FROM THE LEFT-The Daily Commercial
We need federal law to protect a woman’s right to choose
Terrie Watkins Guest columnist
One of the most contentious and controversial issues in the political landscape today concerns a woman’s right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy. I have spent more than 50 years in the field of women’s health and, as a nurse midwife, have welcomed 2,389 babies into the world, many in Lake County.
Each was an opportunity to celebrate this miracle with their parents. But I know pregnancy is not always ideal. Sometimes the fetus has a defect incompatible with life. Sometimes the woman believes she simply does not have the resources to proceed to term.
Pregnancy, birth and child rearing are major physical, emotional and financial undertakings. Every contraceptive method, even sterilization, has a failure rate, and prevention is not always possible. Once a problem pregnancy is recognized, the woman must have the choice to decide how to proceed. All choices must be safe and acceptable to her future.
The recent Texas law has received a lot of notoriety. The issue of using vigilantes to enforce a legislative whim is especially egregious, but the unscientific basis of the “heartbeat” bill is particularly objectionable. I have heard Texas lawmakers claim that the woman has six weeks to make her decision. This is a totally ignorant comment. When medical professionals date a pregnancy, it is based on 280 days from the first day of the last menstrual period.
Since conception normally occurs mid-cycle, two weeks after the last period, those two weeks of the allotted six weeks are already gone. Twenty eight days after the last period the woman may notice a missed period — or she may not notice — or think it’s just late. If she does a pregnancy test after the missed period, she has two weeks to make the decision, make arrangements, find a provider, find the money, make an appointment and complete the process — if everything is completely according to the book. Since humans are not machines, there may be variation in this timeline.
The second glaring fallacy in the “six weeks to make a decision” claim is the “heartbeat” assertion. When a medical professional listens to your heart, they hear the opening and closing of valves and the contraction of the chambers. There is no fetal heart with chambers, valves and pulsing blood at six weeks. There are developing cardiac cells that have electric activity that an ultrasound machine can amplify to make a sound. Normally we can’t hear a fetal heartbeat until 10 weeks with a doppler, and even later with a stethoscope.
Currently in Florida an imitation Texas law is being proposed in House Bill 167 using the same flawed science and assertions. No Senate bill has yet been entered, but probably will be in the next session. Since a Pew research study shows 56% of Floridians believe choice should be legal in all or most cases, a Florida look alike bill would invalidate the will of a majority of residents.
I am an adopted child. I was blessed with loving, dedicated parents. But not every problem pregnancy has a positive outcome. The woman must be able to make the decision that suits her circumstances. Although I do respect organizations like Life’s Choices that attempt to assist the woman in continuing the pregnancy, this is only one option and not suitable in every situation. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Opposing or restricting choice will definitely lead to unnecessary deaths and disability based on historical experience. There must be a law, such as the proposed Women’s Health Protection Act, on the federal level that would allow the woman to have a full range of choices.
It cannot be left to judicial review, which can be changed by a change in opinion of a court. If a woman decides to continue the pregnancy, the law should assure all social, financial and personalized resources are available to enhance a successful outcome.
If a woman chooses termination, the law should protect that right and provide the assistance to achieve that result. When a young woman imagines her future, she often will include thoughts of children — how many, what they’ll look like, boys or girls.
This idealized dreaming does not usually include thoughts of a pregnancy that cannot continue, but it is a reality for many women. They deserve all of our support.
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