As some of you Kossacks know I am a physician who has provided legal safe abortions in Texas for 31 years and published a number of pro-choice diaries on Daily Kos. And you have probably heard about the recent catastrophic antiabortion regulations rammed through the legislature last week that if not struck down will virtually eliminate access to abortion care in the Tea Party fundamentalist Christian right wing Republican fascist dictatorship of Texas under the guidance of the inept bigot who is our governor (revving up to stupidly run for president again), Rick Perry.
“Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.”
Physicians, it can be safely assumed, are very intelligent, conscientious, responsible, and industrious people. One simply cannot make it into and through medical education and training without such traits, and the vast majority of physicians measure up to those qualifications very well. However, there are some who don’t measure up in other such essential attributes of character as sensitivity, compassion, humility, rationality, and honesty. Two Texas physicians who have failed miserably and disastrously in those attributes are Dr. Bob Deuell, a family physician, and Dr. Donna Campbell, an ophthalmologist, both Republican Texas state senators. In the legislative wranglings over HB2 they used their credentials as M.D.’s to achieve undeserved respect and influence – to create the false impression that since they are physicians they must know and understand what they are talking about. Well, neither of them did know nor understand what they were talking about. Neither of them have had any actual experience in abortion care, and both of them are self-described so-called “pro-lifers” who reflexively judge and condemn abortion care for anyone at any time and for any reason. To anyone who does know and understand the truth about abortion care it was glaringly obvious that they were blatantly lying about supporting HB2 from a blatantly dishonest and/or inexcusably ignorant fallacy of making abortion care “safer” for women and teenage girls. They obviously knew, understood, and cared not about “safety,” unless too stupid and/or obstinately ignorant and/or dishonest to be physicians in the first place, but were on a transparent so-called ”pro-life” mission to do away with abortion care in Texas, and the effect of HB2 has been to virtually abolish abortion care in Texas, as was clearly predictable by anyone who did know, understand, and care about the immense importance of access to the already existing very high degree of safety that had been available to women and teenage girls seeking abortions in Texas for over forty years. Their “mission” was obviously to force, by ill-considered and misrepresented law, their minority religious beliefs upon all women and teenage girls and their families in Texas. Senator/Dr. Deuell made his true intentions and incompetent humanity blatantly clear by his silly theatrics in a legislative hearing when he placed two pairs of baby shoes for display on the table in front of him in a childish ploy that he must have hoped would gain sympathy for fetuses and trump any concern for the women and teenage girls who would be forced to suffer and DIE by the disastrous law he was so relentlessly advocating. By virtue of their misused respect as physicians they were thus influential in creating conditions that made abortions vastly LESS safe and brought about an enormous public health crisis in Texas that will result in anguish, suffering, and DEATH for tens of thousands of women and teenage girls for a long, long time to come. Drs. Deuell and Campbell, in their inexcusable ignorance and/or flagrant dishonesty even to themselves, must have believed that they were doing “good,” that they were doing “God’s work.” At least that was what they showboated as their motivation, seemingly blind to the tragic consequences that their false witness (isn’t there one of the “Big Ten” commandments prohibiting that?) would bestow upon Texas women and teenage girls. Well, it was their responsibility to foresee those “unforeseen consequences.” We strenuously tried to educate them. They refused to listen, and they refused to think - another example of attempting to explore space in a two millennia-old ox cart – and of the old saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions – assuming that their intentions, though tragically misguided, actually were good and not just political. But, after all, their reelections to office they have thus demonstrated they are not qualified to occupy in the first place would rely upon the votes of the droves of mind-abducted extreme fundamentalist, so-called “pro-life” Christians that are epidemic in the backward state of Texas. Apparently, to people like Deuell and Campbell (i.e., other mind-abducted Tea Party Republicans), the emotional suffering and the injured, sick, and DEAD bodies of thousands of women and teenage girls for years to come are no more than stepping stones to enable them to misspend a few weeks in Austin every other year feeling “important” and “famous.”
Drs. Deuell and Campbell are conscientious objectors to abortion care of the sort who strive to impose their ox cart consciences on the entire population. There is an ongoing controversy in medicine and law concerning whether physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care workers should have the right to refrain from any involvement, however slight, in abortion or any other aspect of reproductive health care, including referrals to abortion care providers, even mentioning abortion as an alternative to an unwanted pregnancy, prescribing contraceptive medications or devices, and in the case of pharmacists, filling prescriptions for contraception and the “morning after pill.” All in the name of personal conscientious objection. “Keep YOUR rosaries off of MY ovaries!”
