A Lifetime Of Experience With Abortion

Let me start by saying the opinions on the topic of abortion are mine alone and not necessarily those of any staff at WholeHealth Chicago. For Health Tip readers who have commented that I should not voice political opinions and stick to my work as a doctor, I suggest you glance at any of the websites aimed at physicians themselves. Fully one third of the articles are politically themed.

With the president overturning Obamacare and the Republicans having nothing to replace it with except a vague, 27-page position paper, we’re facing a serious health crisis over the next few years. Every doctor worth her salt is invested in the outcome. If you’re thinking about unsubscribing, consider instead using the comments section below to voice your opinion.

The only definite in any Republican proposal seems to be an egregious lack of concern for women’s health. With the new president ready to nominate a Supreme Court justice who will likely vote to overturn Roe v Wade and recent moves to defund Planned Parenthood and contraception counseling in both the US and other countries (via the Mexico City Policy), we get an idea of Trump’s position on the health care needs of women.

The confirmation of Health and Human Services director Tom Price, MD, seals the deal. As this Reuters piece notes, “Democrats also criticized Price for his opposition to Obamacare, his ideas about restructuring the Medicare program for the elderly and disabled, and his opposition to Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides abortions and other affordable healthcare and education services.

I believe what anyone does with her body is her own business. You don’t want to take statins? That’s your business. A Japanese Yakuza cutting off his own finger? His choice, not mine. Goth teen wanting a Vermeer tattooed on her back? Not my concern. A woman who wants to terminate a pregnancy should be able to make that decision and have a safe, legal abortion. It’s not the business of elderly Caucasians in the White House, Congress, or Supreme Court, and it’s certainly not the business of any religion telling other people how to live their lives.

Historical perspective
Looking at the history of abortion over the past two centuries, you sense it’s all about power and control. Whether it’s men, government, or religion, abortion opposition is an issue of dominance, and that can work both ways. Consider the fact that a large percentage of abortions occur because of male pressure to abort.

During the 19th century, women had plenty of abortions. Some occurred because women were simply unable to care for the huge families created during times of zero birth control and a husband’s “entitlement” to sex. Then and well into the 20th century, there were not only abortion opponents, but also strong hostility to women’s suffrage and plenty of opposition to black voting rights, which sadly continues to this day.

There were equally strong positions against birth control. How-to birth control books were classified as pornography and burned. Although plenty of professional abortionists were available throughout the 19th century and up to Roe v. Wade, they were rarely caught, fined, or jailed unless a botched procedure resulted in a woman’s death. Here’s an informative article about abortion in the 19th century.

Interestingly, if/when Roe v Wade is overturned, in Illinois both the physician and her patient could face prison time as an old law rears its ugly head (though legislators are currently working on a bill to ensure this doesn’t occur).

The more you read about abortion and birth control, the more you appreciate that it is indeed a matter of power, any steps possible to keep women in their place. The language used against abortion during the 19th century sounds very much like the opposition language to the (failed) 1973 Equal Rights Amendment. Because the ERA proposed including in the US Constitution the right of a woman to have an abortion, strong anti-abortion voices where among those who most vehemently opposed it.

During the 20th century, up to the 1973 passage of Roe v Wade, it was illegal for a woman to have an abortion and for a doctor to perform one. Yet certainly many women terminated unwanted pregnancies and plenty of doctors performed the terminations. I don’t remember any Illinois doctor or patient ever being jailed, but are you aware that many states could jail women if it were discovered she’d had an abortion? This lengthy but illuminating link comes from the book When Abortion Was a Crime.

The surge in pro-life dialogue began relatively recently. As the feminist movement grew in the 1960s, using anti-abortion language to keep a woman in her place began to lose its effect. It really took Roe v Wade for the term “right-to-life” to become a rallying cry. But regardless how gruesome the language or imagery (check out the chilling 1970s movie “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?”), at the heart of the pro-life movement is control over women.

Lessons from a life
It’s now a lifetime later and I’d like to share some of my own experiences and lessons along the way. Spoiler alert: I am, and will remain to my dying gasp, vehemently pro-choice.

In the 1950s, from age 9 to 18, I worked in my father’s south side drugstore. Even though I was quite young, pregnant women who knew having another child was impossible would ask for something that could bring on their period. Later, my father explained what a period was, though not its relationship to pregnancy. I likely unwittingly took part in numerous abortion attempts, selling this homeopathic product and the herbal bitter apple compound shown below (the label saved from my father’s drugstore), both purchased by women who were hoping to abort.

Knowing now the contents of these products, I’m pretty certain not only that no one was ever hurt, but also that no successful terminations ever occurred. In all this, I was as emotionally involved as if I were selling Alka-Seltzer. (Today, some pro-life enthusiast would probably take steps to have my father arrested for child abuse.)

And oh, yes, by about 13 or so I did understand what I was selling and a couple of years later when one of my high school friends was convinced he’d gotten his girlfriend “in trouble,” I stuffed one box each of Bitter Apple and Humphrey’s into my jacket and suggested she try them.

Before Roe v Wade, abortions were illegal, but like much else in America safe abortions were readily available if the family had money. The pregnant girl would disappear for a few days and return a little pale but freshly “chaste.” (Not infrequently, she’d return sporting a bandage over the bridge of her new Gentile nose, a surgical rite of passage for middle class Jewish girls that legitimized an absence from school.)

Pregnant girls without family money had one of three choices:

  • She married the putative father if possible.
  • She went into seclusion until delivery and then put the baby up for adoption. There were several Dickensian-sounding “Homes for Unwed Mothers” around the Midwest, most owned by the Salvation Army.
  • She attempted to self-abort or had a notorious back-alley abortion.

