Why I Am An Abortion Provider

A must-read article:

I have been an abortion provider since 1972. Why do I do abortions, and why do I continue to do abortions, despite two murder attempts?

The first time I started to think about abortion was in 1960, when I was in secondyear medical school. I was assigned the case of a young woman who had died of a septic abortion. She had aborted herself using slippery elm bark.

I had never heard of slippery elm. A buddy and I went down to skid row, and without too much difficulty, purchased some slippery elm bark to use as a visual aid in our presentation. Slippery elm is not sterile, and frequently contains spores of the bacteria that cause gas gangrene. It is called slippery elm because, when it gets wet, it feels slippery. This makes it easier to slide slender pieces through the cervix where they absorb water, expand, dilate the cervix, produce infection and induce abortion. The young woman in our case developed an overwhelming infection. At autopsy she had multiple abscesses throughout her body, in her brain, lungs, liver and abdomen.

I have never forgotten that case.

After I graduated from University of British Columbia medical school in 1962, I went to Chicago, where I served my internship and Ob/Gyn residency at Cook County Hospital. At that time, Cook County had about 3,000 beds, and served a mainly indigent population. If you were really sick, or really poor, or both, Cook County was where you went.

The first month of my internship was spent on Ward 41, the septic obstetrics ward. Yes, it’s hard to believe now, but in those days, they had one ward dedicated exclusively to septic complications of pregnancy.

About 90% of the patients were there with complications of septic abortion. The ward had about 40 beds, in addition to extra beds which lined the halls. Each day we admitted between 10-30 septic abortion patients. We had about one death a month, usually from septic shock associated with hemorrhage.

I will never forget the 17-year-old girl lying on a stretcher with 6 feet of small bowel protruding from her vagina. She survived.

I will never forget the jaundiced woman in liver and kidney failure, in septic shock, with very severe anemia, whose life we were unable to save.

Today, in Canada and the U.S., septic shock from illegal abortion is virtually never seen. Like smallpox, it is a “disappeared disease.”

Read it all. It is brave and it is good.

Author: has written 5281 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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54 Responses

  1. ElleBeMe
    ElleBeMe February 4, 2008 at 1:33 pm |

    I firmly believe that if the pro-choice movement focused on what life was like pre-roe – stories of the abortion wards, of the deaths, the mamings were aired again, repeatedly and without apology the purported “pro-life” movement would have a lot of answering to do.

    Place pictures of dead women from illegal abortions next to pictures from pro-liar websites with their hateful vitrol and we may have a change of attitude in the general public.

  2. Ms C
    Ms C February 4, 2008 at 1:55 pm |

    Anti-choicers don’t care if women die from illegal abortions. To them, the slut got what she deserved for having OMG TEH SECKS and not wanting to “pay the consequences.”

  3. Emily
    Emily February 4, 2008 at 2:09 pm |

    What a brave doctor. Thank you for linking to this article.

  4. roses
    roses February 4, 2008 at 2:10 pm |

    The National Post is a very right wing paper. I’m pleasantly surprised that they printed this.

    Anti-choicers don’t care if women die from illegal abortions.

    The hard-core anti-choicers don’t. But the majority of Americans (and Canadians) fall somewhere between pro-choice and pro-life/anti-choice, uncomfortable with abortion but also uncomfortable with the idea of young women dying from illegal abortions. Nothing will persuade the hardliners to change their minds, it’s the in-between people we have to reach if we want the majority on our side.

  5. bastard.logic
    bastard.logic February 4, 2008 at 2:14 pm |

    Garson Romalis: “Why I am an abortion doctor”…

    by matttbastard 
    Via Jill @ Feministe: check out this speech given by Canadian abortion provider Garson Romalis, delivered on January 25th at the University of Toronto Law School’s Symposium to Mark the 20th Anniversary of R. vs. Morgentaler…

  6. Caro
    Caro February 4, 2008 at 2:31 pm |

    Ms C, you’re right… the hard-core anti-choicers could care less if outlawing abortion would mean that the “bad, naughty” women would go to prison, be horribly injured, or even die.
    But hopefully a lot of the people who have fallen for some of the anti-choice rhetoric and are therefore “on the fence” about abortion, stories like this doctor’s or accounts of illegal abortions would sway them.

