Achieving Peace in the Abortion War
Achieving Peace in the Abortion War
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Elections come and go, and outcomes depend on events and characters out of the control of any single movement. The United States’ downward trend in abortions, however, has happened steadily through both Democrat and Republican administrations. There are several reasons to believe this is likely to continue.
The fragility of abortion practice in the United States is becoming increasingly clear. (People in other countries may also find useful information in the principles explained here). The real-life experience of doctors and nurses involved in providing abortion show that they are a weakening link in the abortion chain, and this book explains reasons why this is so that depend more on psychology than politics.
There is also a vital opportunity in understanding the human mind’s drive for consistency and its link to behavior. When knowing about how abortion practice has begun collapsing, people find it safer to hear the case against it, and to act in a more constructive way toward the genuine needs of pregnant women.
The social and psychological dynamics of performing and defending abortions offer many opportunities for stopping widespread feticide. The more we understand these, the more effective we can be as peacemakers in the abortion war.
CHAPTER ONE THE WELL-KEPT SECRET Throughout history, wars have been fought, and many people have fancied themselves to have won. But preventing wars, or stopping them, has vast advantages over merely winning them. As those of us in the peace movement have worked hard to show, achieving peace involves taking everyone's thoughts and feelings and well-being seriously, especially those of the opponents. Having gone through the exercise of studying the real-life experience of doctors and nurses involved in providing abortion in the United States, I have come to the conclusion that the abortion business is too fragile to last. In this book, I take a look at the psychology and social dynamics of performing abortions in this country. People in other countries may also find the information instructive as they apply the principles to their own situations. THE PLUNGE Is the abortion business in a state of decline? Time ran a cover story on this very point as early as May 4, 1992: "While there are about 2,500 places around the country that provide abortions – down from a high of 2,908 ten years ago – they are mostly clustered around cities, leaving broad areas of the country unserved . . . for a glimpse of the future, look at Mississippi. Three of the state's four clinics are clustered around the capital and largest city, Jackson. But their survival is threatened . . ." Indeed, their survival was threatened. One of the major doctors who performed abortions, Thomas Tucker, had his license suspended and later revoked. The reasons for this become obvious in light of the remarks of Joy Davis, a former employee of Dr. Tucker's, which will be used throughout this book. A New York Times report (April 24, 1994) cited that "he was found to have kept signed prescription forms, and to have allowed workers who were not doctors to perform preliminary abortion procedures while he was absent. The eight-member State Board of Medical Licensure, whose members harshly criticized the doctor before the vote, took little more than an hour to reach its decision." The report attributes the problems to the fact that he "travels between his clinics here and two in Alabama, performing as many as 150 abortions a week himself. The members of the board suggested that the doctor's work had suffered because of this strenuous pace." Avoiding a strenuous pace, of course, would require more doctors performing abortions to spread the load. At the time of the 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it was widely reported in the media that 60% of doctors who do abortion are 65 or older. More abortion doctors are closing in on time to retire, and the new doctors to take their place are coming in very low numbers. Without an infusion of new providers, attrition alone will deal a deathly blow to the sustaining of the abortion business. Furthermore, the number of places that provide abortions has plummeted from that figure of around 2,500 in 1992 to 1,787 by 2005 according to a 2008 report from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, research arm of Planned Parenthood.1 A 1993 survey of 961 abortion doctors done by "Project Choice" showed 71% claim to have witnessed an illegal abortion tragedy, and two thirds of those claim that as a major motivating factor in continuing to provide abortions.2 That motivation is almost entirely absent now. Young doctors are much more likely to have witnessed negative medical or psychological after-effects from legal abortion. That might serve as a motivator to those who think they can be better and more professional than the ones who caused the problem they witnessed, but it's more likely to dampen enthusiasm for going into the field. How have things gotten to this state? This was not how legalized