Some not-so-spirited reasoners may be wondering what all the hoopla is about regarding Justice Alito’s draft Supreme Court opinion that would overrule Roe v. Wade. “After all,” they say, “wouldn’t this just leave matters up to each state to decide? Won’t those living in pro-choice states continue to enjoy pro-choice? And if pro-choice people happen to live in pro-life states, can’t they just move to a pro-choice state?”
The following two scenarios are meant to serve as a wake-up call for those suffering from such delusions.
Scenario #1: A young woman—let’s say she’s a Christian, pro-life evangelical mom with three young children at home—goes to see her ob-gyn in a pro-life state. It seems that this, her fourth pregnancy, is not going quite so well as the first three. Something is wrong. After a thorough examination, her doctor concludes that continuing the pregnancy is likely to result in serious complications, any one of which could result in dangers to the mother’s life or health. But the odds cannot be placed at exactly 100%. In his medical judgment, the only safe decision would be to terminate the pregnancy.
“Sorry,” the doctor adds. “I can’t be involved in the termination procedure.”
“Why not?” asks the mom.”
“I know you to be a popular person around town. You’ve undoubtedly told your friends that you are pregnant. If now, suddenly, you return home without a pregnancy, folks will become suspicious that I performed an illegal abortion.”
“Wouldn’t it be entirely legal at this early stage of the pregnancy? I know all about the new law. Sure, it says I can’t have an abortion after 15 weeks, but you said yourself that I’m only 12 weeks into my pregnancy. Plus, our new state law created an exception for abortions performed in cases required to save the life of the mother.”
“Sounds simple when you put it that way,” says the doctor. “But who’s to say the plaintiff’s doctor would agree with my best medical judgment? Once the legal papers arrive, I might find myself forced into a courtroom battle to prove my innocence. How could I win the case without disclosing your personal medical information to opposing lawyers? What if those same lawyers want to put you on the witness stand and ask lots of personal questions? How could I keep my name and yours out of the newspapers? Even if I ended up winning the lawsuit, I’d have been forced to spend valuable time on these legal matters, away from my other patients. Not to mention all the sleepless nights and legal fees I’d incur. And then, of course, my malpractice insurance premiums would go up sharply. Don’t you see? I have no choice but to have nothing more to do with you as a patient. You’ll need to seek further medical treatment somewhere else.”
Scenario #2: A young single woman is worried that she might be pregnant after a night of heavy drinking that occurred a month or so in the past, during which time she passed out (perhaps as a result of a date-rape drug). She doesn’t recall what happened after that. Now she is having abdominal pains. She tells her best friend and family members that she thinks she might be pregnant. She goes to see her ob-gyn. Tests conclude that she is not pregnant at all. In fact, she has appendicitis and is admitted to the hospital for a successful procedure. To her surprise, she, the doctor, and the hospital are all served with legal papers a few weeks later. It seems that one of her friends is suspicious that the appendectomy excuse was all a ruse. An illegal abortion may have been performed at the hospital.
This former friend tells this story to local media, which publishes the allegations that are contained in the legal pleadings. Although the hospital, the doctor, and the young woman eventually win the lawsuit based on the disclosure of the young woman’s personal medical records, the young woman and her doctor must endure hours of legal depositions, including nerve-wracking cross examinations, before the facts can finally be determined with certainty. Courtroom victor or not, the young woman feels violated. The public now knows far too much about her personal medical history.
Moral: When states become involved in medical decisions made between a woman and her personal physician, her right to medical privacy and the physician-patient privilege go out the window. Roe v. Wade may have been clunky and weird, but it respected the privacy rights of a woman seeking medical care.
All Spirited Reasoners need to listen up.
For states to regulate abortion, they must necessarily nose their way into gynecological matters that could range far beyond the procedure itself. Or the alleged procedure. How will they know for sure unless they pry into all the medical details?