Special of the week; Issue 49-69 "Women the Law and the Abortion Issue"
And we are the national educational radio network presents special of the week from Yale University from its series called Yale reports doctors and their patients make most of the decisions that treat illness or suffering and exception is abortion where the medical procedure is governed by state law in most states. Abortions are illegal under any circumstance. However six states have passed laws allowing abortions to be performed under certain conditions when pregnancy is a result of rape for instance. Several other states however are at present considering reform of their legislation on abortion. This edition of year reports explores why some doctors and lawyers and legislators consider these reforms necessary and the traditional opinions such reform opposes. Mr. Robert Bea Stevens professor of law moderates the discussion. The Honorable Gene Thorton is a representative to the Connecticut state legislature. Dr. Jay Katz is professor of law and
psychiatry and Dr. Andrew J. Is professor and chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Mr. Stevens in the last couple of years some six states in the United States have made radical changes in their abortion laws and I think a lot of them have followed what is called the American Law Institute model. Now here in Connecticut we're in the process of discussing very seriously the introduction of the ally model abortion law as part of the law of Connecticut. Reading that introduction has been representative Jean Thornton and perhaps the best place to start is to ask that this AI model which is used across the country in fact provides that provides for therapeutic abortions in what I call three different categories. One where the doctor believes that the mental or physical health of the mother would be impaired aware that he believes that the child would be born grossly
defective. And in the cases of rape or incest therapeutic abortion means being done in a hospital course which is in the bill also. Let me ask it again that the response of me. If the physician is to this kind of bill. And perhaps what your own views are in general the physicians are strongly in support of the bill. Although I need to qualify that statement because most physicians feel that this bill doesn't go quite far enough that there should be perhaps a broader bill which would permit a woman to ask for an abortion. In my own view this woman should then have a cooling off period during which she seriously considers whether or not she really truly wants an abortion. And if after the cooling off period both she and the physician feel that it should be done then I think the abortion should be performed. I go on step further and
say that is that the abortion law is perhaps the only law on medicine that is in the criminal code and any set of rules about abortion should be in a medical practice act not in the criminal code. I think the state of Maryland is the one state that has put it in the Medical Practices Act. Unless the abortion is done by someone other than a physician in a licensed hospital in which case it is a felony. Jay could you very briefly tell us what is their general view of psychiatry. No I don't think there's a general view of psychiatrists and I can only speak for myself of. And I very much agree with Ted there. The proposal does not go far enough as far as I'm concerned. I would go along with the recommendations made by the president's task force on family law and policy which asked that the. Abortion statutes be entirely
removed from the domain of the criminal law and that the right to abort and not to abort should less with the woman involved. I think that the suggestion which Ted makes that there could be cooling off is a good one bad. As a psychiatrist I feel very strongly that to the extent to which we have a role to perform we can perform this much better. If in case of a diode a woman can come and see us discuss these problems with us and discuss it in the atmosphere where she knows that eventually she is going to make the final decision whether to go through with the abortion or not. This will give her the freedom to talk honestly and truthfully about the violence is about the indications and country indications. The psychiatrist then can explore this with her over a few interviews and not be in a position
to make the final decision himself about to firm up if possible for the woman involved. What she wishes to do or not to do. But Jean you've heard these two medical men describe the watch on the one case was taken to be a general feeling of physicians and on the other or at least the views of a very distinguished psychiatrist. If they feel the airline proposal is really rather narrow How come you've not gone further with your proposals and Connecticut lots of opposition in getting. Well I respect the opinions of both these gentlemen I didn't agree with both. I don't believe that the my bill goes far enough. But I'm a politician and I have to face political realities and this is the state of Connecticut I think will be it will be a major victory if we can just get this small portion through. It would be a major victory in this state. Do you have any idea how many abortions there are in Connecticut and in yeah. Well that's just an educated guess no one really knows but we figured out that it must be
14000 illegal abortion across the nation as a whole. Well no there that's another guess but educated guess would be anywhere from 300000 to a million or more. And where where do you know what I can take what's going to happen to know where most of these abortions take place. Unfortunately too many of them take place in kitchens and dingy bedrooms done with sterile instruments inserted into the uterus which are then responsible for hemorrhage in the patient and infection in the patient perhaps a total loss of her ability to get pregnant in the future. And unfortunately in some cases death due to either hemorrhage or infection. But I take it that a large number not done that it is there a difference in class here. I take it back off. Hospitals of some sort or another all medical men who do a fair number of abortions and these presumably have the middle class go to