“We're not going to have the America that we want until we elect leaders who are going to tell the truth - not most days, but every day.” - Ann Richards, former governor of Texas
PHYSICIANS are even REQUIRED by so-called “pro-life” instigated laws in some states, including Texas, TO LIE to their patients by “informing” them with greatly exaggerated or totally false assertions of the medical risks of abortion, such as the thoroughly disproven LIE that having an abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer – such as the thoroughly disproven LIE that having an abortion results in serious emotional illness in women and teenage girls – such as the thoroughly disproven LIE that safe, legal, professionally provided abortion care is “dangerous.”
Below the fold is a letter I wrote to Dr. Bob Deuell (family practitioner), a physician-state senator who was influential in passing the sweeping draconian legislation through the legislature and onto Perry's desk. Copies were sent to two other antiabortion Christian bigots in the senate who are physicians, Dr. Donna Campbell (ophthalmologist) and Dr. Charles Schwertner (orthopedic surgeon).
July 15, 2013
Just to get it off my chest and to defend the reputation of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis against your public slander of him:
Good grief, Dr. Deuell! Although heretofore likely assumed to be a rational, honest, and educated person, as is our hope for all physicians, you have engaged heavily in absurdity untainted by rational critical thinking by your blatant "false witness" (one of the Big 10, better watch out!) in your testimony and speeches on the senate floor arguing that the sweeping, draconian (so-called) "pro-life" bill is designed to improve the safety of women having abortion care - although I must admit that you are not alone in this since all other Republicans in the Texas Senate that I know of seem to be somehow just as immunized as you against the unwelcome intrusion of critical thought, factual knowledge, honesty, and understanding, and tend toward eruptions of agitation, hysterical emotionality, aggressive anger, and near psychotic levels of irrationality and frank delusion when confronted by it.
You almost surely have never performed an abortion, yet you seem blithely to regard yourself as so expert about abortion care that you are justified in spuriously, without a shred of actual evidence, condemning it, falsely claiming that it is "dangerous for women," and striving to criminalize it. From your public comments, from your recalcitrant behavior, from your sanctimonious religiosity, and from the so-called "pro-life" movement with which you identify, it is palpably obvious that your real objective is not to "make abortion safer" but that you are aligned in lockstep behind Rick Perry's exceedingly foolish belief (or so he raves) that through legal coercion abortion can be made "a thing of the past" in Texas. That notion mocks reality and reveals a comprehensive lack of understanding and even an obstinate refusal to understand. Women have always sought to rid themselves of desperately unwanted pregnancies and always will. Abortion did not begin with Roe vs. Wade. SAFE abortion did!
You and your cohorts, against massive solid evidence to the contrary, persisted in the absurd fallacy that abortions provided in ambulatory surgical centers (ASC's) would be safer than in the existing clinics for the women and teenage girls having abortions. Your unfounded belief notwithstanding, the simple fact is that we have been providing very safe abortion care in Texas since early 1973, and we have done so in the existing free-standing abortion clinics, which have proved to be ideal facilities in every way for this care - ideal for keeping costs down for the women we serve; ideal for ensuring their confidentiality; ideal for widely and easily available access; ideal for providing a non-hospital-like facility that is conducive to relaxation, comfort, personal support, and less risk of nosocomial infection; and, yes, ideal for SAFETY. By honest and rational assessment, despite perhaps the same sort of rare exceptions that are inevitable in any other field of human endeavor, abortion provision in Texas has not been "dangerous" and in need of clueless attempts by politicians who know and understand next to nothing about it to make it "safer" by extreme restrictions and regulations that clearly accomplish the opposite. This law requiring that all abortion care be provided in ASC's makes no sense at all and will result in many clinics being forced to close because of not being able to afford the huge expense of converting to ASC's, and it is crystal clear that closing clinics and thus severely restricting access was the intent, not making abortion care "safer," despite your "false witness" to the contrary.
