients fell on the weary shoulders of colleagues. Overwhelmed by the seeming "success" of the experiment, the Clinic - albeit with reluctance and abject apologies to me - ended it.†

For years after I processed the entire matter in my course in "Social Change and Social Planning," and we tried - though only on the blackboard - to figure out how it all might have been done better.† And how we might try to do it better the next time.

More recently, throughout 1999 and early 2000 CE, I once again self-financed a small study to update my 1984 findings and see what difference, if any, 16 years had made. Thanks to the door-opening help of Claire Keyes of the Allegheny Reproductive Health Clinic in Pittsburgh, an outstanding friend of waiting room men, I was able to get completed surveys from 905 men in eleven clinics in eight states and Vancouver, BC., and I am busy now trying to make sense of it all.

Both in 1984 and 2000 I found men were in waiting rooms because they care (no "rocks" them!). Over and again they tell of being deeply concerned about the welfare of their sex partner … about her health, stress, and pain. Abortion clinic staffers who pass through the waiting room are besieged by nervous, perspiring men eager for news about the women they accompanied to the facility. (And yet the men are told nothing to help them prepare for the emotional roller coaster many women experience immediately after the procedure, a time when searing questions and bruising doubts may surface).

To turn briefly to some survey data from waiting room men, 73% in 1999 and 69% in 1983 would have liked to have accompanied their partner throughout the abortion - provided she first agreed.† 55% vrs. in 1999 would have liked a private meeting with the counselor and their partner before the procedure.† 39% would have liked a private meeting with the counselor;.† 36% would have attended an educational group session focused on contraception (techniques, effectiveness, costs, etc.). And 27% would have joined a small-group discussion made up of other waiting-room men and a clinic counselor.

Half of the 905 men, by the way, signaled their willingness to pay for these Clinic options (40% would pay $25 to $30; 10%, $36 to $50. This level of support might be greater were a provider to explain the need for financial subsidization in language customed-tailored to male attitudes and values.). Taken all in all, the survey feedback suggest many such guys want information, support, and help in the resolution of any grief, guilt, or relief they may be feeling.

A separate survey I financed also in 1999 had several students of mine phone 127 clinics nationwide to ask what services, if any, were actually available - research that made plain a striking lack of male-aiding options - much as I had found 16 years earlier.† Although some 73% wanted an opportunity to be with their partner in the Procedure Room, only 22% of 127 clinics allowed this option.† Some 92% of the men wanted to hold the hand of their partner in the Recovery Room, but only 24% of the clinics allowed this. To be sure, in 1983 even fewer clinics allowed male access to the Procedure Room men - 12% (procedure) and 12% (Recovery Room) - and some comfort can be taken from this percent gain over 16 years - but the gain is very slight.

As for counseling, while some 39% of the 905 men expressed an interest in securing this service, and 55% would have liked a private meeting with their partner and a counselor, 60% of the 127 clinics did not offer any such option.† While in 1983 only 32% of my 30 cooperating clinics did not have a pamphlet rack and/or reading material specifically designed to help men with their 1,001 questions about abortion (its impact, aftermath, etc.), in 1999/2000 CE the figure rose to 78%.† This, despite the fact that 38% wanted information about birth control, and pamphlets are perfect for carrying away.

Leaving further analysis to the book I am writing with Claire keyes, after16 years the picture would still seem to call out urgently for redress. Men are still not having emotional needs addressed, needs for counseling, support, and healing aid.† Given this record, it is not surprising - though thoroughly dismaying - to learn that while in 1983 some 25% of my clinic waiting room men were abortion repeaters, 16 years later the figure had risen to 30% - a climb plainly in the wrong direction!

When I first discussed these findings publicly at the Fall 2000 Conference of the National Abortion Federation in Pittsburgh, I heard once again - as in 1983 - many earnest explanations focused on the plight of providers in these difficult times.† For example, providers at the Conference noted they had inadequate resources to meet the needs of women, their primary patients, better yet take on those of the male sex partners. They had no expertise where male counseling is concerned. They are under siege from the crazies, and cannot open up another front at this time. They are courteous, and will help any men in dire straits, but cannot devote more time and effort to this matter.

Far less often I heard far less responsible thoughts: e.g., men are only interested in power, and any quest for services from abortion providers is just a power-grab in sheep's clothing. Men should be tough enough to tough it out themselves.† Wimpy men are disgusting! Men have got to get used to taking second best! Women have suffered long in that place, and have come through better for it. Men are best seen and not heard from - especially as abortion is only a woman's business.

As for the first bevy of explanations, I think there is much obvious merit in them. Unless and until men are willing to help pay for services it is not reasonable to expect clinics to provide them. Foundations, however, have never been asked for support here, and this seems long overdue. A clinic receptionist could go beyond being courteous to also point out to waiting room guys certain male-aiding services newly available. And clinic personnel could include a man with counseling skills - one who could relate well to both sexes.

