Roe v Wade: Confusion Reigns

Diane M. Goodman, BSN, MSN-C, APRN


June 02, 2022

If anyone had asked my position on abortion rights a decade ago, I would have been able to clearly articulate my thoughts and position. Many nurses feel the same.

However, the arguments (and science) no longer have clear lines; instead there are muddled pathways.

Do we believe that life begins with fertilization or implantation of an embryo? The state of Arkansas has signed the most restrictive anti-abortion decree into law, banning abortion after fertilization. This enactment has me puzzled, for what female knows with certainty that she is pregnant after one contact with spermatozoa? Women who rarely have sex and/or victims of singular criminal acts (rape or incest) may know, but they are banned from obtaining abortion in this bill as well.

The hazy lines occur when fertilization happens outside the womb, but states have not legislated those laws (yet). However, as my previous postings have demonstrated, the rights of fertilized embryos are not clearly defined. In unfortunate incidents across the United States, frozen embryos (often an infertile couple's last hope for a family) have thawed in storage facilities and been inadvertently destroyed, resulting in lawsuits and heartbreak. If we intend to be pro-life, why are we failing to protect the future of these fertilized eggs? Are these embryos not "lives" as well?

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) has stated that the eggs of sea turtles and eagles are more closely protected than those of human fetuses. This logic leaves me baffled. Why sea turtles? Who would choose this as an appropriate example?

I understand the concerns. In 2021, the birth rate in the US rose only 1%, the first time it has risen since 2014. Elon Musk has tweeted that Japan is a dying nation, between the elderly population and a steadily decreasing birthrate. Germany and the United States are additional examples of this effect.

However, do we care more about the potential fetuses or unborn babies than we do about infant/maternal mortality, or the lives of fourth graders who have been brutally killed during a day at school? How do we decide when "life" becomes worthy? While I am open to differing points of view, I prefer logic. As the Pope and Cardinal Blase J. Cupich (Chicago) have stated, we need to differentiate between what is morally right, what is religious thought, and what is politically expedient. Theologists and moral experts have always argued this. I wholeheartedly agree but let me add another component: scientific rigor.

This is what I know:

Two aging male legislators should not be arguing whether an IUD (intrauterine device) is an abortifacient! These Louisiana officials were recorded attempting to decide if these devices should be discontinued as they might constitute "abortions." They did not ask a reproductive specialist, or anyone with obstetrics/gynecology expertise to weigh in, nor did they ask a female for an opinion. Here is mine.

Being unable to utilize alternate means of contraception, I once had an IUD inserted. Unfortunately, my body was intolerant of the IUD, so it was removed shortly thereafter. However, I do not and will not consider myself to be an "abortion" survivor for having utilized the device.

I also wonder why politicians find it suitable to attack other campaigns for discussing disappointing data on US mortality rates. The information is public; the world knows the United States ranks poorly in this regard (5.9 infant deaths per 1000 live births as opposed to developed countries with 3.8 infant deaths per 1000 live births). We also ranked last on maternal mortality among the same countries — not a statistic for boasting, by any means.

What I also know is this: Most nurses know how they feel regarding Roe v Wade, although we may not have specific thoughts on sea turtles.

While many of us may not be physically able to bear children by now (the median age of the current nursing workforce is 52 and rising), we can do something else: vote.

We may even be impassioned on this issue. However, let us not confuse wording. We are not eagles or an endangered species (sorry, Elon Musk); we are discussing the reproductive rights of women. We should choose a moral and scientific response, which would preclude death threats and attacks against physicians who provide abortions, or states with differing opinions/legislation.

We should talk to men and women. We should talk to American voters. We should not be in a race to dive into a very murky subject and be the first to touch bottom.

Public opinion on Roe v Wade appeared settled until recently.

Gallup polls demonstrate that up to 80% of responding citizens believe abortion rights should be protected, although it appears that the Supreme Court will soon overturn precedent. Roe v Wade has existed since 1973, when registered nurses were paid approximately $3.50/hour! Do we want to go back to those times? Should we go back?

When does human life begin? I am not sure I know. I also know that Louise Brown (the first "test-tube baby") and mapping of the human genome may have altered my perception of what constitutes "life." Science evolves, as do opinions.

Let us protect sea turtles and eagles. Let us also protect the lives we have, mothers who might die, and infants who lack sustenance at birth. Let us debate the issue through moral and scientific reasoning, not a political framework.

Let us nurse what lives we can.

Thank you for letting me vent. If you have an opinion (most of us do), please share it with readers.

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About Diane M. Goodman
Diane M. Goodman, BSN, MSN-C, APRN, is a semi-retired nurse practitioner who contributes to COVID-19 task force teams and dismantles vaccine disinformation, as well as publishing in various nursing venues. During decades at the bedside, Goodman worked in both private practice and critical care, carrying up to five nursing certifications simultaneously. Yet she is not all about nursing. She is equally passionate about her dogs and watching movies, enjoying both during time away from professional activities. Her tiny chihuahuas are contest winners, proving that both Momma and the dogs are busy, productive girls!


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