Giving up a newborn for adoption after a stay in the “home” was psychologically brutal for most. After enduring labor and a bevy of stern-faced nurses, delivery and relinquishment was society’s way of punishing a woman for having sex before marriage. She delivered and her infant was immediately swaddled and whisked away, the young mother not even allowed to see the baby. When I rotated through OB as a resident, I witnessed a young woman screaming “My baby, just let me see my baby!” and never forgot it. I also never forgot this sign posted in the delivery room: “This is a Catholic Hospital. When faced with the decision of saving a mother’s life or her baby’s, you must always save the baby.”

A recent study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, showed that the psychological risks of having an abortion are minimal. The authors concluded: “Abortion denial may be initially associated with psychological harm to women and findings do not support restricting abortion on the basis that abortion harms women’s mental health.” More in the New York Times.

In the 1960s, before legal abortion, if you had the cash an illegal abortion could cost a stunningly expensive $500. Because I was in medical school, non-medical friends seemed to think I knew the ropes about where to get an abortion. When asked, I did the sensible thing and asked a senior OB-Gyn resident.

“SSSHHH!” he whispered, but wrote down a phone number. “When you call, ask for Virginia. Then they’ll know what you want.” With pleading eyes, my friend begged “Can you make the call?”

“Virginia” (who had a male voice, and was indeed the doctor himself) was pleasant. He asked how long it had been since her last period, and said the price would be $350 cash. Three of us drove from the medical center area to an address on the south side, parking in front of a respectable-looking medical building.

Once inside, the reception room was spotlessly clean and distinctly memorable. The physician, who hadn’t yet materialized, was clearly successful and apparently wealthy if having an oversized waiting room filled to capacity with stuffed hunting trophies from Africa and India were any indication. The patient was soon escorted through a pair of frosted double doors while her friend and I sat among a full-sized lion, two zebras, a tiger, and several antelopes

She came out about an hour later, pale and gaunt. “How was it?” we both asked.

“It hurt, you bastards.”

Botched abortions and the facts today
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 1965 illegal abortions made up one-sixth of all pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths, with low-income women disproportionately affected. I saw botched abortions when I was on emergency room duty. God only knows who had inserted what tools into these frightened girls with huge clots between their legs. Not a few left the hospital a few days later without a uterus. When someone attempts a D and C with kitchen cutlery, the results can be savage.

I’d already started my practice when Roe v Wade passed on January 22, 1973, and because we still had some of the milk of kindness in our veins from Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the situation changed immediately. Pregnancy termination was a phone call away and performed by a board-certified gynecologist in the outpatient surgery section of a hospital or clinic.

Today a first-trimester abortion is one of the safest medical procedures. For more facts on abortion, review this Guttmacher Institute report.

A return to the brutal past?
It’s hard to believe we might return to the days when I called “Virginia” to arrange an illegal abortion. I have three suggestions to end the abortion controversy. Don’t expect much movement soon. We’ll likely need a woman in the White House to get it done.

  • There would be far fewer abortions (something everyone purports to want) if there were unrestricted access to birth control. Birth control pills should be free and advice about which pill to use could come from virtually anyone in health care: physicians, nurses, pharmacists. After a few sex ed classes, they could even be sold over the counter to anyone who has started menstruating. Birth control devices like IUDs would also be free.
  • We need to shift the prism on the whole right-to-life concept. If its proponents are serious, guarantee any pregnant woman that her child indeed has a right to life. This means if a woman carries her baby to term, she receives an immediate government stipend for herself and her child until the child reaches age 18. In addition, mother and child are guaranteed full healthcare coverage and, for the child, a fully-funded college education. Limit two children on this proposal. If more children are wanted, the family supports them.
  • If, even though a pregnant woman is aware she’ll be financially supported by the government, she still wants an abortion, she could have one at no cost.

Are there honestly people who want to return to the bad old days of death by illegal abortion?

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD

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70 comments on “A Lifetime Of Experience With Abortion
  1. Jenny says:

    I am largely against abortion with some exceptions. However I think sanctity of life should apply to all people including black lives matter protestors and refugees. Not just unborn children. All children should have access to universal healthcare and free university. I also am uncomfortable with defunding planned parenthood. It provides so much medical service to so many women, and I also agree that birth control and proper sex education including contraceptive use should be available to all citizens and students for free. How can we deprive people of these things and then insist they get abortions?

    To be honest I am uncomfortable mixing my doctor’s clinic with politics. I don’t want politics to get in the way of healthcare and feeling comfortable accessing it. But then again, thanks to our current President it seems this luxury has come to pass. It seems we have no choice but to speak out now to keep things from getting even worse in healthcare.

  2. Stephanie Hernandez says:

    Thank you!

  3. Teresa says:

    I hear you. I agree with your argument that what one person does with or to their body is their own business. But I don’t necessarily agree with us all paying for other people’s abortions, just like I wouldn’t want to pay for someone’s tattoo. Besides, no one should be having unplanned pregnancies at this point in time. There are so many products on the market now that make it easy to avoid pregnancy. What I would be interested in knowing is just how many pregnancies/abortions are just the result of a moment of inconvenience. With your rights come responsibilities, and pregnancy is a big one. I don’t like the idea of people thinking abortion is an easy fix. Granted, I don’t think a batch of undifferentiated cells are life, but on the other hand, I’m also not comfortable with people saying there is no life at all. There is life when there’s a pregnancy, and we should respect people who feel strongly about this. But I do think pro-lifers cross the line when they shoot people or block the entrance of an abortion clinic. Especially when they are unwilling to help with the results of an unwanted pregnancy–who’s going to raise all these kids?