  7. LadyTess
    LadyTess February 4, 2008 at 2:50 pm |

    I too have to agree with Ms C. The anti-choicers think if these women die from doing what they deem wrong then there will be less of them in the world and more people who think the same way they do.

    Sharing stories like that of this doctor would be an eye opener for fence sitters but I doubt it would sway those hard-core antis who believe children are worth more than adults and especially women.
    I don’t really think showing pictures of women who had suffered or died from illegal abortions would really be the answer but that is mainly because i believe it is disrespectful to the dead. But if these women gave consent to show their pictures in the hopes that antis would realise the suffering then I would say they should be broadcasted in every medium. (Notice how those still born babies never could give consent.)

  8. syfr
    syfr February 4, 2008 at 3:11 pm |

    LadyTess, hardcore forced pregnancy advocates don’t give a shit about children. They only care about unborn fetuses, potential children. Actual children, born and breathing, not so much…

  9. Dianne
    Dianne February 4, 2008 at 3:21 pm |

    On one side of this debate we have people who dedicate their lives to saving women from septic abortions, who prevent them and their partners from being murdered for their “sin”, who allow women to follow their dreams instead of being stuck in dead in jobs and despair, who prevent children from growing up being seen as nothing but an obstacle. On the other side we have people who bomb medical clinics, who attempt to murder doctors, who threaten bioterrorism. So, who deserves the term “pro-life”?

  10. kegbot1
    kegbot1 February 4, 2008 at 3:24 pm |

    Thanks for linking this for Americans like me who don’t normally read The National Post (I’m a Toronto Star reader actually) . As for the hard core antis – two of them have already posted in the comments section under the story. You’re right of course – they absolutely do not care that women would die horrible deaths if abortion were made illegal. But the one thing that always gets me about the hypocrisy of these people is that they have an overwhelming love affair with the fetus right up until the second it is born – than its fair game for the capitalist state. Both before and after, too many mothers in the US do not get adequate pre- and post-natal care because these people believe that only those that have gamed the system sufficiently DESERVE proper medical care. One wonders why these people want so many children in the world that they are unwilling to provide a decent social service net for! Making women carry to term and then saying ‘ok, now you’re on your own’ is not pro-life.

    Perhaps they’re just thinking about future cannon fodder for their wars.

    Speaking of honoring Dr. Morgentaler, check this out from the CBC’s 1983 archives:

    http://archives.cbc.ca/IDC-1-69-107-787/life_society/morgentaler/clip7

    The woman who stopped the shears wielding man is Judy Rebick whom I worked with as part of http://www.rabble.ca.

  11. LadyTess
    LadyTess February 4, 2008 at 3:40 pm |

    I used the word children because thats what they think the unborn are. Maybe I shouldn’t have attempted to use their language. Sorry.

  12. DAS
    DAS February 4, 2008 at 3:41 pm |

    I’m not even sure if sharing stories like this would even sway fence sitters our way. My experience is that many people who adopt a “pox on both of your houses attitude” and who disagree with “extremists on both sides” is that part of their ability to disagree with those “extremists” is that these fence sitters are just happy to be disagreeable and have a mean streak a mile wide.

    I fear that the response of too many fence sitters to these sorts of stories would be “well, it serves these women right for breaking the law”(*), and they would be more inclined to sway anti-choice (because the anti-choice side’s agenda would result in more opportunities for mean spirited people to feel morally superior to “law breakers getting their just desserts”) rather than less so.

    Or maybe I’m just being mean-spirited and projecting?

    * of course, if these mean-spirited fence-sitters (or their daughters/wives/sisters) ever had to get an abortion, it would be “different” and it would be unfair if they had to suffer because they had a botched-illegal abortion due to a lack of legal abortions … but they wouldn’t blame the anti-choicers for restricting abortions … they’d blame “those women who abused the right to have an abortion by using it as birth control and who thus made it bad for the rest of us”.

  13. EG
    EG February 4, 2008 at 4:01 pm |

    What a brave, brave man. I teared up reading this.