As for the second bevy of explanations - the male-bashing rants - I chose not to dignify them with a point-by-point response. I do fear for both sexes in any provider facility that employs holders of such extreme sexist views. I hope such misguided souls soon wrestle with the advice of abortion counselor Stephen McCallister: "… we know from both women and men that involving the man is important…. Men - and women - need roles other than those of victims and villains… male involvement is central to finding the best possible solutions to some of the worse possible situations." (Men and Abortion, p.154)

In sum, then, what is it that I hope feminists will soon help achieve?† Where abortion clinics are concerned, feminists could help pressure providers to provide many new services:

  1. 1. Waiting room men could be told ahead (via a letter carried away from the first contact the woman has with a clinic) of their options (e.g., accompany their partner throughout; attend a group or one-on-one counseling service; take a mini-class via a VCR film in contraception; etc.).
  2. 2. Men could be required to pay according to their means to help subsidize these services.†
  3. 3. They could be offered the opportunity to view a VCR film designed to answer many of their most commonly asked questions about abortion.†
  4. 4. They could access a well-stocked pamphlet file. As well, wall posters could promote the use of sound contraceptive options.†
  5. 5. They could be offered the services of a male counselor.

In return, men could learn how fragile is the situation (In April, 2003, 48% of Americans considered themselves "pro-choice" and 45% called themselves "pro-life.")† Waiting room males could learn the policies here of the major pro-choice organizations (Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Feminist Majority Foundation).† They could be invited to sign pro- choice petitions and complete pro-Choice postcards addressed to lawmakers. They could learn how to promote more and better sex and family planning education in the schools. If such men left a clinic or medical office with a full appreciation for what is at stake, they could prove valuable new troops in the Abortion War.

Naturally, as with any non-trivial matter, new developments make for complexities.† With the rapid arrival of a non-surgical alternative, RU-486, the role of the male is less clear than ever in abortion decision-making: Females may terminate a pregnancy without the knowledge and/or aid of the putative father altogether (as is true now in perhaps 15% of all abortions).† Similarly, ectogenesis (artificial womb), while still about five years out as a feasible technological prospect, can sideline a male who may never know what has happened to an embryo he helped create.† Just how we will define a "win-win" role for males where these frontier abortion technologies are concerned cannot be discussed soon enough ... and the input here of feminists of both genders is urgently needed.

Abortion providers are justifiably proud of how much they care about their female clients (see the great article, "Are You Ready to Really Understand Abortion?" in Glamour, September, 2003). Most go out of their way to deliver a service that reflects that pride. More, however, could be done to help men who have a role in abortion decision-making and in the later emotional healing of women (and themselves). More could be done to have the experience understood as "our abortion" rather than "her abortion."

I know this at first hand, and I worry about my brothers in clinic waiting rooms today, men little better off for what they experience there than I was three decades ago.† Providers ought to help both†parties at equal-care†sites. If women are ever to live alongside the high quality of men they dream about, we tend to reform in over-looked quarters, in out-of-sight venues like our abortion clinic waiting rooms.

References:

Daryl Chen. "Are You Ready to Really Understand Abortion?" Glamour, September 2003. pp. 264-7, 294-5, 299.

John Leo. "Sharing the pain of Abortion: men feel isolated, Angry at Themselves and their Partners." Time, September 26, 1983. p. 78.

Stephen McCallister. "Men Who Counsel, " in† Arthur B. Shostak, and Gary McLouth with Lynn Seng. Men and Abortion: Lessons. Losses, and Love. New York: Praeger, 1984. pp.153-158

Arthur B. Shostak, and Gary McLouth with Lynn Seng. Men and Abortion: Lessons. Losses, and Love. New York: Praeger, 1984.

A different version† of this article appeared in†SWS Network†News†(The Newsletter of Sociologists for Women in Society), December, 2003, and another in Origins Magazine, Summer/Fall, 2005.

Arthur B. Shostak, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Department of Culture and Communication, Drexel University, Phila., PA, 19104

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Why I Provide Abortions

I provide abortions for my patients and for any other girl or woman who feels this her best option after making what is, for most women and their families, a soul searing self-examination before arriving at the decision to abort a pregnancy.

Why would I or any other reputable physician provide abortions? Good question.

First the long answer.

In 1964, I was admitted to medical school on the day that our second child was born.† I sat with my wife through her labor and at the last minute they took her into the delivery room where our son was born.† My mother and father, her mother, my sister and about a half dozen friends were at the hospital with us.† All came into her room a few minutes after delivery. There was such a tremendous feeling of love and goodwill in that room that I decided then and there that if I were granted the opportunity, I was going to become an Obstetrician. † †††† I started medical school in the fall of 1964 at age twenty-nine, the father of two wonderful children, the husband of a wonderful wife, and the happiest man in the world.