    Vegans are examples of people who have very str pro-life opinions about all animal life. They have made the choice to not use any animal products. It’s a moral choice for many of them. I am not vegan. But I can respect their choice. I don’t roll my eyes. I can even agree with some of their arguments. I’m really careful now about where my food comes from because what I learned from vegans. And I have also learned from anti-abortion, prolifers. I have seen their pictures of mutilated fetuses. I can understand their argument and wonder–with abortion the way it is now with the lack of regard for an unborn life, could this lead us down a slippery slope of having no regard to other forms of human life, like the elderly? Age happens, just like a pregnancy, and aging people can be an inconvenience or real burden to those around them. Would we ever get to the point where we can rationalize ridding ourselves of the elderly and burdensome people in general?

    An abortion is a surgical procedure. It can have complications like any surgical procedure, even when done in a licensed clinic by an experienced doctor. I never hear people talking about that. And it wouldn’t be a choice if not for human created machines and tools. It’s hardly a natural event. Having sex and getting pregnant is the natural event. It is your right as a human being to express yourself through these acts. But having a surgical procedure because of the results if these events, is that a right or a consequence, like a car accident? You have a right to drive a car, but if you have an accident, aren’t you and you alone responsible for the cost of that accident if you are at fault?

    As far as clinics and hospitals that deny abortion services, should we force them to give services? I wouldn’t want to go to a place that didn’t want to provide me with delicate, surgical service. Who’s to say they might accidentally, on purpose sterilize me….or worse?

    I believe most of the arguing about the abortion issue in this country could be solved if we just took the time to educate our young people about their sexuality. If we just told them them that sex is how most animals reproduce. It’s how you make babies. If you don’t want to have a baby, you do this, and this, or that. Right now, most of the information that kids get about sexuality has nothing to do with becoming parents.

    Should abortion be legal? I don’t have a problem with that. Should they be free? I don’t agree with that.

    This is a very complicated issue.

  4. Gus Pollan says:

    The arrogance of celebrities who see themselves as entitled to tell the rest of US ‘less informed little people’ what our political opinions should be has just spilled out to the health profession, thanks to you. Truly astonishing how the people’s message on this last presidential elections continues to get lost with the truly arrogant. I don’t watch football to be told how to feel about the American flag and police and community relations. I don’t don’t go to buy coffee to have the barista write on my cup that he/she wants to discuss race relation and I don’t patronize entertainment to be told by entertainers how I should vote during an elections. What makes you think that I read a newsletter letter called “Whole Health Integrated, Functional And Alternative Medicine” because I want you to tell me what my political opinion should be an abortion, “Republicans lack of concern for women’s health” or any other political opinion? Your condescending, unsolicited, unethical and unprofessional approach could only be motivated by arrogance. This is my opinion so that you will know why I have chosen to unsubscribe from this publication.

  5. Dr E says:

    Hi Teresa
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful insights! I agree about our need to educate young people about their sexuality. That would solve SO MUCH about this debate

  6. A. Heisler says:

    Thank you. I do believe that there would be no issues about abortion if men were the ones to become pregnant. Pro-life should include life after birth as well, and too many pro-lifers could care less about the child once s/he is born. Witness cuts in Medicaid and complaints about Food Stamps. I also think it’s a crime that Cialis is covered by insurance and birth control is not.

  7. J says:

    Thank you for writing this and sharing it with your mailing list. I think a doctor’s point of view from before and after Roe v. Wade, as well as information about access to birth control and its positive impact public health is something everyone could benefit from reading, whatever their political views. It is especially important during times when women’s access to health care is increasingly at risk, and in one state (Oklahoma) lawmakers have recently referred to pregnant women’s bodies as merely the “host” for a fetus. I would encourage you to re-publish this as an op-ed in a newspaper or online outlet so more people will be able to read it (that is, if you haven’t already!).

  8. Teresa says:

    Yes–thank you for sharing the history of this issue from your point of view. I love it when people educate, not preach.

  9. Linda O. says:

    Thank you for saying this, and all your other letters regarding the pharmaceutical industry, and the insurance industry. The scientist community is planning a march in DC. I would like to see the entire community of health care professionals, nurses, doctors, technicians, pharmacists, EMT’s……all of you who face the challenges of providing patient care, making significant decisions……in an increasingly hostile environment, march in DC and all major cities. You should demand the right to do your job.

  10. A says:

    I do agree with some of the other commentators that medicine should not be mixed with politics. I had read these articles and attended a few live events in order to better improve myself. I do not need to hear any more negative political commentary that will drag me down, so I will no longer participate in Whole Health Chicago.

    Just as was preached in this article to respect other people’s bodies and leave them be, I don’t need to be told how I should think, especially from those who are not involved in politics.

    Very disappointed and leaving.

  11. Janice Trecker says:

    A fine piece.

    Abortion is another topic where Americans resistance to history results in high cost.

  12. Debbie says:

    I’m new to this newsletter and have so appreciated the insight and alternative ways of thinking and treating common maladies.

    Now, I’m so saddened by comments and views from a medical doctor who desires “whole health”.

    Respectfully, I don’t see how allowing abortions “benefits” anyone. There is evidence of the psychological damage years later from women who have had abortions. Abortion is not like cutting off a finger; another innocent life is involved who has no choice. Choice comes when choosing to engage in the sexual act. Abstain or use birth
    control are the choices. Once you choose, one has to deal with the results.

    I don’t see how taking another’s life would ever be helpful. Reading about Gosnell and his abortion practice is so upsetting and disturbing, I could never accept abortion as a “choice”!

