Nothing provokes a stronger response than discussion about reproductive health and a woman’s right to a safe, legal abortion. It is, understandably, a topic fraught with emotion that often overshadows civil discourse and constructive debate.
Recent events in our General Assembly thrust those emotions into the forefront, on both a local and national level. Emanating from testimony related to a bill intended to remove some restrictions to abortion access, a false narrative was created during a committee hearing by opponents of the bill.
This line of questioning, from an individual with no medical expertise, was hypothetical in nature and did nothing but diminish a complicated medical situation into an inflammatory soundbite.
My first job out of college was as a staff nurse on the Women’s Health Unit at Yale. Among those in my care were women undergoing late-term abortions for a variety of reasons.
No one quite understands the anguish felt by those who are faced with the decision to terminate a pregnancy, the overwhelming majority of which had been planned and anticipated with joy. From devastating fetal anomalies detected later in pregnancy, such as anencephaly (the absence of a major portion of the brain) to life-threatening maternal conditions, heart or kidney failure, for example, there are many medical indications for a therapeutic abortion.
Consider, for a moment, a woman facing the choice between staying alive for her existing children or perishing during critical complications of pregnancy. It is a burdensome decision, never taken lightly and best made in private, with the medical advice of Board Certified healthcare providers.
The sad irony of this issue must not go unnoticed.
“Pro-life” supporters have issued multiple threats against some Democratic legislators, putting the health and safety of their children at risk and requiring one delegate to be assigned additional protective security. These supporters were among the very opponents of Medicaid expansion, aimed at providing health care coverage to some 400,000 Virginians.
Often, they align themselves with the policy positions of groups such as the Virginia Citizens Defense League and the NRA; policies which continue to compromise our public health and safety. Additionally, these individuals are among those who see no ethical dilemma regarding separating children from their parents at our country’s border.
To clarify, late term abortions are already legal in the commonwealth and comprise approximately 1 percent of all abortions conducted. Infanticide, otherwise referred to as “partial birth abortion” is illegal.
These terms are employed to spur strong, visceral emotion and have no scientific basis in the practice of medicine. In the event of critical illness occurring late in gestation, a woman’s labor would be induced and she would have a premature birth, not a third-trimester abortion. To claim otherwise would be disingenuous, incendiary and do nothing to contribute to a productive discussion regarding the issue of reproductive rights.
The hypothetical rhetoric that clouds the conversation about late term abortion stems from a lack of knowledge. The behavior of politicians capitalizing on the current news cycle in an attempt to bolster their chances of winning in November is outrageous and ill-conceived.
Let us return to a place where civil discourse and constructive debate provide the foundation for policy, and let that policy continue to ensure a woman’s right to reproductive self-determination.
Payne is a Registered Nurse and has an MBA in Healthcare. She lives in James City County.