Roe v. Wade is now 40 years old and when it passed, I was 15. As an active Catholic sophomore in high school, I knew something in our world was different. My parents didn’t discuss abortion; no one did. Most girls weren’t sexually active, and I knew exactly what my father thought about me being sexually active; his beliefs kept me out of the backseat of any boy’s car. The idea of abortion was peculiar to me.
After graduating from a women’s college in the 1970s, I started medical school where only 30% of the class was women. I admired our women professors because they had forged a tough path and made life easier for me. One professor, in particular, made an impact. She was in her forties, had a few children, and was thrilled with the Roe v. Wade decision.
She had an abortion after becoming pregnant with her third child. Since she and her husband decided that one more child didn’t fit well into their lifestyle, she had the baby aborted. She shared with me how cruel other physicians were to her about her decision. “How dare they criticize my private decisions?” she used to say.
She was 20 years my senior, enormous in my eyes, and I agreed with her. What right did others have to criticize her choices? For several years, I defended my mentor. We women should have full say over what does or doesn’t happen to our bodies.
Fortunately for me, my medical school didn’t make us watch abortions. For the next few years, I thought that abortion made sense until a physician colleague described one to me. He described watching a woman lie on her back, her face turned away. He talked of the sound of the vacuum used to extract the arms, the legs, and the shredded torso of the tiny child. I cried. In a mere ten minutes, I hated my mentor. How could she?
New York is considering increasing the fetal age for legal abortions. They want abortion to be legal for babies in the third trimester. As a pediatrician, I have successfully cared for many babies born at 25-26 weeks gestation. Neonatologists devote their lives to saving these children.
But while politicians, pro-life and pro-abortion groups fight it out, I don’t worry too much about the outcome. Here’s why: the overwhelming majority of obstetricians in this country don’t want to perform them. Abortions haven’t just gone down because of the success of pro-lifers like me. Has anyone considered that they have gone down because doctors won’t do them? That’s a reality.
Why won’t they do them? I asked a gynecology colleague. She said, “There are a limited amount of times in one’s life when you can see torn arms, fingers and a mangled face and know that they are broken because of your hands. For most doctors I know, once is too many.”
Politicians, women’s rights activists, and pro-abortionists will spew venom at one another over Roe v. Wade. I’m glad the fight continues because abortion is an abomination. If you have any question about what you think, next time you visit your doctor, ask if he or she can arrange to have you sit in on an abortion. I guarantee that you—like most of the physicians in the U.S.—will decide that’s the last one you see.