    Dr. Egelberg, do you perform abortions if a woman wants one or do you have someone to whom you refer her? Is this part of your whole health counseling.

    Thank you for publishing your view. I would be so interested in your colleagues viewpoints at WholeHealthChicago.

  13. marie says:

    There is a people that consider some people nothing more than animals. Goyim right? And of course then you would think God’s precious gift of creation of life didn’t hold or doesn’t hold for the gentile people. God’s will be done. The medical community have ripped precious babies that do have souls out of their mother’s womb. And there are people like you that call it health? I’m glad I ended up not going to your facility. Anybody that holds to the disgusting notion that murder of innocent children is somehow connected to the health of the mother is crazy. Here’s a real good thought for you to think on. Our bodies belong to God we are supposed to take care of them as to do no harm. The whole world is Twisted because people have not follow the truth. Unsubscribe me. Your evil interpretation of Health politics and whether you believe it or not your religious views is simply evil.

  14. Jane Brooks says:

    Once again I think politics has no place in any physicians notes (including yours) and I will continue to voice that opinion. 2 wrongs never made a right! I will continue to hope that your heart will change and you would just stay on the subject of health and wellness. Why don’t you try to help change the trajectory of this country….help be the positive change we need? Illinois specifically has a big problem…..why would you fuel the fire with your comments? What positive outcome does this have?
    I think once a country, “people” turn their backs on the sanctity of life it is a sad reflection on all. We will be remembered and judged by these acts. Abortions are down…..maybe people are understanding the severe repercussions of these decisions. There is a price to pay…it is emotionally charged…just talk to the women who have aborted and you will hear many who mourn their decision. It is their decision…..but it doesn’t come without personal consequences.

  15. Sally says:

    “If it’s not your body It’s not your decision” Exactly! An unborn baby can’t make the decision about their body and the mother should not have the right to determine what to do with that unborn baby’s life.

  16. Katie Rothgery says:

    Thank you for speaking out and sharing information. I could not agree more that a woman has the right to choose anything and everything to do with her own body. Sharing this on FB.

  17. Mary Beth Haas says:

    Thank you so much for your “Lifetime of Experience with Abortion.” I wish everyone could read it. I’m saving it for future reference.

  18. Winnie says:

    Thank you, Dr. E. for your courage in writing this post. I would LOVE to have the luxury of leaving politics out of health care, but Trump and the GOP leave us no choice. This has become a life-and-death situation for women. Just look at what’s happening to women in Texas which has some of the most draconian anti-abortion laws and tell us if you agree.

    Just as the “pro-life” folks have a right to advocate for their position, physicians also have the right and RESPONSIBILITY to advocate for their patients both inside AND outside of the exam room. Keep up the good work Doc!

  19. Marjorie says:

    Why is it that when abortion is brought up that little is ever mentioned about the life long physical and mental health problems that women have once they have had an abortion(s)?

  20. Kathleen Stauffer says:

    I agree with J. who says you should publish this as an editorial in a newspaper so that more can see it.
    You are so right about it being all about power. More jobs are going to women so what better way to stop that than making us go back to the time when women were best when ‘barefoot and pregnant’.

    Thank you for your always thoughtful writings.

  21. Emily says:

    Thanks, Dr. E. I am perplexed by the views of those who chide you for mixing “politics” with healthcare. It is evident that there is no separating the two. The future of healthcare — not just for women, but for every American — is indeed terrifying. I appreciate your sharing your thoughtful views on the topic.

  22. Bernie Heidkamp says:

    Thank you, Dr. E. Your insights are spot-on.

    The ironic part of people commenting that you are mixing politics and medicine is that, of course, your whole point is that a woman’s health should be de-politicized. It’s the people who want to legislate women’s health or moralize about women’s health that are crossing the line.

    And of course, the fact that we feel comfortable controlling women’s bodies is, as you say, just an extension of patriarchal privilege still rearing its head in America. If more people would pause and consider their own privilege, we all might grow up a bit.

  23. Kristen says:

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful, brave piece. It is a good companion to this piece from the New York times magazine from another doctor: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/08/magazine/willie-j-parker-changed-his-mind-about-abortion.html I know it is a risk to speak up. Please know your voice is heard and appreciated.

  24. Steve Kellar says:

    So disappointed to read this as we were interested in your practice. Your commentary ignores the fact — a scientifically verifiable fact — that there is another human person involved and not a mere “clump of cells”. When is taking a life the right solution? This intentional blindness has led down a very dark road where now late term abortion — and even worse — has become an acceptable outcome for those who cling to the fiction that it’s only about the woman’s body and her right to choose. No one was ever forced to have a “back-alley abortion”. No one has the right to choose death for another person — especially for a person innocent of any part in the human drama that leads to this kind of horrible “choice”.

  25. Martina says:

    The child in woman’s womb is not part of her body. It is a new being that is meant to be sheltered to grow, until this being is ready for independent breathing outside of a mother’s womb. (hint, every pregnant woman is instantly a MOM). After birth, this human being needs care to live by another adult human until his or hers teen years.Terminating a life at any stage of development inside or outside of a human body is a murder. Post abortive women are wounded for life, mourning their lost children. They develop depression, get breast cancer from an interrupted pregnancy, have low self esteem, struggle with infertility,become suicidal in some cases,The list goes on and on. Rachel’s Vineyard is one organization that is trying to help post abortive when and men, and is international .
    Let’s look at African American DOCTOR (not the accused Caucasians), Kermit Gosnell, ever heard of House of Horrors?.Or how about Planned Parenthood abortion quota on selling dead babies for body parts, and being mostly built in low income, ethnic neighborhoods. Who had started Planned Parenthood? Margaret Sanger, who wanter to eliminate black population via abortions All this is a public knowledge and accessible to everyone. Abortion is good, huh?
    So let’s look again what doctors did to so millions of babies and women since Roe v Wade. Definitely not heal them.
    p.s Norma Leah McCorvey, is”Jane Roe”, most Americans don’t know that McCorvey, who was “pro-choice” on abortion at the time, is now a pro-life advocate. She is now dedicated to reversing the Supreme Court case that bears her fictitious name, Jane Roe.