this type of physician. Well there are indeed many physicians throughout the country in almost every major city there will be a few physicians who do abortions and do them extra legally. But well medically Unfortunately the girls that can't afford to go to these physicians as you say usually are middle class or upper class because most of them aren't done free so that the patient really suffers is the individual who doesn't have enough money. He's a student or someone from the lower socio economic groups who really can't afford to go to these physicians. By the way the American Civil Liberties Union has argued for abortion statutes are unconstitutional also for the reason that they discriminate against women in law or economic groups and it does give them the equal protection of the law was guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Since
abortions are visible to the rich about forbidden essentially to the poor. Why did the police prosecutor abortionists you know your members of your profession I take it that technically if you're caught committing an abortion in those states it's made it makes it makes it possible in any way for the medical society to track you up. Well this is true but you need someone to state that you have done the abortion. Witness against you. Most of them are done secretly enough so that the only witness is the patient. And most of the patients are unwilling to testify against the individual who has performed abortions. So then your chief urge to get it moving here on the edge in most states is essentially to make abortion freely available to go to war. This is true. Yes. What are the positions of the different judges are they bigger Asli opposed all my earlier post or do they differ. They differ very much so. Most of the Protestant
churches are much in favor as are most of the Jewish faith. I'm not sure so sure about the I'm in the orthodox but at least the reform and the conservative are they Catholic Church as you know always opposed the bishops in the state here have come out opposed to this bill and this is where the opposition is coming from. You have I don't know if that's true across the country as the Catholic Church opposes throughout. It's been a national post but there's an interesting statement that I might quote from Probert Leinen who is dean of the Boston College of Law. And right he is opposed to abortion he has said that he had an absence of law with respect to abortion and he I quote has at least the merit of not involving the law and society in the business of selecting those persons whose lives may be legally terminated. A system of permitting
abortion under request has the undeniable virtue of neutralizing the law so that while the law does not forbid abortion it does not on the other hand sanction it even on a presumably respective basis. And court and I think this position has a great deal of merit because under the liberalized abortion statute law is sanctioning. Quote and Woodward in some instances and not in other instances and it may be much better for the law to get completely out of it. So this is lean as against your nothing situation. That's one of the usage to you I see. That of course raises the very interesting issue of when the Catholic Church took this very strong position. Is it like birth control a relatively late development in Catholic theology. Gene can you do you know anything about that from your political work. Well from what I've been able to gather this is fairly new. That's for 100 years old with the Catholic Church but 1869 was when they decided it would
be against the floor there. They did not they allowed it to happen abortions were being performed. Well let's move on then. I'm trying to think a little more about the. But the general we've heard now is something about the opposition something about the advantages you see from the point of view of Connecticut. Let's look a little more detail at what the implications are medically I mean is there any danger this is a case that I think the popular press has paired up again any danger to or even the best around. Well I think that the danger of doing an abortion in a well-run medical institution early in pregnancy is slight. It does in most cases require an anesthetic and any operation there requires an anesthetic has a slight danger but it's only very slight and certainly no greater than a tonsilectomy and much less than an appendectomy.
However if the pregnancy goes on beyond 12 weeks of gestation a more complicated procedure is necessary to terminate the pregnancy which does have carry slightly more hazards than the DNC or dilatation Cura touches down early in pregnancy. You're going to hear just a little more from you Jay about what kind of things the psychiatry's would be concerned about. Assuming we are going to get legislation going to become much more common in different states to give women the right to terminate pregnancy you talk you talk to the beginning of the program just a little bit about this kind. The reasons you would rather from a psychiatrist point of view have an open choice before you. But now Iraq assuming you did have it have been choice. What kind of considerations would weigh with you or can you tell a layman about that. If you would have the woman show us what kinds of things you take into account when you're discussing this with won't outside the restrictions you might have if you had the air life form. A statute under these conditions. I would
be completely guided by the wishes of the woman. I would try and explore with her. But her reasons are for seeking the abortion to the extent to which I could discover all kinds of doubts about it. I would want to explore them with. First of all I would not have the right and I would not see it as my duty to interfere with her desire to have an abortion at least from the clinical studies that I've read. I'm not convinced they're a bird have the kind of psychiatric sick welly that some people are concerned about that it leads to depression and other kinds of psychiatric illnesses and indeed many women.
