Monday, February 11, 2019

Protecting the pregnant woman's life: concerns about laws which would not protect the attempt to save the life of the mother

by Martina Nicholson, MD, FACOG:
I have always felt that my vocation was to try to stop women from bleeding to death, in childbirth. The biggest cause of loss of mothers is hemorrhage. Placentas which do not come off the wall of the uterus, called "placenta accreta", or placentas which are placed over the cervix obstructing the path for birth of the baby, called "placenta previa" are the biggest causes of this maternal mortality. But there are also issues of what used to be called Toxemia, where the pregnancy becomes toxic to the body of the mother, with high risk of stroke, heart attack, blindness and blood clots or hemorrhage. Mothers need to be protected when their lives are at stake. Often there are other children at home, and other family members to whom these women are precious and sacred, in their role as mother. In Obstetrics there must be priority made for the life of the mother. We can not allow a law which excludes from consideration the life of the mother. Doctors and patients in these life-threatening situations must be given the right and the scope, legally, to do what is best in a given rare situation. Many factors may affect the answer of what to do, but politicians should never be allowed to outweigh the medical decision-making.
I am going to add to this by trying to defend doctors. We are speaking about the LAW. Moral authority and religious fervor about personal behavior, and the exhortation to live up to the gift and the grace of pregnancy are a different issue. I feel very strongly that it does not serve us to be blindly pious in our attachment to the sacredness of pregnancy. We have to be realistic when considering the LAW. We can have ideals and goals and moral support and courage for people doing hard things, but we should not criminalize something that you and I know is a hard decision made by layers and layers of scientific and historical knowledge of what to do in rare complications. We need the LAW to be clearly backing up the medical decision-making. And I will add that the protection of the specialists who can do a medical procedure for a person who is in advanced heart failure or kidney failure, or leukemia, not responding to treatment, should be carefully protected and respected for their medical skill. NO woman will ever be forced to have an abortion, and many will choose their own death, rather than undergo what they consider to be killing their own child. But we have to protect the right to life of the mother, and the medical decision-making to try to give mothers that fundamental help.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Contraception, and the problem of Natural Law

a reflection about contraception and the concept of "Natural Law": by Martina Nicholson MD. 
I love the theology of my faith, but I have borne with the doctrine about contraception for almost half a century, out of respect for the pastoral concern that marriages be meaningful and supported, and that the blessing of children be recognized as one of the most important gifts of a benevolent God. But lately, I am beginning to come to the opinion that we have to accept that God is infinitely creative and immensely provident, in the ways of Creation. I think that the concept of "Natural Law" on which this doctrine is built, is too narrowly understood. The plethora of ways to BE in nature show us that just like in every other field of medicine, this area of sex and relationships should be governed by our minds, our cooperative intelligence, and our understanding of how we as individuals, couples, and families fit into the society and world around us. We must accept and use modern medical technology for problem-solving, and for dealing with issues which are the everyday concerns in our world. I learned something important from watching the movie about RBG (ON THE BASIS OF SEX). We can hope for better solutions, and we must apply them, using the skill and intelligence of the age, and we should also notice when progress in civilization has occurred. We have had 50 years to see that contraception not only works, but it has beneficial side-effects, like lowering the rates of cancer of the uterus and ovary. We also have had that same amount of time to see whether these tools can be used to strengthen and help real families in forming good family lives. The data shows clearly that the answer is yes. So we need to accept this, and HELP more women to get access to medical technology and care, and also to be educated to use the talents and strengths each woman has been given. The data coming from the Netherlands help us see that young women can be wise and sensible, and that the prevention of unintended pregnancy is reasonable and possible if we use the medical technological expertise at our disposal. I have had a lot of experience in helping women through pregnancy, and through the process of raising children. I do not believe that contraception has destabilized marriage. The strains and stresses we see in marriages are most often about the needs of the family for decent wages, housing, pensions, healthcare and education. Emotional immaturity and various addictions are also a big factor in the breakups of marriages. Recently I read an article which spoke about the serious problem of young men spending huge amounts of time watching pornography, since it is so available in cyberspace. This also is a big factor in destabilizing relationships, by teaching young men to think of women as sex objects instead of creative and intelligent subjects and potential partners. Tonight I was watching the film about the life of John Adams. There was a moment when he had to decide where he believed the law was most truly embodied, and he courageously decided to become an American, instead of remaining a loyal subject of the English king. This also was a teaching moment for me.