  26. Jan Flanagan. says:

    Who is going to speak for the unborn babies who are counting on us as responsible people to not kill them??? I just cannot understand how you as a doctor could hold this position. It is very sad indeed.

  27. Jeanne says:

    I intend to share this article widely. Thank-you for writing it.

  28. Marla Pruett says:

    All I can say is “wow”!!! I can’t believe you have the nerve to publish your opinion on this. It made me sick reading what you wrote. I will definitely be one that stops emails from coming to my home in the future. I am pro-life. I disagree with everything that you just put in this article. It just made me so angry and so sickened. The right of the woman? What about the rights of half of the babies that are killed? – which are females. You need to speak with someone at a crisis pregnancy center or someone that chose to go thru with their pregnancy and gave their baby that chance at life. They would tell you that you are so very wrong. Life is precious. People that have abortions are very susceptible to get breast cancer, and many women are psychologically damaged because they had an abortion. Please do your research before you post something like this. I will be surprised if you post my comment because you didn’t post one of my other comments in the past. (My daughter came to you several years ago. You didn’t help her at all. Turns out she was finally diagnosed with lyme disease. I find it interesting that you now have a doc on board with you who deals with lyme. Wish you would have realized it with my daughter. Oh well.) I will definitely unsubscribe to your emails. I wish you well. For those of you that have had abortions, there is forgiveness and hope in Jesus. Please remember that in your darkest moments.

  29. Jennifer Baron says:

    Thank you Dr. E. Very brave of you to write this. Cleary, from some comments, you have risked losing clients/patients. So be it. You speak truth that any person willing to educate themselves should understand. Women have been terminating pregnancies since the beginning of time. And only in recent modern history have men tried to control women by outlawing abortions. If men could get pregnant this would not be an issue at all. We have a right to make our own choices not only about our bodies, but also for our children who could not be brought into a world where they would be cared for properly and where the would suffer. The world is full of unwanted children who suffer terribly and that breaks my heart. Kudos to you. This is a very important message and I thank you!

  30. Jan says:

    Thank you for writing this. It means a lot.

  31. Sara McIntosh says:

    Thank you for speaking out. If women only had sex when they wanted to, there would be much less need for abortion. Think rape, think incest, think “when no means no”. So let’s put our attention toward supporting women period! And help men understand their part in unwanted pregnancies.

  32. Eva Mika says:

    Thanks Dr. E.

    What is disturbing to me is that people think that
    overturning Roe versus Wade would protect life when the legal precedent that would be set is that the government would have final say over a woman’s body. That means that the government could (as it does in other countries) force sterilizations and abortions. I wish the debate would shift to that of privacy and the real legal precedent. I do not want to live in a country that may at some point in history force women to have abortions or become sterilized. That is what overturning Roe v Wade really means.

  33. John Pearson says:

    Thanks, Dr. E. As always a very cogent, thoughtful piece! If people could read with an open mind, this could lead to the kind of discussion we need to have. As far as politics, I am very glad you don’t keep it out of your essays. Health care is one of our biggest political footballs, and to pretend politics doesn’t exist or affect our health care would be dishonest, especially these days. All I would add to your essay is the fact that since Roe there have always been fewer abortions when a Democrat is in the White House than when a Republican is making policy. That is largely because, although they don’t come close to what you envision (wonderful ideas that should be implemented), the Democrats do much more to give women the realistic ability to support and care for a child should they so choose, or to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
    It is very sad that we may be returning to the dark ages, in so many ways. Please keep speaking out!

  34. Janis Wrich says:

    Thanks Dr. E. I’m past middle age — I and my friends have experienced much of what you recount. Agree wholeheartedly.

  35. Kathy Hough says:

    Thank you Dr for your brave and courageous article. Your experience is very valuable for yet another conversation about abortion. I am afraid our country is digging in even deeper on these issues of regulating choice. Even though this will always be a subject of controversy, I hope we can maintain the laws in place for women’s right to choose. The efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are only going to lead to more unwanted pregnancies and then the prospect of more suffering for the child and its mother.

  36. Jane Chicago says:

    Thank you, Dr. Edelberg for writing about your thoughts and experiences as a physician and for having the courage to broach this topic.

    To the previous posters who have objected to “political” speech intruding on a health forum, indeed you have missed the point altogether. The topic of medical care for a woman’s body is not an inherently “political” topic; people have chosen to make it political. I’d like to share how other people making this topic political affects my life and those of many women that I know.

    I have been trying to have a baby for five years. I desperately want to have a baby. During these five years, I have conceived eight times and suffered eight miscarriages. Before this experience I didn’t think much about abortion. I felt that it was probably not a choice that I would make myself but I respected other women enough to allow them to make their own choices according to their own religious beliefs and moral reasoning.

    I almost bled to death as a result of a missed miscarriage that was lost in the 14+ week. As I Iay on my bathroom floor, passing in and out of consciousness, I actually found myself thinking about all of the women who have hemorrhaged to death from botched abortions. Let me tell you, it would be a terrifying, painful, and distinctly female kind of death. We can’t go back.

