to my friends (pro-life & pro-choice)

23 Jan

Yesterday was an interesting day to go on Facebook.  Roe v. Wade was decided 40 years ago.  A number of my friends posted links or strongly worded sentiments to convey their opinions about the ruling.  Some of them, due to the manner of expression not the opinions themselves, offended me.  Some of them made me curious, namely this article (fact check strongly needed), this one and, most tragically, this story, which took place along my commute to and from school.  I think that the best way to not be heard would be to post another argument so, I assure you, this post is merely personal anecdote.

One day, but not today, I will write about my infertility diagnosis.  We received medical help in order to achieve pregnancy.  I look into my daughter’s face, I admire her small hands and feet and the healthy rolls of brown fat around her little thighs, and the idea of life without her is unfathomable.  We are so lucky.

And then I think about a conversation I had with one of my physicians a little over a year ago when we were concerned about hyper-stimulation and risks of multiple gestations and what our plans would be if we conceived more than twins.  Reduction of pregnancy is recommended for the safety of mother and the other fetuses.

And I think about the women I met during my OB rotation.  I think about the woman who had over three previous c-sections, fallopian tubes completely inaccessible due to scarring–another pregnancy was a serious threat to her health, yet, after discussing her options, her physician helped her continue with her pregnancy without judgment.  I think about the woman living in abject poverty who was pregnant less than four weeks after her last delivery; she couldn’t imagine doing it all again.  She chose a dilation and curettage, and then she scheduled an appointment for the Mirena.

Abortion sucks.  Everyone thinks so.  This summer I briefly worked with a physician who said that the only doctor who had performed more late-term abortions than he had was dead–he too thinks abortions suck.  I’m hopeful that people and systems are offering alternatives, and I hope they continue to.  But reason informs me that neither their access nor their impact will improve should abortion be made illegal.

Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, I doubt very much that anything I say could sway your opinion.  So, if you’re still reading, I think that the face of abortion is varied and profound, and the arguments surrounding them cannot be summarized by the extremes.  Psychopaths on either side exist, and they scare the shit out of me.  But neither Scott Roeder nor Dr. Kermit Gosnell is representative.

It saddens me deeply that we have, in part, stopped tolerating each other, that our arguments only serve to anger rather than challenge each other.  I am, by all accounts, an open book, yet the topic of abortion has become the only taboo in some of my friendships.  In my Facebook newsfeed, I feel shear rage emanating from some of the profiles.  I hope you’ll let me know what I can do to improve our conversation styles, to show you respect, as I hope you’ll show me.  In my humble opinion, this might be a good step in reducing abortions.

Along a similar topic…


21 Responses to “to my friends (pro-life & pro-choice)”

  1. phantomdiver January 23, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    More light, less heat. Go you!

    • annaojesus January 23, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

      Thank you. I was very worried about how comments would go 🙂

      • phantomdiver January 23, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

        Many of my friends don’t agree with me on this topic. I think it’s a good idea to find some common ground and then discuss things respectfully, so that one can actually learn something. But some people get upset so quickly that we can’t even do that.

        And I’m in a lull of babysitting a granddaughter, so I can’t start. She might wake up any minute!!! 🙂

      • annaojesus January 28, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

        I agree! I hope your granddaughter treated you well! They’re so sweet when they sleep!

  2. Joseph January 23, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    You are a great writer and storyteller….thank you and please continue to challenge us….

    • annaojesus January 28, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

      Thank you so much, Joseph. Encouragement from you means the world to me!

  3. Erica January 23, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    Anna, I love this post. Thank you 🙂

  4. E January 23, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    Thank you for this. Thank you for pointing out that NOBODY thinks abortion is a good thing. I think that all too often that simple fact is forgotten, by those on both sides of the argument . . .

    • annaojesus January 28, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

      Thank you so much for your note (and I apologize for the delay). Yeah, I feel like sometimes we forget where the disagreement exists. Maybe if we remember that, at baseline, no one is pro-abortion, discussions could be more amiable…hopefully?

  5. Jenny G January 23, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    I have an adamantly pro-life family (marches, protests, the whole nine), with a pro-choice husband and I’m probably closer to the pro-choice side . . . But I saw this a few years ago, and honestly, we were all able to mostly agree on these principles. I don’t know why this was completely ignored by most media (probably not sensational enough), I absolutely loved the compromises that came out of the 2010 Princeton Conference on Abortion. If you get a chance (I know you’re super busy :)), take a look.

    As an aside, while I recognize that I hardly see the vast majority of “typical abortions,” my nature of my employment at a tertiary care center, the patients who present for an abortion are in dire straits. These are the really bad cases where mom is dying or baby is imminently dying. I remember one case that I wasn’t personally involved in but was familiar with, where I feel 100% confident that the mother would have died without the abortion. The crappy part was that she was unresponsive, and therefore could not consent to the abortion. And another part of me wonders about palliative care in utero for terminally ill fetuses . . . is an abortion/early induction for an ancephalic baby different than taking the same infant 1-2 months later off a ventilator? I’m not asking rhetorically . . . I really have no idea.

