Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An open letter to my Doctor

Dear Doctor

First I want to thank you for the things you did to assist me in securing my second trimester elective abortion. You kindly arranged for an immediate ultrasound and made the circumstances clear so I would not have to explain once again that I planned to terminate the pregnancy. Most importantly, you secured a competent and capable physician to perform the procedure.

However, I need to tell you that I was uncomfortable with the fact that you allowed your ethical problems with my decision to be so apparent. The credo of the physician is to “first do no harm,” and I felt harmed by your attitude.

You said “well I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you are not 24 weeks yet. The bad news is that you are probably 17-18 week and I do not normally do abortions that far. I know one guy who might agree to do it, but I do not know given your medical history if he will. If it has to be performed in a hospital setting then it is back on me.”

Perhaps next time, and yes there will be a next time because I am not the only woman to choose to terminate a second trimester pregnancy, you might say the following:

"Good news! You are not 24 weeks, so abortion is still your legal option. I am going to arrange for an ultrasound so that we will have exact gestational dating, since manual examination and LMP are only estimates [in fact I was closer to 15 weeks]. The best place for you to get your abortion is at X clinic which handles a high volume of elective second trimester abortions. Let me make a few calls and come right back."

Since the doctor who does support a woman’s full legal right to choose was willing to perform my abortion on an outpatient basis I could have been spared the above. Instead, on the 30 minute drive to the ultrasound appointment I got to worry that
1. I was actually 17-18 weeks along in my pregnancy, or maybe even further, which means a far more complicated medical procedure.
2. I would be put in the position of having my abortion performed by a physician who did not believe it was ethical.

I recognize your right to draw ethical lines in the sand. What I do not recognize is your right to share your ethical lines with me. Right now, in this country, at this time, I have the legal right to an abortion up to 24 weeks. As long as the procedure is safe, that is all that should matter to you as my physician.

Again, I do thank you for the care that you do give. I am happy to know that you do perform elective second trimester abortions at earlier gestation dates since there are fewer providers willing to perform any abortions in the second trimester. I also appreciate that it seemed that you would perform the procedure if you were the only physician possible. However, I do no think that I will remain your patient any longer. From the moment I made my intentions clear I felt like everyone in your office wanted only to be rid of me as quickly as possible.


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