Saturday, May 1, 2010

. . . and Freedom for All

From December 9, 1946 to August 20,1947, in the American sector of Germany at a place called Nuremberg, a legal proceeding known to history as the Doctor’s Trial convened. United States of America v. Karl Brandt, et al, as it was officially captioned was a war crimes trial during which many Nazi doctors and SS officers were accused of conducting or facilitating some of the most egregious and horrifying medical experimentation in history.

At the end of the presentation of evidence and during sentencing the American Judges Beals, Sebring, Crawford and Swearingen laid out their opinions in such a cogent and compassionate way as to create a foundation for modern medical bioethics. At the core of their judgment, as it does at the heart of modern medical practice, sits the tenet of informed patient consent. A patient must be told what is wrong, what can be done, who will do it and what if any good they can expect to experience. They also have the right to refuse any treatment or testing. This is not negotiable. It hasn’t been for a very long time.

Let it be known that the State of Oklahoma has decided to set aside all of this when it comes to women and their pregnancies. In HB2656 the State House of Representatives decreed that it is perfectly acceptable for a physician to lie to a patient carrying a child suffering from birth defects so that she can’t make the choice to terminate. They also overrode a veto by their Governor, Brad Henry, of another grotesque law HB2780 insisting that a woman view an ultrasound of her fetus prior to having an abortion. The Senate concurred.

I haven’t the words to express my anger right now. Suffice it to say that most of us who have spent years honoring the craft of medicine are not likely to take ethical instruction from sleazy politician, two-for-a-penny John the Baptists drumming up votes. Yet, some practitioners will certainly take the law as license to shove their religion down their patient’s throat; Goddess help our sisters in Oklahoma.

To force a woman to look at a child she is terminating is almost as scandalous as some of the evidence in the Doctor’s Trail. Anyone who thinks that women have abortions without thinking or feeling or grieving is too bloody stupid to live. I had an abortion thirty years ago. I had no choice. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think, feel or grieve for that child. That is my burden to bear, and I will be damned if some governmental appendage will define or deny it now based upon a religion I don’t follow. In point of fact, they may not follow it either when it comes time to aid in the care of a child born with a serious birth defect to an unknowing mother.

There is a great authority in the Bible for misogyny and cruelty to women. There is also a great tendency in these God fearing, freedom loving, Constitution worshiping states like Oklahoma to conveniently forget that the right to a safe legal abortion is as much the law of the land as the right to bear arms. When you put religious authority together with selective application of the law you end up with a bunch of hooligans, bullies, who would never consider treating men the way they treat women and might not treat their women the way they treat strangers.

My Irish grandmother, who trained me in the Celtic Witchcraft, used to say, "If men had to have babies abortion would have been a foregone conclusion in the time of Christ. If men had to have every other child in a family there would only be one." Woman gave birth to the race of men. Our bodies belong to us. Our sons need to step aside.