    Anti-abortion laws can be exceptionally cruel to women like me who want a child but who are experiencing reproductive difficulties. For example, Mike Pence’s law that fetal remains be buried/cremated by professionals would have disallowed the private ceremony I had for my first miscarriage. I cried and buried a small tissue of dried remains in my backyard underneath a bed of spring flowers. It was private, on my own terms and helped with my healing. Why should the State of Indiana have had any say in how I dealt with my grief? The embryo died on it’s own. It was God’s work, not mine. Why should a woman like me, at a time when she feels most powerless, have to worry about the state of Indiana coming after her? Or maybe even getting on a suspect list of some kind because she loses two clinical pregnancies a year, every year? [continued]

  37. Jane Chicago says:

    [continued]

    Another way that anti-abortion laws affect women like me is when a pregnancy is failing to thrive but the heart continues to beat. With ultrasound technology, it is possible to diagnose unviable pregnancies before the heart actually stops beating. In these situations, a miscarriage is inevitable. Yet until the heart stops beating on its own, it is technically an abortion in order to proceed with any intervention. Oftentimes this occurs many months into the pregnancy, and of course the woman is distraught by the news. She is devastated by the thought of losing her “baby”, and she is scared about what is going to happen to her physically. If it took some effort in order for her to become pregnant, she is already thinking about how soon she can recover and try again. She fears how long she will have to wait until the heart stops beating on its own. She is afraid of walking around with a dead fetus inside of her. Given how late she is in her pregnancy, she may have to travel to another state to terminate a pregnancy that is going to end anyway. She may have to endure a 48+ hour waiting period. She may have to cross a picket line where people call her “baby killer” even though she is anything but a baby killer. She wants this fetus to turn into a baby but it can’t. If she has other children at home, or if she is poor, this is an extremely onerous burden on a grieving woman who wants more than anything to give birth to a child. [continued]

  38. Linnet Doe says:

    “First, do no harm.” There is no way that mutilating and killing a fetus does no harm, both to the fetus and in many cases the mother.

    I am very much in favor of birth control, and am willing to pay for it.

  39. Richard S. says:

    Thank you for sharing a veteran physician’s view as well as reliable research on this topic, Dr. Edelberg. As for the self-righteous castigation some are raining down on you over this, I’m quite confident that most of these same hypocrites had no problem when, in the previous decade, the leaders they voted into office invaded a country that did nothing to ours, resulting in tens of thousands of absolutely needless deaths. I’ll be happy to entertain their purported “pro-life” views when they themselves stop supporting the murder of actual fully-formed human beings.

  40. Jane Chicago says:

    [continued]
    So in response to the previous posters, this is not a “political” issue. This is a reproductive health issue and should be talked about in a fact-based way like we talk about neurological health issues or gastrointestinal health issues. Doctors are not being political when they talk about it; they have valuable information to share. If you want to prevent abortions, ensure the access and affordability of birth control. Work to end rape culture. Support programs to combat childhood sexual abuse and incest. Increase funding for healthcare and housing for poor women/families. Support funding for adoptions – it can cost over $100,000 to adopt a child. Increase funding for children born with disabilities so that parents know they can afford to give birth to a child that will require round-the-clock medical care. Most importantly, educate yourself about women’s reproductive health, the stages of embryo to fetal development, and the natural miscarriage rate (31%, not including stillbirths). Not all conceptions are going to result in a live birth. It is simplistic to think that conception=baby. Believe me, I wish more than anything this was true. If you walked a mile in my shoes you would begin to understand that taking a woman’s choice out of the childbirth process is cruel and unnecessary. There are other ways to limit the amount of elective abortions of viable pregnancies and maximize the amount of live births.

  41. Splishette says:

    Thanks so much for posting this article! I think people are far too invested in other people’s lives, as evidenced by some of the questions asked around abortion.

    When Roe V Wade was first passed I was a young teen. A few years later, while still in high school, I became pregnant and my first thought was to get an abortion. Thanks to the law, I knew I could get one any time I wanted. At that time there were few restrictions. Even a minor could have one without parental consent, which I believe should be the law everywhere.

    With that knowledge I ultimately kept my baby. She is now an intelligent and beautiful entrepreneur, married and childless by choice. Good for her!

    If abortion was illegal I might very well have had a back alley one, out of a claustrophobic fear that I had no choices.

    Women shouldn’t be afraid to say that abortion is our right. It IS. The law should agree with us 100%. The fact that it doesn’t is a sad comment on our society in general and the patriarchal tendency of US politicians in particular. This needs to change soon.

  42. Jules says:

    Dr. E,

    I would like to commend you for writing about this and other very important health issues that are intertwined with politics. I don’t understand nor agree with other posters who have voiced their objection and are suggesting that you should stick to health topics and refrain from writing about these topics. These are not political issues, they are healthcare issues that have been politicized; there is a big difference between the two.

    You have been at the forefront of HOLISTIC healthcare for a very long time and topics such as abortion and healthcare coverage are part of our overall health. Particularly in the current political climate that we now find ourselves in the United States, I am grateful to have a physician who is willing to speak out about these topics and relieved to know that my physician supports the same positions as myself.

    Regarding abortion, I am beyond my childbearing years; however, I support any woman’s right to the ownership of her own body and the right to make choices of what will be done with and to her own body. Women are not walking incubators nor baby-making machines and the patriarchal mindset that is at the root of this war on women and that is held by both men and women needs to end.

  43. Cindy says:

    Thank you for allowing us to share our opinions.

