Impact of disallowing abortion will hit poor women
Leslie Stahl in the recent interview with Donald Trump touched on the impact of his intention to appoint pro-life judges to the federal bench. He opined that if Roe v. Wade were overturned, jurisdiction would return to the states. She observed that women in states prohibiting abortion would lose access. His response, that they could travel to other states, reveals abject ignorance or indifference to the issues at hand.
A brief “ memoir” of my own professional experience in this area may clarify what is at stake. In 1956, as an intern at a New York City hospital, I had occasion to see several young women — girls, really, in their teens, admitted in septic shock after attempts, either by themselves or by unlicensed “back alley” practitioners to terminate pregnancies, using dirty equipment, without any anesthesia. The majority were women of color, and poor. They arrived in advanced states of generalized infection and multiple organ failure, and most often died.
A few years later, in order to augment my income as a resident physician or fellow, I moonlighted as an admitting medical officer at night at a private hospital on Manhattan’s East Side. My task was to take a history, examine the patients, except for a vaginal exam, and write routine admitting orders to be carried out prior to a procedure to be performed by their admitting attending physician the next morning. That procedure was almost always “D&C” or dilation of the cervix and scraping of the interior of the uterus, the diagnosis on admission always being “incomplete miscarriage.”
Whether these women were indeed miscarrying can be left to the reader to discern.
Thus, access to safe termination of pregnancy was strictly a matter of economic means.
During that period, 88 percent of reported terminations of pregnancy in New York City were performed on women who had private physicians.
The implication is clear: If Mr. Trump has his way, termination of pregnancy in states disallowing it will be available only to women who can afford to travel elsewhere to obtain it. The rest will rely on the good old-fashioned back alley or coat hanger pathway, and we will once again be privileged to witness the agonized death of many of them. Will we have indeed made America “great again?”
Herbert Ross, M.D., lives in Lyme.