Doctor backs Question 6 as crucial health matter


October 13, 1992|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

Abortion has been part of Frances Trimble's vocation for more than 40 years -- before it was legal in the United States.

The retired, Australian-born and trained doctor was medical director for Planned Parenthood of Maryland from 1957 through 1983. She lives in Baltimore and has three children and three grandchildren.

Dr. Trimble says she has seen how the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade has helped women gain access to safe and legal abortions. And she recalls stories of Maryland women who "lined the halls" of hospitals suffering from infection and injuries sustained during botched, illegal abortions.

At Planned Parenthood, Dr. Trimble oversaw the women's health clinics, which began offering abortions after they became

legal. She has never performed the procedure. But she firmly believes in a pregnant woman's right to choose abortion, based on a conviction that illegal abortions often lead to serious health consequences for women. She supports Question 6, the referendum on next month's ballot that would keep most abortions legal in Maryland, even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade.

QUESTION: Why has the medical procedure of an abortion become such a political issue?

ANSWER: It is a backlash against the women's movement. Perhaps we haven't come as far as we thought we had. There are men making the decisions, a paternalism. It's resentment of women making decisions for themselves.

, We used to say that it's the

See Q&A, 4C

From 1C

Roman Catholics who oppose [abortion], but not anymore. It's a peculiar mentality. Actually, it seems that there's been more violence against abortion clinics in the last three or four years than in the first years after Roe vs. Wade.

Q.: Do you think voters are aware of the importance of Question 6 as it relates to abortion rights in Maryland?

A: They probably aren't, because it's a political and emotional issue. Most people don't see it as a health issue. Health values come secondary to the emotional and political area. To me, it's a health issue and what is involved are health values.

I think the public education part provided by people like the Roman Catholic Church asking for contributions in church sends a bad message. It's, again, men saying abortion is a bad thing for women to do.

Physically, it is the woman who is at risk of whatever might happen."

Q: What experience motivates you to remind women about health care before Roe vs. Wade?

A: People have tried to prevent or abort unwanted pregnancies for as long as there's been recorded history. This will continue, no matter what. If abortions are illegal, the complications are hemorrhage and infection, which could lead to subsequent infertility.

Before Roe, there were people who tried to abort themselves and who went to people who said they could perform abortions.

Then in 1968, in Maryland, there was the hospital review %J committee. If a woman was seeking an abortion, she did not necessarily have to appear before the board, but had to submit forms that she had been seen by a psychiatrist. It caused questions and delay, and it was demeaning.

We used to say that unless you could go to that man in Havana, the rich got richer and the poor got children. Before the state approved free-standing abortion clinics, we referred women to clinics in New York City and Washington, D.C., to have the abortions -- if they could afford it. On the other hand, we would get funds from supporters to send the indigent to those clinics, too.

Q.: What is the real block to abortion rights?

A: Lack of sex education and knowledge of and availability of acceptable birth control practices. Also, the growth of religious funda

mentalism. . . . I just don't know what motivates people to talk this way because I have seen the ill effects of self-induced and illegal abortions and the havoc it creates in women's lives.

You have to approach this issue with an open mind and not the notion of what is right and what is wrong.

I would hope that if fetuses have the right to survive, then they would have the right to be born into a caring atmosphere where they, too, could achieve the potential for self-realization.

Q.: What would you say is the pivotal alternative to abortion?

A.: Birth control. Women need to have more choice of readily available methods. In the Reagan-Bush years, less money has gone into health programs and family planning programs and part of that is research into new birth control methods. Birth control methods are not always available to people, and they require motivation and consistency of use.

One of the things that abortion opponents say is that abortion should not be used as birth control -- but if your government does not fund research into birth control, women can't be given any more choices.

Q.: Do you believe that men have rights, too, when a decision is made about whether to terminate a pregnancy?

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