I had an abortion a few years later and we're looking forward to playing and see end to motherhood. And surely under those circumstances can look forward to a much happier pregnancy can look forward to the joys and pleasures of motherhood rather than being saddled with a child that they did not want and that can only have detrimental implications both for the mother and the truck doesn't have a terrible general psychological impact on a woman to have an abortion. I want it to last me some kind of lasting psychological harm to her. Well all the studies that I've read and studies that I respect have not produced any kind of evidence to that effect. And my hunch would be that one's society will
remove abortion laws from the statute books that will further reduce whatever psychological seek rally might occur because a great deal of the guilt that women experience is probably also social good. Don't you agree though Jay that a lot of the studies aren't really very good studies that we don't know the answer to this guilt phenomenon I agree with you that probably much of the guilt is social guilt and if the laws were removed it may change it completely. But I think you can find studies on either side of the fence where there is tremendous guilt reported after abortions and others where there is practically none. And since so many women are unwilling to admit in the first place that they have had a criminal abortion it's a very difficult study to do in a meaningful way. Yes I think you're quite right and that's probably a better way of
putting it. This study doesn't prove anything. But there's another interesting side issue to this. Namely that under the Eagle Eye proposal So Kyra it will still have a major function to perform to make decisions as to who should who should or should not be aborted on psychiatric downs. And there have been some interesting follow up studies. Where psychiatrist approved an abortion but for all kinds of reasons the abortion was not performed there be kind of dire consequences that the psychiatrist did not appear either. Terry one other thing that I perhaps could interject that the law and that is that the chances of it significantly reducing the number of criminal abortions are probably fairly slight. If the Swedish experience is any
guideline. Do you mean that the future will still not want to go there or to it will just be good to go to bring them with them one of the three categories. Almost all cost money in other words I think it's the country's going to come for free Had he stood Mercer's about Israel. Well let's look at this hour because one of the important lessons why I am against the Alive proposal is there is a tremendous invasion of privacy and the woman still has to see her records will be discussed before an abortion committee and that is a tremendously offensive procedure. Indeed in the light of this world we us. How important Connecticut case. One might say there this kind of procedure is also an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. Could very well be I would like to see it tested. Let it be a lie because it was still in fact benefit those who primarily have some access to funds to give them the sort of money to consult the psychiatrist.
You'll still be essentially what its tractors could no doubt claim to be a class legislation is that right. No I don't agree. You know I think that with the law that more and more of the clinic patients if you wish to call them that could indeed get an abortion because they could if they could see psychiatrists just as they do now for other reasons. Getting more of these done under this type of law I think would be quite feasible. I think so yes. And that would be no difficulty about bringing within Medicaid in a state like Connecticut anyway. Well I would want to make any predictions on that but I would hope that it could be handled within the welfare department there. If you do give you greater freedom to recommend or to go a long quest for abortions if the ally statute is an act that you know what I know what I'm saying is if the statute weren't
acted the number of clinic patients getting abortions would rise progressively. In proportion to the number of private patients now I would say that probably if one could do a decent sampling which I admit you can't. The ratio of the so-called middle and upper socioeconomic class to lower class patients who are being aborted is probably ten or fifty to one. But with this new law I think that you would take that one and maybe bring it up to one in air for two or three or something like that. In other words more of them would be able to get clinic help than than they do now. Well let me raise one general political issue then. The Catholic Church and its opposition I'm sure are places much on the notion of taking life and that something which without a cap they care is very difficult to argue. But also I'm sure the church takes the position that if you once open the gates they will in fact become floodgates. There will be the hospitals will be cluttered
with people getting abortions. What about your response to that as a teen. They're not people they're women who are cluttering. This is it's time for women to stand up and demand that they be given their rights. I couldn't agree more with Dr. Katz when he says we should repeal all laws. I think this is just what the women do and I don't believe that big cluttering up hospitals. This is to me it's a it's the greatest crime that anyone can perpetrate is to have a child they don't want they don't love and they don't take care of. I think this is a this should be a crime but it's not. This would help to alleviate that problem. Do you have any oversight or any feeling about that Ted I mean do you after a presumably see the inside of a hospital rather frequently than the rest of us. Is there a fear on that part on the part of medical schools and hospitals. Well I don't think that there's any fear. There is a realisation that the number of abortions done in hospitals if there were
