What Ever Happened to “Safe”?

For a long time, apologists and advocates for legal abortion liked to say that they believed that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare”.

Well, we know that they’ve given up on “rare”.  And they certainly are unconditionally committed to “legal”.

But it’s astonishing that they now seem to have given up on “safe”.

Consider two elements of the proposed “Reproductive Health Act”, which is being treated by the pro-abortion movement as their Holy Grail legislation.

Currently, New York law permits only doctors to perform abortions.  That’s a reasonable, common-sense provision that has been the law for many decades.  Until recently it was the law across the United States, and it has never been called into question by a court on constitutional grounds.

The Reproductive Health Act would remove that section of the law, and instead permit abortions (prior to the third trimester) to be done by any “qualified, licensed health care practitioner acting within the scope of his or her practice”.  This term isn’t defined in the RHA, but it is defined elsewhere in New York law to include: doctors, physician assistants, chiropractors, dentists, physical therapists, nurses, podiatrists, optometrists, ophthalmic dispensers, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and audiologists.  Thanks to that “scope of practice” clause in RHA, the decision to allow any of these persons to do abortions would be left entirely to the discretion of the New York State government, or private medical certification organizations — without any further consultation with the Legislature or the people of our state.

So here’s the question: 

How can it be “safe” to allow non-doctors, who have far less education, experience, and qualifications than physicians, to perform invasive surgery on women?

A second troubling provision of RHA relates to late-term abortions.  Current New York law requires those procedures to be done only in hospitals.  This is another common-sense safety requirement, since late-term abortions are inherently more risky for the mother.  It’s also necessary to give effect to the current law that a baby born alive after an abortion must be given medical assistance to sustain her life.

Instead, RHA would allow post-viability abortions to be performed on an outpatient basis in stand-alone clinics.   This is potentially very dangerous, since these clinics lack the resources to immediately address any threats to the woman’s life.   In many cases, the delay involved in calling an ambulance and transporting a gravely wounded mother can prove fatal.  Clinics also lack the specialized medical staff and equipment needed to provide neo-natal life support to any baby who survives the abortion.

So here’s another question:

How can it be “safe” to allow late-term abortions in facilities that lack emergency equipment and specialized staff that are needed to address grave threats to the lives of the mother and her child?

This is where we are in the debate over legal abortion in New York State, thanks to the Reproductive Health Act.  And it leads us to ask another question:

Is our society at the point where it’s so committed to maximizing the “legal” that it has given up on the “rare” — and is now sacrificing the “safe”?

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