Just as fallacious is the claim that abortion care would be one iota safer if abortion doctors were required to have hospital admitting privileges. You know (or should know) that is unequivocally discriminatory because many other physicians practice various surgical specialties in office and clinic settings without hospital admitting privileges or governmental interference because, as is the case with abortion providers, they are simply not needed. You know (or should know) that most physicians who perform abortions do not have hospital admitting privileges and can't acquire them because of the stigma attached to abortion, a stigma that originates and is reinforced by people who believe as you do. You know (or should know) that this is just another example of your disingenuous "false witness" upon which you base your effort to ban abortion. You know (or should know) that all of this stubbornly tenacious effort on your part to ban abortion under obviously false pretenses represents your attempt to inflict your own religious belief on the whole of society. You know (or should know) that such theocratic coercion is anathema to the founding purpose of the United States and all of the fifty states. You know (or should know) that it just doesn't get more un-American than that kind of religious bigotry becoming law.
In regards to medication abortion, there is no way I can even imagine that it would be a bit safer to require a woman to return to a clinic on the day after she was there to take her first pill (mifepristone, or RU486) to have the physician hand the second round of pills (misoprostol) to her in person. All this would accomplish is necessitating extra time off work and away from her responsibilities at home, as well as travel and hotel expenses that would price it beyond the means of many women, especially those in the far reaches of southwest Texas and the Rio Grande Valley and all the more so after this terrible law forces the closing of many clinics that won't financially be able to make the conversion to ASC's as the law mandates. We well know from past experience what would happen. Women of means would fly to other states or around the world to get safe abortions in less backward locales while droves of women of inadequate means would resort to very dangerous attempts at abortion - those symbolized by the iconic coat hangers and back alleys. Just as in the times prior to Roe vs. Wade a great many of these women and teenage girls would be seriously injured. . Many would die in excruciating pain and suffering. Please explain how that would be "pro-life," Dr. Deuell. And please spare me your recurrent dodge of just saying you don't "believe" it would happen. Law should be based upon solid facts, not your fuzzy beliefs and misty ideals.
Tragically, each time the Republican-dominated state government beholden to extreme religious bigotry and political strategy and indiscriminately gorged at the trough of blatantly dishonest antiabortion propaganda has stuck its nose into safe legal abortion care in Texas safe legal abortion care has overall become incrementally somewhat less accessible and less safe and will virtually be wiped out by this latest travesty that has been forced upon us by closed-minded religious bigotry and partisan ideology - if it goes into effect. Our traditional Hippocratic Oath, as you know, begins with "First do no harm." However, as you seem intransigently undisposed to know and understand (or admit), this antiabortion law that you have just championed is set to rain down a whoppin' amount of severe harm on a whoppin' big number of women and teenage girls. Your "solution looking for a problem" (that is nonexistent) will create terrible problems that can be solved or, hopefully, prevented only by this outrageous law being struck down or repealed. For your future reference I have some advice for you: If it ain't broke don't "fix" it. Tragically, your mantra seems to be “If it ain’t broke ‘fix’ it until it is.”
You'd better hope and pray, along with us, for this horrific law to be struck down by the courts. Otherwise your legacy is guaranteed to become the disrupted lives, injuries, infections (many being sepsis akin to the prevalent "childbed fever" of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis's era that you mentioned in your pretentious speech on the senate floor), and deaths of literally thousands of women and teenage girls. Multitudes of horrific tragedies will be needlessly created by this terrible law dishonestly passed under the transparent "wolf in sheeps' clothing" guise of "making abortion safer." It will happen if this terrible law goes into effect! Guaranteed! One who forgets the past is doomed to repeat it.
The constant flow through the Parkland Hospital ER and onto the overflowing wards, or to the morgue, in Dallas of serious injuries, infections, and deaths of women and teenage girls from very unsafe illegal abortion prior to Roe vs. Wade is seared into my memory. That was the grim everyday reality in hospitals in every large city throughout the nation in those times. I was there. You were not. One who forgets the past is doomed to repeat it. I can't forget. You never knew. There is just no credible doubt that tens of thousands of serious illnesses, injuries, and deaths of women and girls have been prevented by safe abortion care made possible by Roe vs. Wade. The degree to which you so-called "pro-life" Republicans are so callously indifferent to the suffering, illness, injury, and death to which you have sentenced tens of thousands of women and teenage girls in Texas is appalling.
So, what's the matter with Texas? Extreme right wing Republican domination of state government, that's what.