  14. SarahMC
    SarahMC February 4, 2008 at 4:02 pm |

    A lot of the “reasonable” anti-choicers deny that this sort of thing could ever happen again. Sure, the stories disturb them, but for some reason they think that in 2008, outlawing abortion would not lead to these horrors.

  15. Mold
    Mold February 4, 2008 at 4:49 pm |

    For most of the foes it’s the ability to tell someone else what to do. One roomie with F**kyou amounts of trust fund used to tell me that the best part of being rich is not having to listen to stoopid. She’s still correct.

    Part of the problem is that those of us who recall the deaths and sterilizations are dead, dying, or just plain old. Most of our movers and jigglers (Spears sluts ) haven’t a clue how bad it was.

  16. tannenburg
    tannenburg February 4, 2008 at 4:49 pm |

    I think this man’s speech is an elegant riposte to all of those who claim that doctors who perform abortions fall into two camps – those “in it for the money” (although I can’t imagine having “performs abortions” on one’s resume pulls int he big bucks) or those who are callous baby-murderers. His work and dedication comes from compassion and empathy for the women he saw suffering early in his career, and that compassion and empathy has sustained him through trials after which many of us, quite frankly, would be hard-pressed to continue.

  17. EG
    EG February 4, 2008 at 4:58 pm |

    The more I think about it, the more I would like to send this doctor a note of appreciation and admiration, but for obvious reasons, I am guessing that his contact info would be hard to find. Does anybody know of a good place to direct such a note?

  18. BadKitty
    BadKitty February 4, 2008 at 5:07 pm |

    the scary thing is that fewer and fewer doctors are learning to do abortions. a great many are of retirement age and there are few docs stepping up to take over. it’s hard to find doctors willing to put themselves and their families through what this gentleman has had to deal with.

    i used to work at a clinic and one of our doctors had photos of his children sent to his home – some anti-choice crusader had found his children and taken pictures of them at their school, just to let the doc know what he could do if he wanted to. the doc had his life threatened numerous times and his photo was on a assassin’s list on the net, along with his home address. i was so proud to work with him, and the other 2 docs who worked for us, that i cried sometimes.

  19. ElleBeMe
    ElleBeMe February 4, 2008 at 5:12 pm |

    Part of the problem is that those of us who recall the deaths and sterilizations are dead, dying, or just plain old. Most of our movers and jigglers (Spears sluts ) haven’t a clue how bad it was.

    You don’t have to remember the bad old days to know what could have happened to you if you’ve had an abortion post-roe. Well, at least that is my perspective.

    My great aunt nearly died from hers. She didn’t have the cash to get a safe one, so to the back alley she went. She survived, but could never have children afterwards – when she was married and willing. I remember my mother telling me of her story – and I thought about it a lot before/after I had my safe, legal one back in 1995. And I really do believe that if the past is shown again to be the not so great “good ol'” days it really was, perhaps more people would stand up and take notice.

    Priior to 1973 there was no “pro-life” movement when plenty of women AND their fetuses were dying from illegal hack jobs…they should be reminded of this incessantly.

  20. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe February 4, 2008 at 5:26 pm |

    It’s just infuriating that doctors like this should have to risk their lives to provide a legal, desired and needed medical service.

    If we took a fraction of the money and effort we spend on “anti-terror” measures that have us removing our shoes at the airport, and devoted it to snuffing out these real-life terrorists, there probably would be a lot less anti-choice terror.

