Monday, April 30, 2007

On Abortion

Posted By on Mon, Apr 30, 2007 at 4:14 PM

Since we published a story about a local abortion clinic, I’ve received e-mails and phone calls that weighed heavily on me, particularly in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision.

A woman who’d had an abortion at A Preferred Women’s Health Center without incident wondered if the procedure had gone as well as she'd originally thought. An employee at another clinic worried how abortion providers are portrayed in the media. An abortion protester wanted information about ambulances arriving at one clinic.

Some correspondents took the situation at A Preferred Women’s Health Center as confirmation that the procedure is inherently more damaging than giving birth. I suppose anytime a story is published about a controversial subject, particularly one as emotionally charged as abortion, reaction will fuel such preconceived notions. In fact, abortion typically is not an unsafe procedure. Mainstream medical groups say it’s far safer than giving birth.

Clinics generally operate under stringent guidelines, but there are exceptions that I sometimes feel abortion-rights supporters are reluctant to address.

As someone who’s had an abortion and has accompanied friends and even a stranger to clinics in other states, I have seen stark differences between clinics in the level of professionalism and patient care.

I’ve seen clinics in which counseling was thorough and compassionate and patients were accorded the respect they would hope to find at any other medical facility. I’ve also been to places where it was non-existent, to the detriment of patients, where women were treated like cattle.

You’d probably find a similar range of differences if you visited several family practice clinics, emergency rooms or health departments. But when you’re undergoing something as intensely private and controversial as an abortion, you aren’t likely to complain about the treatment you receive after you walk out the clinic door.

If you receive shoddy treatment from a primary care doctor, you’d switch doctors. But an abortion visit is typically a one-shot deal. An unsatisfied customer can’t bring the power of the market to bear on a clinic – she’s not likely to tell her friends not to patronize clinic X, and she certainly hopes not to be a repeat customer at a bad clinic or any other.

Few women are comfortable announcing they’ve had an abortion. Last year, when Ms. Magazine ran a list of women acknowledging their abortions, it made national news. Most people know women who’ve had abortions, even if they aren’t aware of it.

That’s why anytime an abortion-related story comes out that doesn’t center around a protest, a court decision or a politician’s stance on Roe v. Wade, I’m hopeful that people, whatever their political views are, can move toward a more compassionate and realistic discussion of the subject. On such a personal subject, we need to hear the perspectives from people who are neither politicians nor activists. I’d like to see a day when women speak freely about their experiences, for good or bad, and demand proper treatment. Just because a woman is seeking controversial medical treatment doesn’t mean she should receive substandard treatment.


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