no law would be tremendous. But I think one realistically has to face the fact that this would be a tremendous load of patients which should be taken care of. Better have nothing essentially mightily changed head because. To be sure there will be an increase in abortions performed in hospital and the decrease in criminal abortions. And this will be well for the good because where the greatest complications occur are dangers of at times even death and stability and at least the complications of infection etc. all these complications occur in primarily income abortions. And if the laws on abortion are abolished at least we will give women a chance to have peace of Bushnell abortions performed and a better medical kind of conditions. But I'm going to remark how many. Illegal abortions do you think in the United States in any
one year. Well it's a guestimate one can say anywhere from three hundred thousand and I go as high as a million and a half she went to a vet. But then how many live births in anywhere about four million. I take it one does have to think one does have to think of the problem of abortion being realistic. Well so as part of a change of attitude towards contraception. Yes and the figure that I got that even the best contraceptive measure measures have a 1 percent they mean about a quarter of a million unplanned certainly children. The United States if you have any thoughts on that we're beginning to pay with his figures. The idea that a quarter million children each year. Well yes well if there is even ink increase in the number of abortions under the system where we have no
abortion laws on the book at this point in our social development it may be for the good because we are very much concerned with the whole problem of overpopulation and to the extent to which we can decrease the birth of a great many demographers at least will applaud it. Is this I bring up one more point. It's interesting in Hungary they have decided to use contraception and push it along with this totally permissive abortion law. And they reached the interesting state whereby they weren't having enough births and demographers had calculated that if they kept up at the present rate that eventually there'd be no more home Gary. So they immediately reversed some of their own laws about freedom of abortion. I bring it up partly in jest but
partly because when one is talking about decreasing a population you have to do it in a sort of an orderly fashion otherwise you find that you have a predominance of very old and very young at one phase in your development and not enough productive people in their productive years. So it can't be done just willy nilly. It has to be done in somewhat an orderly fashion. Do you see this as a step or two words or more general abolition of the law. Any of the interest in a portion of your airline will still have these three categories. We've heard something to the effect that that's still you know it's not entirely satisfactory either from the medical point of view or from the psychiatrist point of view. I realize that a politician can give oh is predicting the future. But you expect that the courts will absolutely go further than this perhaps all that either legislature or legislatures will go further than theirs and look at for instance is a real
problem that if if Connecticut has no abortion or but New York and Massachusetts do that you have some sort of flow over borders and that sort of thing which I take it is not entirely satisfactory at least when you're discussing whether in the legislature that thought or thought to be a very bad thing to have that kind of movement like any movement it takes a little while to get the forces behind it to get it to accomplish something. Now as to whether we'll settle for the AI proposal I don't believe women ever will settle just for that. But as I say we have to. Understand the political situation and you have to go for what you think you can get. One of the things Gene is that a number of legislators I'm sure are seriously worried that Connecticut will become a sort of abortion mill. Aren't you worried that with only six states in the nation having a seven and I suppose that other people will come from other states
for abortions in Connecticut. You know when I wrote this bill with the help of the medical society we put in a four month residency requirement. But Colorado has no residency requirement in their bill. And the medical profession out there decided that they would control the number and they've done it very nicely and they have not become. An abortion and you don't think there's any danger for months could be easier. The more you know the more states to pass these laws the less danger there will be the nanny state will be overloaded with this sort of procedure. Do you see any chinks if you like in the general hostility of the Catholic Church to what seems to be a highly significant factor in everything when really it's about abortion. As many Catholics I think now while not necessarily endorsing contraception feel very strongly that it's no concern of the laws. If you go to any of you have any sense that the Catholic Church may be moving towards a position perhaps that if you like neutralise them by saying well maybe it's no concern of
the law although we're not going to change our theological position. Rob Cardinal Cushing has been put it as saying that Catholics do not need the Lord to support them or principles. This may well be a sign that in five to 10 years the whole atmosphere will be changing if the airline proposal goes through enough states we may ultimately discover that we have in almost every state a very broadly based abortion or which for the most part will take the law in the courts and particularly the criminal process out of abortion altogether. And I take it that this is something at least that those sitting around this table favor as I say we've not had the benefit this evening of having with us. A representative of the Catholic Church who might have been in a position to argue that is very understandable theological positions which we all know the Catholic Church guarantees don't take. But I hope at least we've been in a position to give you some idea about what we think representing Metts and all and alleges that Jeff and I have been found is a useful introduction to the problem.
- Special of the week
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