  21. No Offense
    No Offense February 4, 2008 at 5:32 pm |

    No offense, but this whole article and the comments that follow it are big on rhetoric, small on critical empirical or logical analysis. Does anybody know how common these “botched abortion” scenarios actually were?
    Also – note the assumption that readers of this site have: that women’s lives are more valuable than an unborn fetus’. I’m not resolving this one way or the other – it just strikes me as odd that people could be so sure how to resolve that dispute when morality is so subjective. It would help the debate is people would at least acknowledge that their starting assumptions – e.g. that either the fetus is worthy of equal moral consideration or it isn’t – is pure sentiment and not based on anything remotely objective. Obviously if you start with the assumption “fetus are equally important to women’s lives” and thus a woman’s right to bodily integrity can’t overcome that, then it’s not so nonsensical to be opposed to abortions, even if some horrific things like this happen as a result.
    Finally, the motivations and thinking that people here ascribe to pro-lifers is almost comical. I come from a very pro-choice liberal family, but have several pro-life friends, and I assure you I have never heard one even implicitly suggest that women should be punished for being “sluts.” You are just constructing some propaganda version of people who disagree with you. Just try to keep it logical – acknowledge your unfalsifiable starting assumptions, and if enough people agree with that, you will win politically. Also, try to find some empirical data on the actual numbers we would be talking about.

  22. GA
    GA February 4, 2008 at 5:38 pm |

    I live in a country where the right to an abortion is not threatened and I know that if I ever needed one, I would be able to get it easily without sacrificing my health or my savings.

    Reading stories like this reminds me of my great privilege and highlights the importance of both preserving the rights I already have and fighting for those millions of women who don’t have theirs. Learning about the realities of life without the right to an abortion is important, learning about the experiences of the courageous people working for women’s rights in dangerous and threatening situations is important. These people deserve our utmost respect. Thank you for blogging about this article.

  23. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 4, 2008 at 5:48 pm |

    Does anybody know how common these “botched abortion” scenarios actually were?

    What do you mean, “were”? It’s still a primary cause of maternal death in places where abortion is illegal.

  24. BadKitty
    BadKitty February 4, 2008 at 5:51 pm |

    RE: No Offense’s comment: See guttmacherinstitute.org for abortion statistics and information in general.

    This page may be helpful.

  25. SarahMC
    SarahMC February 4, 2008 at 6:03 pm |

    No Offense said “You are just constructing some propaganda version of people who disagree with you.”

    O rly?

    #1

    #2

    #3

    And that’s just posts from the past couple days. Seriously, thanks for the condescending advice, but you’re dealing with intelligent folks here who’ve heard it all before.

  26. tannenburg
    tannenburg February 4, 2008 at 6:16 pm |

    It’s interesting. I’ve often encountered that particular style of argument:

    Position One: “All you have is this one person’s anecdotes. I challenge you to prove that it is a widespread phenomenon.”

    Which has an equal counter-argument:

    Position Two: “Yes, well, fine, you have statistics, but what about the impact on a single person’s life? Give me concrete examples.”

    The fact of it is that this doctor’s experiences are powerful because they come from a place of compassion and empathy, as I mentioned before. Far too often the pro-life platform is seen as the one possessing a monopoly on compassion (“what of the poor infants/fetuses?”) while the pro-choice platform is seen as cold, amoral, and unsympathetic (“those selfish women, thinking of their own convenience and not the poor children!”)

  27. zuzu
    zuzu February 4, 2008 at 6:27 pm | *

    Also – note the assumption that readers of this site have: that women’s lives are more valuable than an unborn fetus’. I’m not resolving this one way or the other – it just strikes me as odd that people could be so sure how to resolve that dispute when morality is so subjective. It would help the debate is people would at least acknowledge that their starting assumptions – e.g. that either the fetus is worthy of equal moral consideration or it isn’t – is pure sentiment and not based on anything remotely objective.

    Being able to breathe on your own isn’t a remotely objective thing?

  28. No Offense
    No Offense February 4, 2008 at 6:35 pm |

    Jill:

    Didn’t mean to get everyone worked up. I have friends who oppose abortion for religious reasons, yet are completely comfortable with birth control. I think you’re attacking a particularly visible subset of people who want abortion reform – but I’m not sure that most Americans actually take the extremists’ line on everything.
    As for the Judith-Jarvis line of argument – that’s another intuitionist argument, and is an unfalsifiable claim. Who’s to say you don’t have a right to somebody’s kidneys (especially if it could be shown the risks were low for the sharer)?
    The point about the need for empirical data is that – if you want to persuade middle-of-the-road people who are uncomfy with abortion, you need to be able to say something like “okay, we can accept that the fetus is just as important – but if we criminalize abortion more women will die as a result than babies will be saved.” This of course is an unlikely scenario since it would require that basically more women than are pregnant would be seeking abortions and dying. So it all comes down, again, to those starting assumptions which are completely based on sentiment about 1) value of fetal life and 2) value of bodily integrity etc.

