Thursday, March 08, 2007

Medical Procedures Should Not Be Political Issues

I’m feeling really angry today. I suppose “if you’re not angry then you’re just stupid or you don’t care,” right? But lord, my body is tired of being political. It wants to just be a body for once.

A friend recently brought to my attention a series of news stories about a clinic in Northern New Jersey that was closed by health officials last week, following a review of the facilities. The review found that Metropolitan Medical Associates’ Englewood clinic posed a risk of "immediate and serious risk of harm to patients,” with violations particularly concerning infection control and proper care of instruments and equipment. It was prompted by a report from Newark Beth Israel Hospital, who admitted a patient a month ago soon after she underwent a procedure. The patient, Dinkins suffered from a stroke and a collapsed lung, probably due to blood loss, and was in a coma for a month. She also had to undergo a hysterectomy.

The procedure that Dinkins underwent was an abortion, and the Englewood clinic is one of only a handful of clinics in the state which performs second-trimester abortions. Since the media began reporting about the temporary shutdown of the clinic, at least two more women have come forward to talk about complications they experienced at the clinic. It seems likely that the temporary closing of the clinic, as well as the requirement that they hire medial safety and administrative consultants, are well founded.

Meanwhile, anti-abortion activists have gathered outside the locked doors of the clinic to demand that it stay closed, and North Jersey’s papers are reporting on the subject with all of the sensationalism that is typical of an “abortion clinic” story, describing the reactions of protesters and including a photo of two white middle-aged men holding anti-abortion placards. Articles like these continue to allow abortion to be viewed as a political issue.

Abortion is a medical procedure. It is so safe that it’s generally considered safer than childbirth. IT SHOULD NOT BE A POLITICAL ISSUE. It shouldn’t be any more political than lasik eye surgery, or hysterectomies, or a heart bypass. Why should anyone’s medical history be political?

Most articles have referenced the 1993 closing of the clinic following the death of a 20 year old woman who had an abortion there, although only one was kind enough to mention that the death was determined to have been caused by predetermined factors; the clinic was cleared of all charges in that instance. The Englewood clinic has been a focus of anti-abortion protesting over the years, and was at the center of a couple of important trials regarding safe perimeters and the required legal distance of anti-abortion protesters from clinic entrances.

In a letter to the editor of one of North Jersey’s papers, one man writes: “Legalized abortion was justified on the grounds that it would end dirty illegal abortions. So now we have dirty legal abortions. And given the number performed every year, there may be more women maimed by them than was ever the case before Roe v. Wade.”

Let’s see… this clinic performs TEN THOUSAND abortions a year, many of them of the riskier second-trimester variety. I can’t seem to find statistics for abortion complication rates, but my guess is that there are bound to be a handful in any clinical setting, and to actually come out and SAY that the back-alley might have been a safer option is an insult to abortion providers. Can you imagine someone saying that men would be better off having vasectomies done by unlicensed providers in unclean facilities with unsterile instruments? Somehow I doubt that the women who obtained those (TEN THOUSAND) abortions would have preferred a back-alley provider to a clinic setting.

I don’t mean to diminish, at all, what happened to Dinkins. It’s an incredibly sad story, and I’m glad the state is doing something to clean up the Englewood clinic. But the politicized way in which the media is handling the case, and the political maelstrom of “abortion politics” in which this case exists, only makes abortion harder to provide and harder to obtain. This should have been a story about a clinic being temporarily shut down, not a political war over whether or not it should reopen.

10 comments:

Jamie said...

I couldn't agree with you more.

Anonymous said...

Lobotomy is also a medical procedure. Your conclusion may be sound, but your logic has holes.

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The patient, Dinkins suffered from a stroke and a collapsed lung, probably due to blood loss, and was in a coma for a month. She also had to undergo a hysterectomy.

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Sure medical procedures Should Not Be Political Issues ever .

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