But a large part of this answer began years before the night I decided to become an Obstetrician.† I had grown up in a small town, the son of small town teachers.† We were Methodists but we went to whichever of the two churches (they alternated services) was open on a particular day for worship, Sunday School, MYF, BTU, prayer meeting or revival; the Baptist or the Methodist, it didn't matter...we were there!† My father was the Sunday School superintendent (at the Methodist church) and my mother played the piano at both churches.† Obviously we were well churched. We were also poor as church mice since my parents had five children on a very limited income.

I had no concept that I would ever be able to go to medical school when I was young, and when we started in 1964, I had no idea how we were going to be able to finish.† But my mother always said to me, "the Lord has a special purpose for your life."† (I suspect that she told all her children that.) The longer I live, even though I am not a particularly superstitious man, the more I have come to believe that to be true for each of us - if we make it happen.

By 1967 I was a third year medical student, still with no visible means of support, and we were pregnant with our third child.† It was the spring of that year and I was ending my rotation in the Ob-Gyn Service clinic.† I was assigned a 40 plus year old, poverty stricken mother of several children.† I think she was unmarried but I am not sure of that now.† This care worn mother-of-several had a large abdominal mass which I rapidly determined to be a well advanced pregnancy.† I asked my resident to come and break the news to this woman; it was very obvious to me that she was not going to be happy about the news of another pregnancy.† When told that she - already unable to adequately feed and clothe her family - was again pregnant, she looked up at me and the resident.† There we stood, two white males, well clothed, well feed young men with superior educations.† We were, in her eyes, stunningly blessed and obviously going places in the world.† She began to weep silently. She must have assumed, for good reason, that there was no way that we would understand her problems; she knew also that there was nothing that we could or would do to relieve her lacerating misery.

"Oh God, doctor," she said quietly, "I was hoping it was cancer."

That mother's anguished whisper eventually became a shriek of despair and hopelessness that has reverberated in my heart and mind and soul for over thirty years.† Before that moment, forever seared like a brand on my memory, I would have described myself as "Pro-Life" had I then known this political term .

Over the next few years, I was exposed to real life as it is lived by millions of people who don't have the sanctification granted in America to those who are white, male, well educated, well gene-ed, well nurtured, well advantaged.† I learned that what this woman knew was a personal tragedy for herself and her family, was only one face in a multifaceted problem confronting thousands of girls and women every day.

How did I learn this?

I learned it - really made it a part of my essential being - by seeing the repercussions of desperation walk, and crawl, and be carried through our emergency room door three, four, five times, every night for four years. Each night we would admit to the wards of University Hospital in Little Rock (a fairly small hospital, as metropolitan hospitals go) girls and women with raging fevers, extraordinary uterine and pelvic infections, enormous blood loss, and a multitude of serious injuries of the pelvic and intra-abdominal organs as a result of illegal and self-induced abortions.† During the years 1971 through the end of my residency in June, 1972 we did in the same hospital perhaps twenty to thirty safe, legal abortions a month on girls and women of various ages for mostly elective reasons.† The contrast between the outcomes for these two sets of women was dramatic, not only for what happened to them immediately - that is, the almost total lack of complications in those undergoing legal abortions and the terrible consequences of some of the illegal abortions that we saw - but also for what happened over the next few years to those who had illegal abortions as they discovered that they were sterile, or faced total hysterectomy for the effects of injuries suffered during their illegal procedures.

I could and sometimes do go on for hours about what I saw during those years of training and in early private practice, before abortion became universally legal and affordable in the first few months of pregnancy for any woman who determined, for a myriad of reasons, that carrying a pregnancy to term and delivering a baby was not in her best interest.† Or perhaps not in the best interests of her family.† (The very poor in those early days of legal abortion were covered by Medicaid.)

What of the concern for, as a ninth grader expressed it, "someone who is often forgotten, the little life who doesn't even have a chance to live."

No one, neither the patient receiving an abortion, nor the person doing the abortion, is ever, at anytime, unaware that they are ending a life.† We just don't believe that a developing embryo or fetus whose mother cannot or will not accept it, has the same moral claims on us, claims to autonomy and justice, that an adolescent or adult woman has.† I have never seen an abortion decision entered into lightly by anyone involved.† The decision to have an abortion is usually made in the time of the first great personal moral crisis that ever faces a girl, a woman, her family and the people who love them.† It is only those who stand outside and condemn the women and families who are faced with these dilemmas who take lightly the decisions made in these straits and trivialize the circumstances in which they are made.

Moral dilemmas are always about difficult problems. Decisions between right and wrong are not moral dilemmas; decisions between right and wrong should be no-brainers and they should never be difficult.