  29. No Offense
    No Offense February 4, 2008 at 6:38 pm |

    Edit: sorry, my statistic thing in the last post was wrong – since both the baby and woman would be dying, it wouldn’t require more women seeking it. But you see the point – you need to persuade people who have different moral intuitions that, even given their intuitions, worse results follow.

  30. Dianne
    Dianne February 4, 2008 at 6:45 pm |

    if you want to persuade middle-of-the-road people who are uncomfy with abortion, you need to be able to say something like “okay, we can accept that the fetus is just as important – but if we criminalize abortion more women will die as a result than babies will be saved.”

    If you look at the way people actually behave, it is clear that almost no one thinks that fetuses are just as important as people who are actually born. To use a big, obvious example, consider how much money goes into research into the causes of miscarriage. If fetus=person then at least 50% of people are dying within the first 2 weeks of life. Yet next to no funding is being put toward research into the reasons for these deaths and finding ways to prevent them. Not consistent: if 50%+ of babies died within two weeks, it’d be a huge public problem.

    That aside, Romania pretty much demonstrates that you don’t save babies by banning abortion, just kill woman. And babies.

  31. james
    james February 4, 2008 at 6:51 pm |

    A lot of the “reasonable” anti-choicers deny that this sort of thing could ever happen again. Sure, the stories disturb them, but for some reason they think that in 2008, outlawing abortion would not lead to these horrors.

    What makes you think it would happen again? There are parts of the US where even though it is legal, it is all but impossible for women to get an abortion either for want of access or money. But they still don’t have lots of women suffering complications from illegal abortions.

    Other things have happened since the 60s. There’s better contraception, less stigma for non-marital childbearing, and a much lower risk of poverty because of better economic opportunities and protections for women. Many pregnant women who were forced by circumstance to have an illegal abortion then would make a different choice now because their circumstances have changed. I do think it’s a bit of a myth that were abortion illegalised we would find outselves back in the 60s, plenty of the demand factors have changed. Not that I think making abortion illegal would be anything but a bad idea.

  32. Anatolia
    Anatolia February 4, 2008 at 7:06 pm |

    No Offense: “Who’s to say you don’t have a right to somebody’s kidneys (especially if it could be shown the risks were low for the sharer)?”

    —-

    Ah, so that’s next on the anti-choice list, is it? I understand there are religious folk called the Jesus Christians who believe kidney donation is a religious obligation (see link). Perhaps interesting for a religious faith, but I don’t think that makes good national policy no matter how bad the diabetes problem gets.

    [link]

    We don’t force organ donation even after a person is dead. Really. Who do you think you’re fooling? No one, and you just come across as lacking integrity and intellectual honesty.

  33. Dianne
    Dianne February 4, 2008 at 7:26 pm |

    Who’s to say you don’t have a right to somebody’s kidneys (especially if it could be shown the risks were low for the sharer)

    Actually, the risks of kidney donation are really quite comparable to those of pregnancy and childbirth. So you’ll be ready for the surgeon to come around and get your spare tomorrow, right?

  34. Rabbit
    Rabbit February 4, 2008 at 7:39 pm |

    What makes you think it would happen again?

    If I was pregnant, I would risk my life to end the pregnancy.

    There’s better contraception, less stigma for non-marital childbearing, and a much lower risk of poverty because of better economic opportunities and protections for women.

    And it’s not because I don’t have the resources to raise a child (although it’s true that I don’t), or that I’m afraid that people will stigmatize me for being a single mom (although I still think some people will). I just don’t want to be pregnant, don’t want a baby, don’t want to raise a kid.

    Until someone invents a birth control method that is 100% effective, 100% of the time, illegal abortions will always harm women.

  35. DAS
    DAS February 4, 2008 at 8:17 pm |

    [Pro-choicers assume] that women’s lives are more valuable than an unborn fetus’. I’m not resolving this one way or the other – it just strikes me as odd that people could be so sure how to resolve that dispute when morality is so subjective. It would help the debate is people would at least acknowledge that their starting assumptions – e.g. that either the fetus is worthy of equal moral consideration or it isn’t – is pure sentiment and not based on anything remotely objective.

