Saturday, January 22, 2005

A History Lesson

Update: I need to add a Warning about the graphic nature (description of cases) of this post. [I didn't even realize it, sorry about that, and thank you to Prof. Myers for pointing it out.]

Two reproductive health icons, Drs. Elizabeth Connell and Louise Tyrer, recall what it was like to be an Ob/Gyn before Roe v. Wade, and express fear and rage about the current state of reproductive rights and family planning in this country and what the future may hold.

Dr. Elizabeth Connell:

"It's hard to conceptualize what it was like before Roe v. Wade unless you were actually there," Connell says, barely containing her anger. "In the large hospitals, ward after ward was filled with women suffering and dying from botched abortions. In some hospitals, it was the job of the first-year resident to sleep all day, because he would be up all night scraping out the remains of illegal abortions, giving blood to the women who were bleeding, trying desperately to keep them out of shock and treating their infections. This was the norm until we got Roe v. Wade and the New York law that preceded it. I'm very much afraid that the way things are going now, we could go right back to that again."

...

One woman made a particular impression.

"She was not able to get a sterilization procedure done by anyone," Connell remembers. "She never wanted to have children, and she'd had several abortions. There wasn't a doctor in New York City she could find who would do a tubal ligation, which is what she wanted, because she was young and had no children. She happened to be a lab technician, so she took cultures home, looked in a mirror and found her cervix and squirted these cultures of live organisms up through her cervix trying to block off her uterus and tubes with scar tissue. This just goes to show how desperate women were during those times. They resorted to very desperate means to control their fertility. She nearly died. She finally pulled through but not without some very hair-raising moments."


Dr. Louise Tyrer:

"These women came in dying from botched abortions and infections. It was just such a waste of human life," says Tyrer.

The first deaths "sear the soul," says Tyrer, and they remain fresh memories for her, as do images of women lined up on gurneys outside the operating room 18 hours a day, "waiting for doctors to take them in and scrape out the remnants of what was causing the hemorrhaging and infection."

"One woman came in already in shock, she was hemorrhaging so much. The first thing we did was to give her blood to rebuild her strength so she could go through the surgical procedure to remove leftover tissue from the partial abortion. Despite getting a transfusion, she continued to bleed," says Tyrer, who then discovered that the abortionist had torn the cervix and the uterine artery. Tyrer had to cut through the abdomen and tie off the uterine artery to stop the bleeding.

The woman survived the botched abortion, but two days later she came down with gangrene, "obviously through the use of unclean instruments during the abortion. We couldn't give her penicillin, because it had all gone to war. We gave her a sulfa drug, but it didn't work. We put her in the private room reserved for women who were dying." An autopsy revealed she had gangrene extensively throughout her body.

Tyrer tells another story that underscores the importance of women having the right to reproductive options. A gypsy woman, pregnant for the 13th time, had been in labor for three days. Tyrer discovered that the fetus was already dead and lying cross-wise in the woman's worn-out uterus. At 3 am, Tyrer telephoned her female supervisor at home - most of the male doctors had gone to war - who advised Tyrer to give the woman ether until she stopped breathing to relax the uterus, so that Tyrer could manually turn and extract the fetus. However, the turn ruptured the uterus and the uterine artery, and the woman started hemorrhaging. In a second call, the doctor suggested a hysterectomy to control the bleeding, but it was too late, and the woman died.




12 Comments:

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I feel bad for those women. But what about the babies that are now being scraped out of 1.5 million uteruses each year. Sure, they can do it without harming the woman, but WHAT ABOUT THE BABY?

 
At 2:22 PM, Blogger CE Petro said...

Anonymous, what about the impact on society if women were FORCED to carry pregnancies to term? It's all warm and fuzzy to think about the perceived face of a sweet little baby, but what about the face of the child living in poverty, or the child that is under-educated, or the child that is homeless because mom can't earn a living wage, all stemming from the fact that she was forced to carry a pregnancy to term, becasue a group of people could not stand to think of all the "dead little babies"?

 
At 3:43 PM, Blogger ema said...

Anonymous,

If the choice was between the life of a woman and that of a baby [newborn] (for example, in cases of infanticide), your question would be relevant. However, you are asking the question in the context of abortion--a situation where there is no baby. [Just calling the products of conception a "baby" does not, in real life, a baby make. In real life (medicine), as opposed to theory (politics, religion, philosophy), terms have to be precise; they mean something. For example, not even a viable fetus is a "baby" because, among other things, viability does not, in any way, insure a livebirth.]