It is in deciding between what we consider morally near-equal alternatives that we are forced to make agonizing appraisals.† The decision between competing evils or competing goods - these are the judgements that may burn in your mind and live forever in your memory, that fry your soul. And it matters not whether one believes elective abortion a good or an evil, for every abortion decision is made between self-perceived competing goods or competing evils, not between obvious good and self-evident evil.

Is legal abortion dangerous? I personally have not seen an abortion injury to a woman since 1974, with three exceptions: One was a young women who became sterile after a post legal-abortion infection in 1974 in my practice; another was a woman from my practice who had a ruptured uterus in about 1975 as the result of an abortion done in Little Rock at about twenty-four weeks by a resident using a no-longer-used method of abortion. The last exception was a mother of five whom I admitted to my hospital in about 1991 with a septic abortion at about twenty-six weeks pregnant.† She or someone else had obviously tried to abort her.† The fetus was alive, but the fetal membranes were ruptured and blood from the uterus was mixed with a stinking pus, fouling her body, her clothes, and her bedclothes.† (She was the sickest obstetric patient I had seen in a number of years, and the sickest abortion patient I had seen since June 1, 1971.)† She had a fever of about 104 on admission and was threatening to go into septic shock.† We got her stabilized and loaded her with massive doses of antibiotics.† She was lucky.† We were able to induce labor, deliver the extremely premature and septic fetus which died almost immediately, and she went home in about three days.† Arkansas Medicaid did not cover her abortion, but it did pay part of the bill for her recovery from one, which was well over ten times the cost of a first trimester abortion.

I know of only two deaths from legal abortions in the state of Arkansas since 1970.† One was in about 1980 or 1981, a young woman from Springdale with severe heart disease who died as a result of complications of her heart disease, who had the abortion done by another physician at my hospital where she died in the recovery room, before she was to go to Houston for open heart surgery; the other was probably a patient of Dr Bernard Nathanson, an early abortion provider in New York state and maker of The Silent Scream. This was a doctor's daughter from Northeast Arkansas who died after she came home, in about 1970 or 1971, as a result of self-neglected complications of an abortion that Dr Nathanson may have performed in New York.† The girl came home, started having serious problems and died rather than tell her parents of the abortion.† It was only discovered at autopsy, and her story was then told by a friend.† There may have been others; if so, I am not aware of them.

There are risks to any medical procedure; however, legal abortion, done by competent medical personnel is among the safest operative procedures performed today in the United States.† From 1972 through 1990, there were 563 deaths from abortions of all types - legal, illegal and spontaneous - in the U.S.; fewer than half that number were from legal abortions.† In 1990, there were in the United States a total of 5 women who died from legal abortions and another 5 from spontaneous abortions.*

*{Taken from the Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report (MMWR) published by the Center for Disease Control.† New editions of the MMWR covering abortion usually come out in May of each year.† It takes several years to collect reasonably accurate statistics about abortion deaths, since each death report must be thoroughly reviewed before the CDC publishes their data in order to make sure that the most reliable numbers are available for making public health policies.† The numbers through 1991 will be published in May, 1997.}

I mentioned earlier that my mother always said to me, "the Lord has a special purpose for your life," and that the older I get, the more I think she may have been right; not just for my life, but for all of us.† (But we have to find that purpose ourselves.)† We each have unique skills, talents and abilities to be used in the service of our fellow human beings.† What I mean by this is, that I was led into OB-Gyn by my love for delivering babies.† Gynecology was really to be only an appendage to my obstetrical practice and I am sure that providing abortions, even thinking about abortions, would never have been a major part of my life had other physicians in my area continued to provide them as was being done prior to 1984.† However, I soon found my practice inundated with abortion patients because other physicians who had also been providing abortions stopped doing so.† In late 1983 it suddenly became uncomfortable, and very soon dangerous, to provide abortions. I literally had no option but to make a "Sophie's choice" between delivering babies, which I loved, or making what for me would be an immoral and unethical decision, that is, to choose to abandon those girls, women and families who started coming to my office by the dozens.† How could I look my children, my wife, my mother, my friends - myself - in the face and say,† "I believe that abortion should be legal, safe, and available.† But now some people disapprove and it's become very uncomfortable, perhaps even dangerous, to provide them.† And so I am going to stop doing what I know to be absolutely right.† When it gets uncomfortable or dangerous, it's OK to say, `not me, coach.'"

Was that the morality that I wanted to demonstrate to my children? To parade in front of my wife, my family and friends?

Not me, coach!

Why do I provide abortions?

Here is the short answer.

Like multitudes before me and, I trust, multitudes to come, I eventually heard (Try as I might to avoid hearing it!) in that mother's grief-filled declaration, "Oh God, Doctor, I was hoping it was cancer", a still, small voice asking, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" to which I was at last compelled to reply, "here am I, send me."

William F Harrison, MD, FACOG

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