An Open Letter About the Future of Abortion in U.S. and Medical Students

Medical Students for Life of American sides with Life in all cases. Some physicians who consider themselves pro-life will perform an induced abortion to “save the life of the mother” as in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. Most pro-life physicians understand these types of pregnancies often spontaneously abort themselves and will provide close medical supervision to their patients during the process. With that said, the following letter appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The doctor’s in the letter gives an expansive view of the abortion debate since 1973 and a word oencouragement to Pro-Life Medical Students. 


No matter what your position on the rights or wrongs of abortion, the Roe vs. Wade decision, made 40 years ago today, was one of the most momentous in American history. It has had profound personal, social, political and demographic effects.

Since 1973, more than 50 million abortions have been performed in the United States. More than 30 percent of all women have had an abortion. That last fact alone explains why a dispassionate discussion of this topic is difficult. We all carry intensely personal baggage on this issue. Even from my male perspective, that is true.

During my 33-year medical career, I have done abortions. More accurately, I have ended pregnancies in very rare instances when they posed a risk to the life of a mother. However, my intention has always been to preserve the life of a mother, never to end the life of an unborn child. I will never forget the anguish of those choices.

Yet abortion didn’t trouble me in 1973. I went into medicine and OB/GYN partially because of my neighbor in Tucson, Ariz. He became the first Arizona physician willing to perform abortions when they became legal. As a premed college freshman, I wasn’t bothered by the logic of Roe. I was certainly in the demographic that is (still) most likely to support abortion — young men who would not mind having someone else make a little problem go away.

In 2013, some believe that the debate over abortion is over. You would think that the re-election of a president who unapologetically supports publicly funded abortion without restrictions ends the argument. Yet it rages on.

Why? Because the last 40 years have brought advances in medical care, as well as a surprising change of heart among the American people.

When I started medical school in 1976, babies born below 28 weeks were not resuscitated. They were not considered viable. Today, the lower limit of viability is 23 weeks. The incredible detail of ultrasound makes it difficult to ignore the obvious humanity of a life before birth. Intrauterine fetal treatment and surgery is an expanding option.

But when fetal status as a patient depends on the decisions of others, we have clear evidence of an unresolved moral tension.

Opinion polls have borne this out. Slate’s William Saletan recently noted that liberal attitudes have increased on a range of issues — with the exception of abortion. “When public opinion turns toward gay marriage without abandoning fidelity and family formation … [a]nd when public opinion turns toward reproductive freedom and equal rights for women but continues to oppose abortion, it punctures our dismissal of prolife sentiment as a vestige of right-wing sexism. Spin and soundbites won’t make the evidence go away. Sooner or later you have to face it.”

So how do we face abortion in 2013? Though economic issues are at the top of most everyone’s agenda, abortion is not far down the list, for supporters and opponents. At the federal level, we will have intense debate over abortion in health care reform, and any Supreme Court nomination will once again put abortion at center stage. On the state level, restrictions on abortion are proposed in many of the 27 states with prolife legislative majorities. The debate that Roe supposedly ended continues.

Is there any room for optimism? I believe there is.

As a clinical faculty member at the University of Minnesota, I have the privilege of reading essays submitted by students after their OB/GYN rotations. Many thoughtfully reflect on their clinical experiences with abortion. There are admissions of changed perspectives. Most encouraging to me is my volunteer role as faculty advisor to the self-organized Medical Students for Human Life group. They and their colleagues in the Medical Students for Choice group host respectful counterpoint panel discussions that are well-attended and beneficial.

The most recent discussion addressed the now-undeniable evidence that the choice of an abortion significantly increases the risk for preterm birth in a subsequent pregnancy. This effect is at least as strong as maternal smoking — which we tackle with intensive public-education programs. As the public-policy debate continues, it makes at least as much sense to enact informed-consent requirements and regulations for abortion as it does to put in place gun laws that might decrease the risk of horrific mass shootings.

Who knows what the status of abortion will be in 2033, when my granddaughters are young women? Knowing their grandmother and their mothers, I am sure that they will support the substantial prolife resources already available across this country.

As the 40th anniversary of Roe is celebrated and lamented, I am optimistic, because a growing majority of Americans believe that abortion is not the right answer.


Steven Calvin is a Minneapolis physician.

Death Track for Babies in UK

New revelations are coming from the UK that doctors are discharging sick and disabled newborn babies, from National Health Service hospitals in England only to die slowly at home or in hospices in an unfathomable manner. The innocent children are being put on controversial “death pathways,” once only thought to have involved elderly and terminally ill adult patients.