 
At 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i hate the silly "think of the children!" chestnut. it actually says nothing, and for some reason it offends me that people try to win arguments without making any actual points.

what about the godsdamn children? even if there were any actual kids involved here -- which there aren't, but supposing there were -- why should we have to sacrifice the lives of adults for their sake? are infant lives more worthy than adult womens' lives, and if they are, why the hells are they?

remember, that's exactly the trade-off we're dealing with here; that's precisely what these two physicians are railing against. ban abortions and you're killing women. period, full stop, that's all there's to it. what gives anyone the right to kill those women, is what i want to know. why are the lives of infants so DAMN important that they're worth such slaughter? eh? how do we measure the value of these human lives, anyway, that we can go and say one is more worthwhile than the other?

somehow, the "think of the chill-drunn!" crowd never seem to answer those questions. that's what pisses me off; they're trying to get their way without doing the actual, hard work of justifying their so-called "ethics". they want to impose their morals on the rest of us -- at a horrific cost in human lives, no less -- but can't be bothered to even support their positions first. there ought to be a law against it, i tell ya...

 
At 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CE Petro said to Anonymous: "... but what about the face of the child living in poverty, or the child that is under-educated, or the child that is homeless because mom can't earn a living wage...?"

... and don't forget the face of the older child who kills you in an alley over five bucks in your wallet, because he wants credibility in his old man's gang (his mom had to give up on school and works five jobs, while his deadbeat gangbanger dad lives mostly on the streets and in safehouses, but he still managed to get his son into guns and drugs early, using him as a mule and lookout. Now he's looking to move into dad's line of work).

I know both liberals and conservatives don't like to talk about *that* face when they argue about this stuff.

 
At 5:28 AM, Blogger ae said...

Anonymous at 6:11 pm,
Right on! Thanks for eloquently clearing that up. We'll all move on now, shall we?

I am sorry to yell, but THE RIGHT TO PHYSICAL INTEGRITY IS A FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF HUMAN RIGHTS! Just as prisoners should not be forced into naked human pyramids, women should not be forced to defer decisions about their bodies and their personal health to others. One has a fundamental human right to the safety and integrity of one's own body. This is Humanity 101. Forcing women to carry pregnancies to term and incur all the potential costs -- personal health, impact on personal and societal economies, psychological, and so on -- is an assault on women's lives, and thus, on children's lives. Meaningful choice about matters of reproduction (education, access to birth control, access to safe and legal abortion and reproductive health care) is the only thing that has ever benefitted both women and society on this point.

And why is it pro-lifers never seem to want to "think about the children" when that means supporting early childhood education, lunch programs, after-school care, reasonable health care, literacy, prison rehabilitation, etc., etc. All we hear from them on those points are cries of, "My taxes! My taxes!"

Disgusting. A world of unwanted children, decreased opportunity, and women as chattel. They will not stop until armageddon comes.

 
At 5:28 AM, Blogger ae said...

Anonymous at 6:11 pm,
Right on! Thanks for eloquently clearing that up. We'll all move on now, shall we?

I am sorry to yell, but THE RIGHT TO PHYSICAL INTEGRITY IS A FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF HUMAN RIGHTS! Just as prisoners should not be forced into naked human pyramids, women should not be forced to defer decisions about their bodies and their personal health to others. One has a fundamental human right to the safety and integrity of one's own body. This is Humanity 101. Forcing women to carry pregnancies to term and incur all the potential costs -- personal health, impact on personal and societal economies, psychological, and so on -- is an assault on women's lives, and thus, on children's lives. Meaningful choice about matters of reproduction (education, access to birth control, access to safe and legal abortion and reproductive health care) is the only thing that has ever benefitted both women and society on this point.

And why is it pro-lifers never seem to want to "think about the children" when that means supporting early childhood education, lunch programs, after-school care, reasonable health care, literacy, prison rehabilitation, etc., etc. All we hear from them on those points are cries of, "My taxes! My taxes!"

Disgusting. A world of unwanted children, decreased opportunity, and women as chattel. They will not stop until armageddon comes.

 
At 7:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Protect the fetus, f*ck the child, punish the slut that became pregnant, let the one that tries to abort die.
That settles all.
-A christian

 
At 1:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For most young girls, sex isn't fun"Sissy Willis
http://sisu.typepad.com

 
At 6:16 PM, Blogger Rev. Lisa Haase said...

If it cannot survive outside the womb, it is a parasite, much as mistletoe is a parasite to the tree.

 
At 8:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From a woman AND a Christian,

You have been talking about conserving the life of the woman...what about the life of the baby. Fetus or baby- it's the same- a human being. Let's look at the day a child is born. Once he/she is born, he/she is considered a child. Would you consider it a child the day or even hour before he/she was born? If so, then where do we draw the line on whether or not the fetus was a child or not? Either which way, if you don't want a child, don't have sex or take other means to prevent conception in the first place. There's places to help you with that. As for the children who are born unwanted, there are plenty of couples out there who would LOVE to have that child.
GOD BLESS!

 
At 8:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember...sometime ago, you were a "parasite" too. How would you feel if you were aborted or you wasn't considered a person?

 

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