Saturday, September 3, 2011

Late term abortions are necessary. Without them women will die.

It wasn’t hard to predict that pro-life organisations would capitalise on reports that a woman undertaking a late term abortion has ended up seriously ill in Hospital. Its not like they haven’t done that before.

A few days ago I read an article about a late term abortion that appeared to have gone tragically wrong.

in short:

The woman has been in Box Hill Hospital for more than a week since the late-term abortion was performed at a Croydon clinic.

The woman, aged in her 40s, was 23 weeks pregnant, and State Health Minister David Davis says an investigation is underway.

The woman is still in intensive care in a critical condition after suffering organ failure.

Late abortions are performed in stages, generally over two days, and usually in hospitals because of the potential risks.

Sources have told Lateline that on the second day, the woman was rushed to hospital after undergoing the final part of the procedure.

The Medical Board of Australia is investigating the case but it is yet to reach a conclusion.

A formal complaint has also been made to the Nursing and Midwifery Board.

The complaint against Dr Schulberg (owner and main practitioner at Croydon Clinic) was made by a Box Hill Hospital physician who provided emergency treatment to the mother.


Dr Schulberg would not be interviewed, but told Lateline the woman had a serious preexisting condition and the abortion had nothing to do with her current state of health.

If Dr Schulberg is to be believed, the woman in question was very ill indeed and continued to deteriorate during the abortion but not due to the abortion.

Dr Schulberg appears to be an extremely well respected and professional practitioner. This could be a huge misunderstanding or a genuine case of malpractice. We are yet to find out but for now, I am going to assume all is above board. Watch this space.

Upon reading the article above I wrote a blog post where I listed 6 claims that the pro-life movement would make as a result of this event.

  1. Pro-lifers will claim that this is the final proof required to ban all late term abortion.

  2. Not a single pro life website will address the possibility that this woman may have had a life threatening condition exacerbated by pregnancy.

  3. This news item will be unethically used to scare the shit out of young women who may need a late term abortion to save their own lives.

  4. Pro life advocates will try to use this even to wrongfully damage the reputation of Dr Schulberg.

  5. The fact that a formal complaint has been made will be used as evidence that the mother was coerced into having a late term abortion.

  6. Dr Shulberg’s clinic will be painted as a crude, basic medical facility not fit to perform abortions in.

I thought I was being really clever, but I was actually quite naive when I wrote that list. I had never spent any time reading pro-life articles. What I didn’t know until now is that pro-lifers, Australian ones at least, have been making all six claims since the beginning of time. Well, not that long. But you get the point.

If I was less ethical I would continue to claim that I had predicted these outcomes in the hope that most people wouldn’t bother doing their research. Pseudo-psychic abilities for the win! False credit-taking is fun.

Anyway, I’m not going to bother trying to tick off the items above because you can do that pretty easily for yourself. But I did go out anyway and find a pro-life article about the recent Box Hill late term abortion. I figured I could save face with an old-fashioned debunking instead. An article written by Life Network Australia was the first I came across. Predictably (I’m full of predictions today) it was full of misleading and dubious claims.

Well known for her support of abortion, Dr. Caroline De Costa conceded that late term procedures are risky, with the possibility of hemorrhaging, admission to hospital and the requirement of pain relief. Dr. De Costa also said that late term abortions are done because of a “Diagnosis of a severe abnormality in the child, often incompatible with life or incompatible with the quality of life that is acceptable to the parents” and “sometimes because the mother has developed a medical condition during pregnancy, which is being exacerbated by the pregnancy continuing. It is usually done for a major medical indication”.

In defending the practice, some doctors argue that these are rare cases and usually done for extreme abnormalities. Doctor Lachlan De Crespigny also made these claims, but they were shown by a Victorian Health Department Report to be inaccurate - the report revealed that over half of the babies aborted late term were in fact, healthy babies. The most recent Victorian Health Department report (2008) reveals that some 178 of the 328 late term abortions were performed for ‘psycho social’ reasons - see information following this article.

It is alarming that doctors appear to be more willing to expose women to the risks of late term abortion, rather than referring women for support. Many of us, including those with disabilities, take exception to the notion that a babies life is measured by the “quality of life acceptable to the parents”. Dr. De Costa has effectively admitted that the practice of eugenics is ‘alive and well’ in Australia.

WTF? Lets check the definition of Eugenics:

noun ( used with a singular verb )
the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, especially by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics).

Eugenics implies that women are free to choose late term abortion if their child does not meet expectations (whatever those might be). Bullshit. Women who have late term abortions have no choice. The child certainly was not going to survive without the abortion. If you can’t choose to have or not to have a late term abortion then it is no longer eugenics. End of story.