According to the UK Daily Mail, one doctor has admitted starving and dehydrating ten babies to death in the neonatal unit of one hospital alone. Writing in a leading medical journal, the physician revealed the process can take an average of ten days during which a baby becomes ‘smaller and shrunken’.  The LCP – on which 130,000 elderly and terminally-ill adult patients die each year – is now the subject of an independent inquiry ordered by ministers.

 “The parents want ‘nothing done’ because they feel that these anomalies are not consistent with a basic human experience. I know that once decisions are made, life support will be withdrawn. Assuming this baby survives, we will be unable to give feed, and the parents will not want us to use artificial means to do so. Regrettably, my predictions are correct. I realize as I go to meet the parents that this will be the tenth child for whom I have cared after a decision has been made to forgo medically provided feeding. ‘Survival is often much longer than most physicians think; reflecting on my previous patients, the median time from withdrawal of hydration to death was ten days” – Anonymous UK Doctor

The investigation, which will include child patients, will look at whether cash payments to hospitals to hit death pathway targets have influenced doctors’ decisions.

Medical critics of the LCP insist it is impossible to say when a patient will die and as a result the LCP death becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They say it is a form of euthanasia, used to clear hospital beds and save the National Health Service money.

In America, we are blessed to have perinatal hospices for babies with a lethal diagnosis such as Trisomy 18. For example, at Alexandra’s House in Kansas City, MO parents are given comfort and resources to spend precious last moments with their babies. These perinatal hospices serve as an option for parents to help them heal during the grieving process. The parents are involved in the process and are given all of their options without coercion. Even if the parents are unwilling to be involved in the perinatal hospice process these centers of care will provide the resources necessary to give the baby the palliative care, dignity and respect the child deserves in the dying process.

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UK Health Secretary, Backs 12-Week Abortion Limit

By Myles Collier , Christian Post Contributor

In a new shift, Britain’s new health secretary insisted that there should be a reduction in the time limit for women who are considering getting an abortion. The remarks have already produced criticism from several women’s rights organizations.

Jeremy Hunt, who recently assumed his new role of health secretary, explained that while he understands the seriousness concerning this debate, he feels that reducing the time limit from 24-weeks to 12-weeks is the right point to start with when considering the moment life starts.

“Everyone looks at the evidence and comes to a view about when they think that moment is, and my own view is that 12 weeks is the right point for it … It is just my view about that incredibly difficult question about the moment that we should deem life to start,” Hunt told The Sunday Times U.K. during an interview.

Hunt did not cite any specific scientific evidence to explain his position, nor did he assume any religious motives for his statement.

“It’s just my view about that incredibly difficult question about the moment that we should deem life to start. I don’t think the reason I have that view is for religious reasons,” Hunt said.

The statements were made a day before the annual Conservative Party conference began on Oct. 7 and quickly drew criticism from abortion advocacy groups, which said they would challenge any attempt to change the current law.

Life Chosen over Doctor’s Abortion Advice

By PAUL SIMS, Mail Online 28 August 2012

It is a decision no expectant mother should have to face. After years of trying for a baby, Jo Powell finally discovered that she was pregnant. But her delight turned to despair days later when doctors found she had breast cancer and advised her to sacrifice her unborn child’s life in order to save her own by beginning chemotherapy. Mrs Powell defied the doctors, however, and refused to start the treatment until much later in her pregnancy, in a gamble that could have cost her her life.

Miraculously, she and her husband Richard are now celebrating with their young son, Jake, after being told that she has beaten the cancer. 

Mrs Powell, 41, an office administrator, said yesterday: ‘When I heard the word cancer my first thought was, “I’m going to lose my baby.”

‘It was like I was in a living nightmare. We had been trying for a baby for years, and we were convinced it wasn’t going  to happen for us, so Jake was so special.

‘I knew we couldn’t give up on our baby. There was no way I was going to sacrifice him to save myself.  

‘I knew that even if I didn’t make it, I would have brought a life into the world.’

The couple, from Newark, Nottinghamshire, discovered Mrs Powell was pregnant in 2010. But days later she found a lump in her breast. Doctors at Nottingham City Hospital warned that they could not begin chemotherapy while she was still in the early stages of pregnancy.

Mrs Powell was told that if she chose to keep her unborn child she would have to delay chemotherapy until later in her pregnancy when her  baby would be strong enough to survive it.The doctors advised her to consider an abortion, explaining that her cancer was aggravated by her hormones and that the pregnancy could help the disease grow faster.

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