    But the point is that some of us do come from moral traditions that do assume that a woman’s life is more valuable than that of an unborn fetus: the Bible, e.g., rather explicitly places a value on an unborn fetus’ life while killing a woman would result in you having to flee to a city of refuge as a (post-born) person’s life is of infinite worth.

    I assume that a fetus’ life is not as valuable as a woman’s. A certain kind of Christian would assume otherwise. Nu? Isn’t that right there an argument for being pro-choice? If the relative evaluation of a fetus’ life is mere sentiment (I should hope we all valuing as infinite a woman’s life, but sometimes it seems that some of the so-called pro-lifers view a woman’s and a fetus’ life to be of equal value not because they view a fetus’ life as infinite in value but because they view a woman’s life as being of finite value … in which case I call shenanigans on these so-called pro-lifers taking a position that is in any way moral), then why should we prohibit abortion based on the sentiment that a fetus’ life has infinite value when some of us have the opposite sentiment. OTOH, if you believe in the value of fetal life, then don’t have an abortion and do what you can to make sure other people are in a situation where they don’t have to even think about abortions (e.g. support greater access to birth control, help provide a better public safety-net for poor, pregnant women, etc.).

    *

    I would suggest doing some research into the pro-life movement before arguing that we’re the propagandists. Most pro-life individuals (like your friends) have no idea what the movement actually stands for.

    I have a friend who is a very conservative Catholic, very much anti-choice, etc., but he cannot stand the organized pro-life movement because of how anti-woman they are and how much they seem to focus on “slut shaming”, etc.

  36. EG
    EG February 4, 2008 at 8:19 pm |

    My great aunt nearly died from hers. She didn’t have the cash to get a safe one, so to the back alley she went. She survived, but could never have children afterwards – when she was married and willing.

    My great aunt wasn’t made sterile, but she did find, upon arriving at the designated place, that anesthesia wasn’t included in the cost.

    Who’s to say you don’t have a right to somebody’s kidneys (especially if it could be shown the risks were low for the sharer)

    The law? The third right listed on the UN Declaration of Human Rights? Laws against slavery–you don’t have the right to force someone else to work for you by, oh, building your body against their will?

    What makes you think it would happen again?

    Hmm. So tell me, what’s the acceptable level of women dying of septic shock? If the demographic and cultural shifts you mention lower the number of dead/injured/sterile women, at what point am I supposed to say, “Oh, OK, well, that’s a fair trade”? Whose lives are supposed to be expendable? Mine? My mother’s?

    Note the assumption that readers of this site have: that women’s lives are more valuable than an unborn fetus’.

    Yep. I’m willing to support that. My life is a fuck of a lot more important than an unborn fetus. I can actually form social and emotional bonds with others, create meaningful art, participate in daily life, etc. How on earth is my life not worth more?

  37. go. read. now. « random babble…
    go. read. now. « random babble… February 4, 2008 at 8:36 pm |

    [...] read. now. i just followed the link for this at feministe not five minutes ago, and i teared up a little.please go read the whole thing. it is doctors like [...]

  38. Ladylike
    Ladylike February 4, 2008 at 9:38 pm |

    I urge all the pro-choicers here to go comment on this story at the National Post. As mentioned in one of the earlier posts, the National Post is Canada’s right wing national daily. (Not that our other daily is that much better – anyone read about how ‘feminism is over’ last week?) They will certainly publish anti-choice comments, so a little balance might be nice.

    It has very close ties with the Conservative Party, who currently form a minority government here. The Conservatives (and even more so their former incarnations as the Canadian Alliance and the Reform Party) also have close ties with anti-choice groups. One of their sitting MPs (kind of like a member of Congress) recently put forth a fetal homicide bill which, as I am sure people in America are aware, are often used as a back-door way to bring in anti-choice legislation.