  6. Jennifer L March 7, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    As a future physician, you should be aware that “late-term” abortions is not a clinical procedure. They are either second trimester procedures or first trimester procedures. Please do not propagate misinformation and inaccurate terms in your blog posts. Thank you.

    • annaojesus March 7, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. I believe I was taught otherwise, but I thank you for the correction. I try to be as accurate as I can be, but this is a personal blog, certainly not a peer-reviewed manuscript.

    • ericrosoff March 7, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

      Hey Jennifer, I can’t help but notice that you seem annoyed by the use of this term. Is there a particular reason it’s important to you that it be avoided? I am aware that its definition isn’t entirely specific or agreed upon in the medical world, but not to the extent that its use is dissuaded entirely – especially while discussing the biopsychosocial and political considerations of rendering care.

      • Jennifer L March 19, 2013 at 11:38 am #

        The term “late-term” is frustrating to me because it is not a term that defines a point in pregnancy. In JAMA alone, multiple articles have been published that are conflicting in their definition of “late-term,” from as early as 16 weeks to as late as 27 weeks. This is similar to the mis-use of “partial-birth abortion,” which is not a procedure. Both terms are loaded with political connotation and obscure any factual information about one’s gestational age or the procedure that a woman might be having. Additionally, they leave little room for understanding the reasons why a woman may be there, be it social, psychological, emotional, financial, etc. Use of these incorrect terms allow blanket judgement of women who are “late-term, as well as providers who safely provide “late-term abortions” for women who truly need these services.

      • ericrosoff March 20, 2013 at 12:36 am #

        Hi, Jennifer. Thanks for writing back. I think I have a better idea of why the term bothers you now. It sounds like you feel it has been co-opted for use in anti-choice propaganda.

        Whereas the term “partial-birth abortion” was coined by anti-choice folks expressly for the purpose of painting a grim picture of abortion, I believe late-term abortion is intrinsically a neutral term, and its use should be judged based on context. I can think of a number of examples where it is used more appropriately (in a “judgement-less” way) – here in Anna’s post included.

        Words can have a lot of power, and I agree, it isn’t wise to allow propaganda to define an important issue. But I worry that if we keep allowing words that describe abortion to become words that are synonymous with “bad” then we just keep chasing our tails keeping up with new terms that will soon be co-opted and redefined. I don’t think you’ll have difficulty finding someone to malign an abortion whether it is described as late-term, 2nd trimester, or 3rd trimester.

        I think in this case the ship hasn’t sailed on how this term is used (even if it is used by some to malign abortion). Do you think there is a place for its appropriate use (like Anna has used it here) instead of allowing propaganda to co-opt it and redefine it?

        As another example of appropriate and neutral use (and this one is in a medical setting), I’ll point here to an important website that connects women to resources for abortion care that is often difficult or impossible to access:

  7. Kenya M. LYons March 13, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    Hi Anna,

    I’m a Goucher postbac (Class of 2011) that was just accepted to Perelman. I started reading your blog to gain perspective on what it is like to pursue an MD at Penn and must say that I’m really inspired by your admission that most people on either side of the abortion debate would like to see fewer abortion procedures performed. I feel that this is something both pro-life and pro-choice advocates can agree on – unfortunately, both sides have very different views on how this end can be achieved. As a future Ob-Gyn and abortion provider, the last thing I want is for my patients to go through a surgery that could have been avoided (at least, in some instances). It’s a difficult subject to navigate, and I respect your courage in addressing it head-on. Also, I want to add something that you and your husband are no doubt aware of – your baby girl is absolutely adorable!!!

    Best wishes, Kenya L.

    • phantomdiver March 20, 2013 at 9:45 am #

      “Anti-choice” is in itself a word used to propagandize. From what I have heard, value-neutral terms are “pro-abortion rights” and “anti-abortion rights.” I prefer “pro-life”, but then I don’t really like being described in terms of things I oppose.

      • annaojesus March 20, 2013 at 10:35 am #

        I’m afraid the terminology will always leave something to be desired. My gut reaction is to cringe a little if I’m to identify myself as “pro-abortion rights” because it can so easily read “pro-abortion.” I prefer pro-choice and pro-life because they seem to focus on the positive of both view points (because there is, or at least there can be, a lot of good on either side of the argument), but of course they can also stir up animosity. Just as you, Phantomdiver prefer not to be labeled as anti-choice (understandably), I don’t think of myself as anti-life (as I doubt any pro-choice advocate would).

      • ericrosoff March 20, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

        Indeed, it’s often difficult step outside of your own frame of reference and do a good job of remembering how someone else will interpret your words. I apologize.

      • phantomdiver March 20, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

        Thank you for your graceful response!

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