    I would like to ask a question, if we each have the right to our own bodies, then doesn’t the child living inside her mother’s womb have rights? Whose rights are more important? The mother’s, or the child’s? Just a few months later, when the life is outside of the mother’s womb, the government (DCFS) has the authority to come and take the child away from the parent if they are mistreating her. Is that the government over stepping it’s boundaries, or is it the government protecting a defenseless child from a parent that makes bad decisions? So, I guess the real question is not, does an elderly, Caucasian in the White House have the right to tell other people how to live their lives, but rather, when does life begin?

    You can try to rationalize it all away, but tell me doctor, when do you believe life begins?

  44. Jules says:

    As an outcry against war in general and the war on women perhaps it’s time to ramp up Operation Lysistrata!

    https://law.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1547&context=expresso

  45. Diane says:

    One argument is that they don’t want to pay for abortions. It just doesn’t work that way. I don’t want to pay for the wars and numerous other things. But I have to anyway. Our elected officials decide how the money is spent.

  46. Colin Reed says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and thanks for being willing to stand up on this issue. Is it possible long time patients/readers are shocked by your stance? I suppose anything’s possible but it’s not like you suddenly shifted your politics. Maybe this subject has attracted lots of ‘new friends’. As a pioneer in the integrative medicine field I imagine you’ve had to brave attacks against your “heresy” for decades so while this subject is particularly vehement for some folks being called names is probably not new for you. I for one am very grateful for all you do and for your persistence.

  47. Riena says:

    Hello Dr. E, Thank you so much for writing this and posting all the comments both for and against. I am surprised at all the pro-lifers who are completely divorced from reality and I suspect it is because as one writer put it not recognizing their own privilege. Children born into poverty are 60% more likely to end up in a life of crime, in public schools, there are not enough school books for everyone in class, pages are missing, 1- 6 children struggle with hunger. I do not see the logic and trying to force women to have unwanted babies.

  48. CCB says:

    It is so odd to me that people are so angry about mixing politics and women’s health.

    Government bodies all across the country (and nationally in Washington DC) are discussing and drafting bills about defunding Planned Parenthood, when (or where) women can have abortions (or not), scripts doctors are forced to read to pregnant women which are written by politicians (or gyno-ticians if you will) with no medical training, and none of this even includes politicians doing away with the Affordable Care Act. All doctors, whether they want to or not, are affected and instructed by laws. Laws created by politicians. These days being a doctor INVOLVES politics. Which is just the way it is. Politicians don’t sit quietly by; why should doctors?

  49. JW says:

    How do I unsubscribe?

  50. CB says:

    Thank you. I read your letter…and the comments. The conversation that you started is an important one.

    Regardless of one’s position on this issue, it is important that the issue is approached in a clear, thoughtful, and informed manner. Thank you for the information that you shared with us.

  51. Laurie says:

    Wonderful! Thank you for writing this and sharing it.

  52. Mel says:

    Why is the assumption by naysayers that everyone believes in God, what the Bible says, etc? I have the right to my “beliefs”, as does Dr. E. You may disagree. What you may NOT do is force your beliefs on me. You “choose” freely to believe abortion is wrong. Don’t have one. Do not presume to tell me how to choose. Wonderful article doctor. We need more brave men like you speaking up for women & our rights.

  53. Dr. R says:

    JW. Click “Unsubscribe” at the bottom of the email.

  54. Michael says:

    Sex education should be our priority, and yes birth control pills should rain over the world. Somehow I believe even the Pope behind closed doors would agree.

    I will not ever agree with abortion, as I believe it is the murder of a life.

    The idea you mention of support and college is already being abused all over our country! College is not happening enough with most of our poor needless to say, Some people use abortion as birth control, and others birth as way of financial gains in their life, sorry this fact does not wash with me. Many women have never had a job and or looked for one,and we entitled them to have their children with a lot of benefits,school, housing, clothes,food, phones, healthcare and more, if I sound sound like a hardened no goood right winger so be it, I am not, it is and always will be about taking a life, and justifying this repulsive act, I can not, this unborn child had no choice, So you say die and it’s ok!!!! You mention a birth mother paying a penalty of aborting a child, I say yes OK, if not jail how about they pay for education of live children, healthcare, food etc. I know this, if I owned dogs or cats and did this to the unborn, or partialbirth and let them lay till death comes or sell parts, I would be in serious trouble. So do you spay my animals, take them away, try to educate me, do nothing, feed them pills????? Pay me to continue on with them because they are mine!?????

  55. Patricia says:

    Thank you Dr E! Informative, compassionate and wise. Thank you for standing up for women’s health issues and women’s empowerment. It is really about women’s “health” isn’t it? I lost a great aunt in the past from a botched abortion.. and her husband went to jail for 2 years for ” assisting” her, when he carried her to the emergency room for help as she was dying…. let’s NOT go back there people! Shouldn’t we focus on “Women’s health” as a nation? Don’t put laws on my body! If you want to change my MIND about choosing or not choosing an abortion, do so with a poignoint persuasive argument…. not a LAW! why is this even a legal issue right now???I am smart… sway my mind with your point of view….don’t put a law on my body.