All Women who come to a clinic requesting late term abortion are immediately referred for support. Without exception. Thorough psychiatric and medical assessments are carried out before late term abortion is even contemplated. How can we be sure of this? Three words. Medical Professional Liability.

Clinics ensure women get immediate, full psychiatric and specialist support not just because it is ethical but because it ensures mistakes are avoided and litigation averted. Money talks. There is not an abortion doctor in this country who would perform a late term abortion on the word of the mother alone. No doctor would be mad enough to wear 100% of the risk on a procedure so fraught with potentially irrational emotion emanating from a very vulnerable mother. It just doesn’t make business or ethical sense.

Psychiatrists and medical specialists are all consulted. This has the effect of mitigating risk through shared responsibility and broadening professional ethics. Alternative treatments are proposed and in most cases attempted. Every alternative option must be exhausted. If late term abortion remains as the only option, then all specialists and psychiatrists will have agreed on this as a collective. If there is any doubt whatsoever that a late term abortion has put the mother at severe mental or physical risk, each and every practitioner involved would be held professionally responsible. Careers would be at risk.

Pro-lifers seem to think that a woman can walk into a clinic, explain that a baby would get in the way of tennis practice and be scheduled for a late term abortion the next day. This simply doesn’t happen. Either the mother’s life is at risk, the child has a severe abnormality or both at the same time.

For babies who are “incompatible with life”, it seems bizarre that doctors would add the trauma of a barbaric abortion procedure, to a baby who is already terminal and to his/ her parents.

Yes, a late term abortion is traumatic for both mother and baby. That is why it is practiced only as a last resort. But late term abortions occur only when all alternatives are either not possible or worse.

It is questionable just what “Medical conditions exacerbated during pregnancy” warrant an abortion?
Surely excellent medical care (and practical support) for the mother and the baby (rather than abortion) is a priority?

“Excellent medical care” is a priority. It always way. Read the Hippocratic Oath. The same “excellent medical care” prompted a late term abortion because not doing so would have placed mother or child or both at severe risk.

A young pregnant friend attended a hospital in Melbourne for extreme morning sickness, but eventually had an abortion. She was informed by her doctor that if she wanted to have another baby, she should get private medical cover to receive the care she needed.
This statement by Dr. De Costa (and the experience of my friend) raises serious questions about abortion being offered as second rate ‘treatment’ for medical conditions.

Abortion isn’t “second rate” treatment. Abortion is resorted to because the alternatives are worse. Pro-lifers seem to think that there is no medical procedure more invasive and more traumatic that an abortion. They should try having brain surgery. All doctors carry out the treatment that they think is least damaging to their patient. Again, read the Hippocratic Oath.

While refusing to go into the details of the case, Victorian Health Minister, David Davis stated that the public would be concerned. Surely the public has the right to know the grizzly details of such horrific late term abortion procedures, which have increased by 600% at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne (since the Victorian abortion law reform in 2008), with staff reportedly traumatised.

Firstly, abortion procedures at Royal Women’s Hospital have not gone up 600%. Even the author of this article admits this error at the end of the very same article. Why they didn’t remove said “fact” entirely I don’t know why. I regard this failure with suspicion.

Secondly, doctors don’t give the grizzly details on any medical procedure. My sister is a doctor and if she were to fully explain medical procedures in all their gory detail to her patients not one would go through with it and lives would be at risk. Pro-lifers get a lot of mileage out of the claim that patients deserve to know the full, horrific details of an abortion procedure. This is just wrong. The quality or appropriateness of a particular medical treatment is not in any way correlated with how scary it is. A doctor’s role is to filter the information passed on to the patient to enable them to make the best possible, most informed decision free of fear and irrationality. It is well and truly possible to explain the risks of a procedure without resorting to emotive, horrific imagery. Its what doctors do on a daily basis. Scaring the shit out of a patient so that they select little or no treatment is tantamount to malpractice. Thats a medical career ended right there. Doctors that heed the pro-lifers probably wont be doctors for long.

The pro-lifers know exactly why they want women to be told the gory details. Because virtually any woman would terrified out of proceeding. Problem solved as far as they are concerned. Have pro-lifers considered that late term abortions are performed only in cases of severe risk? If pro-lifers had their way, they would henceforth have on their heads probably around 150-350 mother deaths in Australia each year. An abortion may destroy one life, but in the case of late term abortions, not performing an abortion would most likely lose two.

But pro-life never cared about dead mothers did it?



Feasibility is an engineering based blog designed to reach other STEM people. Non-STEM people are also welcome! I try to give good advice and well-reasoned opinions but please don’t hesitate to disagree with me. This blog exists because I realised that I live in a metaphorical bubble and that simply wont do. Nup.


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