By: Kevin Weary, MD
At the beginning of the month, my wife and I had the privilege of attending the Supreme Court oral arguments in the case June Medical Services v. Russo.
To have the opportunity to experience the Supreme Court process during a case that involves the quality and safety of women’s healthcare—along with the sanctity of life—was deeply meaningful to me as an ObGyn physician, but also as a husband and a father.
Healthcare in general, and women’s healthcare specifically, should be important to us all.
Caring for All Women
Before I share my opinions on the legal and medical aspects of this case, let me again openly state: I believe in the sanctity of life, I am a pro-life individual, and I am a pro-life physician.
While I am adamantly against abortion, I recognize that abortion is legal in our country at this time in history. So I do fully desire women who are obtaining abortions to be safe—both legally and medically protected from substandard medical care.
That’s exactly why Louisiana passed the law at issue in June Medical Services. The law—which was passed in 2014—requires abortion doctors in the state to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic.
The purpose of this law was to increase the safety for women having abortions.
Louisiana passed the law after determining that several current abortion practices within their state were sub-standard: specifically, that unqualified or undertrained practitioners were performing abortions (including an ophthalmologist and radiologist) and clinics were not meeting basic licensing safety standards.
Abortion doctors previously had no responsibility to treat their patients for post-procedure complications. The patients were left alone to find a medical facility and medical provider to care for them in the event of any complications.
In sum, abortion clinics were being held to a different and lower standard than other outpatient surgical centers in Louisiana.
Ultimately, the Louisiana law helps ensure the competency of abortion doctors and provides continuity of care between the abortion doctor and the hospital when complications arise.
Medical Rationale for the Louisiana Law
As an ObGyn physician of over two decades, this Louisiana law is elementary and very reasonable.
Complications can and do happen in any medical procedure.
As a physician and surgeon, it is my responsibility to be ready and able to care for my patient in the event of a surgical complication (though let me be clear, I am personally speaking of my ObGyn surgeries, not abortions as I am not an abortion provider).
My responsibilities include communicating with my patients where to go in case of a post-surgical problem and having a system in place where either myself or another physician is ready, willing, and able to take care of her needs.
This very basic level of preparedness for my patients applies not only to me, but also to any physician who is operating on patients in either a hospital or an outpatient surgical center—or even in an office surgical procedure.
Should not this same expectation be required of the medical provider who has chosen to offer and perform abortions?
The Louisiana law, however, was challenged by the abortion industry as interfering with a woman’s abortion rights. Abortion advocates claimed that the law placed an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to find an abortion provider and clinic.
And this case eventually made it up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Here is what I find fascinating: Even though the law in Louisiana was passed to protect women who were seeking and obtaining abortions, it is the abortion industry that objects to this law.
Stop the Rage
The debate between those who support the sanctity of all life, including the unborn, and those who defend abortion rights will rage on for decades—perhaps indefinitely.
Wouldn’t it be beneficial to our country if we could at least remove some of the “rage” in areas where there should be obvious agreement?
Both sides do, in fact, want to protect the health of women, even while we continue the debate on the interpretation of the “health of women” as it relates to the pregnant state.
Let us pursue reasonableness, logic, sound medicine, and consistent legal regulations and expectations across the medical and surgical industry as we debate these issues.
Even to those who are pro-choice, the “right to abortion” should not outweigh the responsibility to protect the safety of a woman seeking medical procedures, including the medical procedure of abortion itself.
Hope and Focus on Gospel Truth
When my wife and I left the courtroom and walked out the front doors of the Supreme Court building, we were face to face with the crowds representing both sides of the abortion debate.
The passion, commitment to cause, anger, grief, fear, and emotion was evident on both sides.
It was a meaningful moment. And as a man who tries to follow a Biblical worldview, it gave me pause.
I was struck anew with the realization that the worldview I follow teaches undeniably that Christ unconditionally loves each and every person on the steps of that Supreme Court building—loving each to the point of ultimate self-sacrifice.
We as believers must never forget the bigger message of hope, healing, restoration, and eternal truth of the Gospel even as we take our stand for issues as important as the sanctity of life.
May we act in love as we pursue truth, and as we stand for those who cannot defend themselves.
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