abortion was supposed to work. ODDITIES The Washington, DC Yellow Pages has carried a one third page ad for an abortion clinic, Prince George's & Germantown Reproductive Health Services, that said, "We treat all our patients with kindness, courtesy, justice, love and respect." That had to be stated? What other kind of clinic feels it necessary to assure potential clients of this? Wouldn't it ordinarily be assumed? In addition to the fact that it's a surgery that people attack or defend, abortion is distinguished from ordinary medical care by many oddities. It's remarkably centralized, since most of it occurs in clinics devoted to abortion as their major function. Patients ordinarily know their doctors before surgery and get follow-up care from those same doctors, yet this is unusual in abortion practice. Health safeguards are fewer. For example, 60 Minutes did a piece called "Suzanne Logan's Story," about health hazards at a Maryland clinic. Ms. Logan was brain-damaged and would spend the rest of her short life in a nursing home due to anesthesia complications. She died there on December 1, 1992, after the story ran. The report showed her attorney, Patrick Malone, saying: The anesthesia was given without any monitoring whatsoever, without an anesthesiologist present, without a nurse anesthetist present, without the normal safeguards that are part of standard modern American medical care. I've seen a lot of cases, and met a lot of doctors, and reviewed a lot of records, and I've never seen anything like this. New York State officially ranks its heart surgeons as a consumer service. Yet New York allowed abortion doctor Abu Hayat to maim several women before prosecuting him. According to a May/June 1993 article in Ms. magazine entitled "Back-Alley Abortions Still Here For the Poorest Among Us," they excuse themselves on the grounds that they have inadequate resources to monitor these doctors. These doctors deal only with women, doing something unique in female biology. Abortion is done mostly by men, exclusively on women. Large numbers of women get abortions, and especially in New York it's one of the most common surgical procedures. Yet monitoring resources go elsewhere. The decision on where those resources go is made on some basis other than frequency or need. A RARELY HEARD SIDE OF THE DEBATE What explains these conditions? Why are abortion doctors so different? Can one answer be found in the emotional impact of doing abortions on the people who do them? There is enough written and said by them to show that this is, in fact, no ordinary medical procedure. What they say shows that the peculiar nature of their work goes far beyond the fact that it gets picketed so frequently. The reaction to the work itself is examined in an article written in the American Medical News, put out by the American Medical Association, which reports on a meeting of the National Abortion Federation. It says that the discussions "illuminate a rarely heard side of the abortion debate: the conflicting feelings that plague many providers . . . The notion that the nurses, doctors, counselors and others who work in the abortion field have qualms about the work they do is a well-kept secret."3 In a paper given by Dr. Warren Hern to the Association of Planned Parenthood Physicians, he says of his staff, "Attitudes toward the doctor were those of sympathy, wonder at how he could perform the procedure at all, and a desire to protect him from the trauma. Two felt that it must eventually damage him psychologically."4 In this case, he was referring to late-term abortions. But it's not ordinary for medical staff to regard surgery as a trauma. Dr. Hern is still an abortion specialist at this writing, and he gave this paper in front of other abortion specialists. Another example comes from the article in the American Medical News, which states: A New Mexico physician said he was sometimes surprised by the anger a late-term abortion can arouse in him. On the one hand, the physician said, he is angry at the woman. "But paradoxically," he added, "I have angry feelings at myself for feeling good about grasping the calvaria, for feeling good about doing a technically good procedure which destroys a
Rachel M. MacNair, with a Ph.D. in social psychology, is a long-time activist and scholar in both the pro-life movement and the peace movement. She served as president of Feminists for Life (1984-1994) and is currently Director of the research arm of Consistent Life: An International Network for Peace & Life. Other books include co-editing ProLife Feminism: Yesterday and Today and Consistently Opposing Killing: From Abortion to Assisted Suicide, the Death Penalty, and War, and authoring The Psychology of Peace: An Introduction, Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress: The Psychological Consequences of Killing, and orking for Peace: A Handbook of Practical Psychology. Such books not being lucrative, she also provides statistics consulting to desperate dissertation students. She is a Quaker and lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

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