  39. Anny
    Anny February 4, 2008 at 10:13 pm |

    But the point is that some of us do come from moral traditions that do assume that a woman’s life is more valuable than that of an unborn fetus: the Bible, e.g., rather explicitly places a value on an unborn fetus’ life while killing a woman would result in you having to flee to a city of refuge as a (post-born) person’s life is of infinite worth.

    I assume that a fetus’ life is not as valuable as a woman’s.

    DAS, you make sense. It also sounds like you’ve done your homework on value-of-life stuff in the Bible. Any chance you could point me to some relevant passages?

  40. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte February 5, 2008 at 1:06 am |

    It’s important to note that most septic abortions are caused by attempts at self-abortion, not the notorious back alley butchers. Septic abortions will therefore predominantly be a problem of the poor, not the middle class or wealthy, who will have more access even to black market abortions. It will also be a problem of the young, who don’t have the networks to obtain illegal but professional care.

  41. sophonisba
    sophonisba February 5, 2008 at 1:25 am |

    Most of our movers and jigglers (Spears sluts ) haven’t a clue how bad it was.

    Nice to see the most brazen misogynists can still get it together enough to be pro-choice. Wait, is nice the word I mean?

  42. Vanessa
    Vanessa February 5, 2008 at 2:02 am |

    Does anybody know how common these “botched abortion” scenarios actually were?

    Yeah, cause every hospital has a ‘random shit that hardly ever happens’ ward.

  43. EG
    EG February 5, 2008 at 2:20 am |

    Right. Like the well-known Struck by Falling Piano Wards and Attacked by Flying Monkeys Wards.

    The fact that there were wards with one death a month is a pretty good indicator of how damn common they were.

  44. Kristen from MA
    Kristen from MA February 5, 2008 at 3:35 am |

    For those of you looking to comment on the National Post page, scroll down to the listings below the story. Click on the link Garson Romalis: Why I am an abortion doctor below More from the web.

  45. Dianne
    Dianne February 5, 2008 at 8:52 am |

    It will also be a problem of the young, who don’t have the networks to obtain illegal but professional care.

    Already is in places with parental notification laws. Not enough to fill wards, but you do see it.

  46. ElleBeMe
    ElleBeMe February 5, 2008 at 11:04 am |

    Already is in places with parental notification laws. Not enough to fill wards, but you do see it.

    Can anyone say Becky Bell?

    OTOH, I believe the doco, The Last Clinic in Mississippi, details some of what is now going on….

  47. Why one man performs abortions
    Why one man performs abortions February 5, 2008 at 1:38 pm |

    [...] Jill @ Feministe, check out this speech by Garson Romalis, a Canadian doctor who performs abortions [...]

  48. Smartpatrol
    Smartpatrol February 5, 2008 at 2:37 pm |

    I will never forget the jaundiced woman in liver and kidney failure, in septic shock, with very severe anemia, whose life we were unable to save.

    Also, try to find some empirical data on the actual numbers we would be talking about.

    Fucking heart of stone have we, No Offence?

  49. mythago
    mythago February 5, 2008 at 5:39 pm |

    Anny – try Exodus 21:22 for starters.

    I found a highly amusing attempt by a Christian group to explain this passage away as meaning that passage actually refers to causing a premature live birth. (The author notes, cluelessly, that many rabbis and ‘Jewish thinkers’ have taken issue with his interpretation. Surely those silly Jews can’t be correct about their own language and holy text; it requires a *Christian* to translate it correctly!)

  50. Mold
    Mold February 5, 2008 at 7:04 pm |

    Worked in a hospital in a very Catholic area. There was a “woman’s ward” that only nurses and docs were allowed. Funny thing, it closed almost immediately after Roe v. Wade.

    Another bit of humor was the number of women from the ruling classes that took “vacations” in Saratoga. Many of these were Mom/Daughter affairs and the local yokels fantasized it was for gambling and alcohol. Now, why would a 15 year old want to go boozing with Mom?

    Anecdote is instructive in that I never knew many women that didn’t have s/sx of either medical or “back-alley” abortions. The ladies also were bereft of BC choices.