The following is a synopsis of what happened in the Texas legislature over the past several weeks:
Advocates of legal safe abortion spoke the truth of evidence-based knowledge to power.
Power responded with the prejudiced, unfounded, fabricated myth of traditional authoritarian dogmatic belief. - and with "false witness."
Therefore, of course, we lost. Power won by trumping reason, knowledge, understanding, and compassion with delusion and pandering for political status.
The stuff of runaway fascism.
In short, pro-choice supporters spoke well researched and understood truth based upon objective fact.
You and your anti-choice minions spoke carelessly believed and intransigently ignorant, emotionalized nonsense and lies based mainly upon defamatory antiabortion propaganda.
Therefore, of course, in the Texas legislature of this dark era in our history, the ignorant bigots of your persuasion won the argument. (But only by a monumentally irresponsible, robotic party line vote.)
I'm left wondering whether our outcry should be "Stand with Wendy and Texas women" or "Beam us up, Scotty."
One of the most outrageous of many manifestations of your careless and irrational approach to this profoundly important issue was your self-flattering and absurd implication that you were channeling the great 19th century pioneer of evidence-based scientific medicine, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis. You had it exactly backwards. Or was it a deliberate misrepresentation by you? More "false witness" perhaps?
Dr. Semmelweis spoke the truth of evidence-based knowledge to power as we did.The most used phrase on your side of the debate was "I believe." As in "I don't care what the facts are; I believe…" If the number of times Sen. Glenn Hegar said essentially that on the senate floor were counted it might constitute a milestone in the annals of specious demagoguery! A Summary of his comments would be, "Don't confuse me with facts; my mind is made up." I hope he's better in his business as a rice farmer than he is as a logician or critic of reproductive health care and its risks. The unfounded claim that fetuses possess the developmental maturation earlier than the third trimester to consciously experience pain comes straight from antiabortion propaganda that fails to distinguish spinal cord and brainstem reflex from conscious perception and is soundly contradicted by the best scientific evidence accumulated by the world's leading neuroscientists, no matter what you and Sen. Hegar choose to believe.
But he crashed into an entrenched and impenetrable wall of prejudiced, unfounded, fabricated myth of traditional authoritarian dogmatic belief as we did.
Therefore, of course, he lost and was condemned and ostracized as we were. Power won by trumping reason with delusion and pandering for professional status.
If you are really so concerned about fetal pain, and if you really believe it is appropriate to attempt to prevent that by misguided law defended by "false witness," you should consider outlawing natural childbirth or providing pain relief for fetuses during delivery. During labor and birth babies' heads are being used as battering rams for eight to 14 hours to get through the birth canal. Yet we have not heard of a single bill anywhere to address that. This law has nothing to do with fetal pain. It's all about harassing women and banning abortion, and, your "false witness" aside, you know that.
Dr. Deuell, no matter how strongly you believe that you know what you merely believe, you merely believe it, and you might be very wrong. Fortunately, in the 21st century we are well into the age of evidence-based scientific medicine, having left the faith based dogma of unfounded belief far behind but still harassed as through many past centuries by religious bigotry. Across time and space Iggy Semmelweis could tell you a thing or two about that - if you would listen with an open mind, which you just didn't seem to be doing any of in the hearings and debates. And you and your cohorts were swayed no more from your specious dogma than were the authoritarian bigots of the European medical establishment that destroyed the career and life of Dr. Semmelweis and persisted with arrogant obstinacy in their old conventional ways of inadvertently but quite effectively assigning women to serious illness, injury, and death, which is exactly what you, with your influential advocacy of this tragically misguided new Texas law, will accomplish - if it goes into effect. And that will be your legacy.
Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, although ostracized, reviled, and driven to despair, obscurity, and early death (you got the circumstances of his death quite wrong, too, by the way) by his closed-minded authoritarian peers, is honored in medical history for collecting evidence in order to save women's lives. You are, across the ages, one of those closed-minded 19th century peers. You are an opposite to Dr. Semmelweis. He discovered evidence that saved women's lives. You deny, misrepresent, and ignore evidence in order to destroy women's lives. I know of Ignaz Semmelweis. You're no Ignaz Semmelweis!
In dismay and disgust,
William West, M.D.
cc: Sen. Donna Campbell, M.D. (She's no Semmelweis either.)
Sen. Charles Schwertner, M.D. (another non-Semmelweis)