You ask me about traditional family values, like the Bible says? I’ll tell you. A 14-year-old girl in South Sudan has a baby. The baby is too big, her pelvis is too small, she has horrible post-partum bleeding. One in 10 women die in childbirth in her world. I cannot control the bleeding. I ask her husband if we can send her for a hysterectomy (surgically remove the uterus) to save her life. Men are the decision makers in this society. Her husband has eight wives. He purchased the girl for 30 heads of cattle two years ago. A fair market price for a young wife. He tells me that without her uterus she is of no value to him, and just another mouth to feed in a time where food is scarce. Let her die. So she dies.
You ask me about traditional family values, like the Bible says? I’ll tell you. A 16-year-old girl in the Middle East comes to the ER with her father for lower abdominal pain. I want to do a pregnancy test. It is a very conservative Muslim community. One of the male nurses pulls me aside to have a word. Only men work in the ER at night. Women cannot be away from their fathers or husbands at night. He tells me not to do the pregnancy test. If it is positive, the unmarried adolescent girl will be killed by her family for the shame she had brought. Pregnancy without marriage. Her chances of survival are better if we do not know her pregnancy status. He tells me that she will find someone in secret to handle her symptoms if they are pregnancy related. We do not test her for pregnancy. Does she have an ectopic pregnancy? We don’t know. She maybe survives.
You ask me about traditional family values, like the Bible says? I’ll tell you. A 23-year-old woman is date raped in Georgia. She was drugged and does not know if a condom was used. She knows the man and does not want to press criminal charges for reasons she chooses not to disclose. I respect her wishes. I test her and treat her for sexually transmitted infections and prescribe for her “Plan B” to prevent pregnancy. The pharmacist calls me a few hours later and says he will not fill her prescription because his Christian faith prevents him from doing so. Freedom of religion. I call in the prescription to another pharmacy, which agrees to fill it. She survives.
It is not my place to tell a woman whether or not she should have an abortion. I am only a physician. It is, however, my responsibility to instruct her where she can go to get a safe abortion, if that is her decision for whatever the moral, psychological, emotional, social, clinical, or private-none-of-my-business complex reasons that have brought her to this choice as an option. Let’s keep church out of health care. Let’s keep church out of government. Be cautious, my countrymen, about romanticizing traditional family values, like the Bible says. It is far safer for our daughters, girlfriends, wives, friends, mothers, and neighbors to practice good, evidence-based medicine and allow safe options. The Supreme Court is not opening the door for states to prevent abortion. It is allowing states to criminalize safe abortions. I stand with Planned Parenthood. I have seen traditional, family, Bible values. And I choose health and safety.
Dr. Jason Prystowsky is a friendly, caring neighborhood, community emergency physician. The thoughts and opinions expressed are his own and do reelect the various instutuiosn with which he is affiliated.