Pregnant Women Need Support, Solutions, Not a Deadly Quick Fix SHOULD DR. FOSTER BE CONFIRMED?

NO :


The invitation to write an essay opposing the nomination of Henry Foster for surgeon general came while I was traveling: I saved the message on my machine and considered what, really, were my objections. Three convictions came to mind: that abortion takes a human life, and is therefore the opposite of health; that pregnant women need support and solutions, not a quick fix that kills their children and breaks their hearts: and that this issue is so bitterly divisive that such a nomination pours salt into an unhealed wound.

All these beliefs were hard-won. I moved from a pro-choice to a pro-life position years ago, when I read a description of an abortion and could not avoid seeing the bloody hand of violence once again disguised as "progress." But in the pro-life movement I constantly called my colleagues to see, not just the baby, but the woman whose flesh surrounds that child, a woman often frightened and alone. A year of listening to women who had abortions and researching the reasons for that choice culminated last fall in my book "Real Choices."

Lastly, the discord between pro-life and pro-choice troubles me, perhaps because I know the sincerity on both sides. In order to increase communication and decrease hostility, I co-founded "Common Ground of the Nation's Capital," a group aimed at bringing pro-life and pro-choice advocates together for a meaningful dialogue. The nomination of Henry Foster has had the opposite effect: It is a slap in the face of those who believe abortion is wrong.

But one aspect of opposing the nomination concerned me: Would this mean no obstetrician-gynecologist could hold the post? My grandfather was an obstetrician and his 1917 textbook impressed on me the debt women owe for advances in that field: Just 80 years ago granddad was taught that 10 percent of his Caesarean-section patients would die. Doctors in this vital field should not be excluded from the surgeon general's role. But is abortion so routinely practiced that Dr. Foster's defeat would mean the defeat of all OB/GYNs?

When I checked for new phone messages, I was surprised to hear the cheery Panamanian accent of Dr. Marion Smith-Waison, my own OB/GYN, whose office is in Columbia. When I returned her call, I asked about the prevalence of abortion. "There were four of us in my residency program, and three refused to do abortions," she said. "If it's a matter of learning to handle a suction aspiration machine [used in most abortions], there are plenty of opportunities with miscarriages. There is no need to do elective abortions."

There must be a great many OB/YNs like Dr. Smith-Waison who refuse to do abortions -- aren't we always hearing about the growing shortage of abortion doctors, that 85 percent of America's counties don't even have one?

Why would you oppose the Foster nomination? I asked my doctor, and she gave a heated reply: "He says 'I only did 12 abortions, or 39' but that is not the issue. The issue is, 'Did I deliberately take a life?' If he [Dr. Foster] can't see the difference between taking a life and preserving life, I can't trust him with my cancer patients, or old persons or paraplegics. Why don't we just annihilate all imperfect people? The hypocrisy!"

My doctor had called to enlist my prayers for a patient pregnant in a difficult situation. "I always tell them, you'll be glad if you do the right thing. Sometimes they tell me," and here Dr. Smith-Waison mimicked an exasperated tone, "All right, I'm having this baby just for you!" She laughed. "And I say, 'Praise the Lord!' You know, by the time the baby is born they are so happy!"

A baby brings problems, but lighter than the eternal stone abortion leaves in a conscience. Dr. Smith-Waison has seen both results, and with her prayers, counsel, and support, a woman can find the courage to choose life for her child. A dead baby is not good medicine. My doctor knows that. Shouldn't the surgeon general?

Frederica Mathewes-Green is the communications director for the National Women's Coalition for Life and author of "Real Choices," a book about the abortion issue.

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