Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Ultrasounds are OK!

Politicians from my home state of Oklahoma have been making quite a stir in the media since passing a controversial anti-abortion bill last week. I recognize first of all, that this is a difficult issue to address. Some would say that this is one of the biggest wins for the pro-life movement. Those on the other side of the fence would claim that Oklahoma hates women... I actually think there is a facebook group by that title. Yep, the lines have been drawn.

Whatever your particular stance may be, I'd like to approach this issue as I do most hot button issues. I recognize that I might not be the most qualified to tackle the abortion issue. I'm not a doctor. Or a lawyer. And I'm not a parent. I'm a guy with a blog. You can agree or disagree but remember that the advice is worth what you pay for.

I'll throw my thoughts out carefully. With grace. Knowing that these opinions are not just theories but are the real lives of real people. And I'll remain open. Respectful. Committed to dialog. If we can agree on that, I think we'll find we're on the same team.

Here's how it went down. Last week, the state of Oklahoma became one of several middle-America states in recent months to pass strict abortion legislation. If you remember, Nebraska passed a ban on late term abortions earlier this year. To be specific, the Oklahoma governor attempted to veto this bill but the Senate overrode Gov. Henry's attempt last week. This new law (which as of May 4th has been temporarily blocked) comes in two parts, which I will attempt to explain during the rest of this post.

Part one is House Bill 2780. This bill requires all women who are seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound before they go through with the procedure. The health care provider must describe the fetal development in detail and point out the heart beat and the organs. If a doc skips this step and performs the abortion, the woman (or her family) has the right to sue. Oddly enough, the woman has "the right" to look away if she desires.

Personally, I don't mind this part of the law. As I will defend later in my post, I am always for more information. A woman, or any patient for that matter, should know what is going on in her body. The supporters of this bill argue this. No one would want to get any procedure, especially one as invasive as an abortion, done blindly. Heck, I want to know what the dentist is doing when I am getting my teeth cleaned.

If a woman wants to abort her baby, she should know exactly what is involved. No propaganda is needed. Just pure communication. Just the facts. Keeping in mind that she has the right to look away. Or disagree. Or get an abortion. But information should always be available. Those against this bill would say that all this is unnecessary manipulation. I say we owe it to the woman.

Part two is House Bill 2656. I'll state up front that I completely disagree with this one. The bill protects a health care provider if they "choose" to omit information about the health of an unborn child if they "feel" like the information would cause the woman to have an abortion. Here's what this could mean.

You are an expectant mother. You go in for a checkup. The doctor takes a look under the hood. He/she then pats you on the shoulder and says, "everything looks good." The only problem is, everything does not look good. There is a problem with the baby growing in you. You should probably know this. But the doctor is protected and can lie to you if he/she feels that is best for you. Make sense? Nope? Not to me either.

I'm not going to go as far to say that this means pregnant women can never trust doctors again. But how is it ever right to intentionally keep someone in the dark about what is going on inside their body? Those in support of this bill claim that they are being the voice of the unborn. Yet is deceit the right way to go about it? Surely we are better than that!

Furthermore, the two bills seem to be at odds with one another. One promotes better understanding and patient/doctor communication. The other encourages the doctor to withhold important prenatal details. What gives? Is a law now defined by what is more convenient? Does a doctor really have the authority to decide if a woman should know? On both accounts, I hope not.

I believe that better information is the best step towards ending abortion in this country (a goal I think everyone should share). That's ultimately what I hope for on this issue. How do we get there? Well, if we wait until the unwanted pregnancy, we are already too late. It starts way before that.

Let's give teenagers better information about where babies come from. This starts with a healthy respect and understanding of sexuality. By the way, would someone please develop a holistic evangelical sexual ethic? We're long overdue.

Let's give those women with unwanted pregnancies better information about adoption. Giving your child up for adoption is not abandonment.

Let's give women considering abortion better information on fetal development and the emotional/mental stress that comes on the other side of the procedure. Is it impossible to have an abortion and walk out thinking clearly? If so, help women understand that. Whatever the answers are, they all begin with the quest for more information. I'm for protecting the rights of an unborn child but I am not for throwing a woman's rights out along the way. We can have both. It doesn't have to be one or the other.

In the end, nowhere in this process is it right to hide information from a woman because a doctor makes a judgment call. Oklahoma, you got that wrong. And that's not OK.


Emily said...

I agree with you Eric!
I've seen firsthand what can happen to a woman who has an ultrasound when she is considering an abortion. When she sees that tiny heart beating and sees her baby moving in her womb. It's indescribable. I've also seen a woman who is set on having an abortion sit through an ultrasound of her unborn baby. It's a much different experience. Both have brought me to tears.

I definitely think that doctors need to communicate with their patients and I too feel that hiding the full truth of the health of the unborn baby is not good. From what I've read and understand about this part of the bill is that doctors can't be sued if the baby is born with birth defects and the parents didn't know about them before the birth. When you are pregnant, there are many tests you can have done to see how healthy your baby probably is. Most of these are optional. No test is 100% accurate. They can give the doctor and you a pretty good idea of how healthy the baby is going to be or not going to be, but it's not a guarantee. All doctors have taken the hippocratic oath and if the choose to omit information from a patient they could lose their medical license. To me it seems that this part of the bill is more just to protect doctors from getting sued. But I could be wrong.

I also agree that more women need to hear about giving their baby up for adoption, sadly though, many women refuse to do this. They do feel that it would be much harder than just having an abortion. (I've actually been told that by a women who has done both and at the time was seeking a second abortion because she couldn't go through giving her baby up for adoption again). There needs to be more programs and support for the birth mother. There is a local adoption agency and they have support groups for the birth moms. I think many people think that giving up a baby for adoption wouldn't be that hard, but after carrying a baby inside you for nearly 10 months and then handing him/her over to someone else to be their parent would probably be the hardest thing many women could ever do.

Thanks for writing about this.

Sheyenne said...

I am absolutely appalled that bnot fully disclosing the health status of the baby is even an option. I'm with you... sounds completely unethical, and just plain ridiculous. Having been in a situation with an adverse prenatal diagnosis, I cannot even begin to imagine how the pain would have been magnified had we not been told the complete truth about our baby's health. If that's what the bill is about, its absolutely insane!

I also agree that women seeking abortions need to be educated on fetal development. But in actuality, our beliefs on when life begins and consequently our views on abortion are formed long before a woman is ever in that position herself. That's why its so important to educate young people on the specifics of fetal development BEFORE they are potentially faced with that choice in their own personal life.

Thanks for writing about this... I'm interested to see how this bill pans out...

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