  51. DAS
    DAS February 5, 2008 at 7:09 pm |

    DAS, you make sense. It also sounds like you’ve done your homework on value-of-life stuff in the Bible. Any chance you could point me to some relevant passages? – Anny

    Thank you for the compliment.

    My religious denomination’s views on the subject: http://www.uscj.org/The_Abortion_Controv5481.html

    A few clarifications are needed, though, regarding in particular this statement

    The Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Jewish Law and Standards takes the view that an abortion is justifiable if a continuation of pregnancy might cause the mother severe physical or psychological harm, or when the fetus is judged by competent medical opinion as severely defective.

    (1) The issue of the fetus being “severely defective” is somewhat controversial. Some Jewish authorities would say that we cannot distinguish the value of various human lives, therefore whether a fetus is “defective” or not cannot enter into the decision to abort as to abort a fetus with defect X but not without such a defect would be tantamount to immoral discrimination against people with defect X … however, some authorities do allow for abortions for severe enough defects (from Aish Ha’Torah’s [The Flame of Torah] site):

    While most poskim forbid abortion for “defective” fetuses, Rabbi Eliezar Yehuda Waldenberg is a notable exception. Rabbi Waldenberg allows first trimester abortion of a fetus that would be born with a deformity that would cause it to suffer, and termination of a fetus with a lethal fetal defect such as Tay Sachs up to the seventh month of gestation. The rabbinic experts also discuss the permissibility of abortion for mothers with German measles and babies with prenatal confirmed Down syndrome.

    (2) Some authorities do allow not only the life/health of the mother-to-be, but also the life/health of her kids (etc) to be considered (from http://www.religioustolerance.org/jud_abor.htm):

    One case involved a woman who becomes pregnant while nursing a child. Her milk supply would dry up. If the child is allergic to all other forms of nutrition except for its mother’s milk, then it would starve. An abortion would be permitted in this case. An abortion of the fetus, a potential person, would be justified to save the life of the child, an actual person.

    (3) There is the issue of who can make the decision (which cuts into the political issue at hand): secular authorities or even family members simply have no role in this procedure. It is between a woman, her physician and her Rabbi. Indeed, most liberal (Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist or even Modern Orthodox) Rabbis would say that they could only advise a woman on Jewish law, but the decision must be up to her — as it is her body, her mind, her health and her life at stake … and only she knows what she can or cannot handle: only she knows whether a pregnancy is a mere inconvenience or whether it will actually affect her mental state in a sufficiently dramatic way to justify abortion.

    Of course, much of what I have said is based on Rabbinical sources. Indeed, it’s debatible within such sources as to whether the rulings on abortion are considered to be “Rabbinical” or part of the “Oral Torah”. Also there is the question as to whether prohibitions against abortion are part of the Noachide laws (we Jews don’t believe, e.g., that everyone ought not to eat shellfish … only that we Jews ought not to do so … OTOH, we believe that nobody should murder). If they are, then we Jews should seek to legislate them in a secular context (provided the legal reasoning holds water according to secular law, which in general is similar to Jewish law, but not always), but if not, then we should not seek to do so. Certainly, a Christian would have no reason to accept what we Jews have to say about abortion in our Talmud — and what the Bible itself says is pretty much nothing, except for a few rulings (see the USCJ site) that clearly indicate a fetus is not a person and that its value, unlike a person’s, is finite.

    At the very least, even if we Jews would say “well, we think our ideas about abortion should apply to everyone”, given that, vide supra, non-Jews (and even Karaites, who reject Rabbinic Judaism) don’t accept the texts from which our ideas come, chances are any anti-abortion legislation, after the sausage making that gets involved, would likely end up being rather contrary to Jewish views — e.g. abortions that are allowed or even mandatory because of the likely detriment to the pregnant woman, would be prohibited because Will Saletan (who is supposed to be Jewish and hence should know better) finds them “icky” even as such bills would not address Jewish concerns. Thus, since the legislation of morality would end up having the opposite effect, Jewish liberals (which is most of us) oppose any legislation prohibiting abortion … which, as you can see from the link, is the position of Conservative Judaism.

  52. Abortion Providers Appreciation Day « Pizza Diavola

    [...] **Romalis op-ed via Feministe [...]

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