  56. Joan Hladek says:

    I chose to have my baby. It was the best decision I had ever made even though there were suggestions from people I knew to have an abortion. Abortion never entered my mind because I loved the child from the day she was conceived and I can tell you the exact time and date that was. It turned out that she was the only child I would have ever have (I had suffered one miscarriage after that). I was 26 and in college when I had first started to date seriously and got pregnant. It is my belief that if I had waited and said “no” I would not have been in my predicament though strangely enough my life turned out better as a result. My life, turned out great! My daughter turned out, great! My family and my church (yes, I am Catholic) turned out to be great in helping me and my daughter. Though we never married. her biological dad and his family turned out great! I eventually married a truly wonderful man. I think that the issue is that the great number of abortions these days are from the casual attitude in having sex. About birth control, isn’t there an issue about the effects on nature and the environment? For example, the changing characteristics on fish? I am now 77 years old and all I can say about this issue is for men and women to have more respect for each other and to think seriously about the serious possibilities and outcomes of having casual or even serious sex. Yes, you have had experiences that were significant in your commentary, but it would have/could have been balanced by offering some positive experiences by not having an abortion. Did you not know anyone who chose not to have an abortion? I am glad you voiced your opinion and let me have a forum to voice mine. I still respect you as a doctor. Hope you will consider my side of the story and add it to your article as alternative advice.

    I have checked the notify me of follow-up comments by email. Hope I can unsubscribe if my mailbox gets too full.

  57. Karen Stroup says:

    I could not agree with you more that “If it’s not your body, it’s not your choice” – but here’s the thing you seem to miss. Abortion does not pertain to just a woman’s body – it destroys the body of a separate, innocent person (not a blob of tissue, but a human person). What gives a woman the right to say what happens to that person’s body? When a woman decides to have sex, she takes on responsibility for the new life that might be created. And doesn’t the Hippocratic Oath mean anything to you? “Do no harm” is not compatible with murdering babies. In a just and decent society, any physician willing to murder a baby would have his or her license taken away. Life begins at conception – it is a scientific fact, no matter what your religion. The Pro-life movement is not about imposing one’s religion on others – it is about defending the innocent from infanticide. Killing babies has absolutely nothing to do with women’s health.

  58. Deborah Todd says:

    This is written from the perspective of the pregnant woman only. Is there no consideration for the developing person within her? That life is important, too.

  59. Penny says:

    The rationale used in this article, Dr. E. Is stunningly “off the wall”. I am for myself pro-life, but I do not judge the choices of other women. That is between them and their spiritual guide. I am amazed, however, that you have written an abortion promotional article when many women value your counsel. As I said, the choice remains with each woman. This article does not make you “a brave man speaking up for women and their rights. This article shows rigid presumption and male pomposity, frankly.

  60. Nans says:

    Agree entirely. Excellent comments!

  61. Joan Hladek says:

    I have known Dr. E for 20 years. He is a good man and I am sure his experience(s) is from the heart. He did mean well and I don’t fault him. It just that we need to give him our opinions as well.

    On another note, I worked with men who had to pay child support for fathering a child. They were vehement about having to do so. Too bad they did not think of this possibility when having unprotected sex. I can’t say I feel sorry for them. I feel more for the child, though many of them did not have animosity toward the child, they had animosity toward the woman, who also should have known that the possibility of getting pregnant and not having to marry the child’s father would also be the outcome.

  62. Grace says:

    Someday you will appreciate the value Some religions have for the dignity of LIFE

  63. Frank Vodvarka says:

    Thank you, Dr. E., for your serious and compassionate commentary in regard to a serious subject. I find it amazing that there are those who consider your arguments to be pro-abortion; they are clearly pro-choice, a very different thing. It is sad that so many people – legislators and otherwise – of the conservative persuasion, while condemning government intrusion in the form of protective regulations, are quite happy to insert their opinions into this, one of the most private matters of all. (Parenthetically, support for Planned Parenthood – anathema for the right – would greatly aid in obviating the necessity for abortions.) Thank you for speaking up – it gives me great confidence in your decisions about my own physical and spiritual health.

  64. Teresa says:

    If religions cared more about life, there wouldn’t be so much poverty, so much ignorance, so much inequality. They would have done more for the children who were born to parents who couldn’t afford them monetarily, emotionally, or psychologically. The religious pro lifers need to step up their game. Don’t segregate your children in private schools. Don’t keep to yourselves in judgmental clusters. Be in the world and help end the circumstances that create unwanted pregnancies to begin with.

  65. Jeanne says:

    Penny says, “As I said, the choice remains with each woman.” There are many restrictions placed on the woman’s choice in many of the States right now, and the choice will not remain with each woman if the men in government are successful in eliminating Roe vs. Wade

  66. Dar says:

    Thank you Dr. Edleberg for your compassion and your wisdom and for having the courage to provide a forum for this discussion.

  67. Elle says:

    I feel that the pro life movement is a way the 1% keeps the 99% divided and distracted while they rape and plunder the planet and civilization. Also, they need to prevent population decline for the workforce and military. George Carlin’s “American Dream” explains the “Owners of this Country”.
    BTW, I love this website!

  68. Teresa says:

    Ell, so true. My parents were one issue voters for years–anti abortion. They were blinded and easily manipulated.

  69. Sue says:

    If a woman truly does not want or cannot afford a baby, is it fair to force it on her? No one is perfect and mistakes happen all the time. Forcing a woman to keep a baby she truly doesn’t want is leading to proverty and children that are hated by their own mother. No wonder they join gangs to feel accepted by someone.

  70. Catherine says:

    Thank you for this open-minded and open-hearted article. To me, this boils down to a philosophical/religious difference of opinion…and this type of opinion cannot be legislated. Morality cannot realistically be legislated. I have learned and experienced from my spiritual path that Soul enters the body at birth with the baby’s first breath. Prior to that time, the baby is a part of the mother’s body and she can choose to end or complete her pregnancy without guilt. It appears to me that those who want to force their own morality on another come from a position of power and not love. I do not have the impression that Dr. E is forcing anything on anyone…just giving us an important reminder of the history of what women have had to go through so we can be prepared for what to expect in the future.

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