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Providing true equity and choices with unplanned pregnancies

Caroyln Cockey

I disagree with Dr. Paul Salmen, Glenwood Medical Associate’s executive physician, when he advocates for abortion in our valley as “warranted” (GSPI, Feb. 27). Dr. Salmen has grossly misstated the necessity and efficacy of abortion as a “warranted” medical procedure and women’s health tool.Women don’t seek abortion to promote health; for most women, abortion is the only option available in an unwanted pregnancy. Statistics from the Guttmacher Institute show why women undergo abortion:– 3.3 percent seek abortion because of fetal health reasons — 2.8 percent seek abortion because of maternal health reasonsAlmost all women – 93.9 percent – seek abortion for non-health-related reasons. Lack of control and partner support, threatened economic security and career disruption lead the Guttmacher Institute’s list of reasons of why women seek abortions. This means that 1.28 million babies are aborted each year for economic and sociologic reasons – not health reasons or needs. Fewer than 90,000 abortions are performed for reasons regarding fetal or maternal health. Abortion is “warranted” only for a woman’s economic and social security – not for health.Dr. Salmen and his colleagues are like so many who rally behind “choice” (aka “abortion”) saying, “I support women’s rights,” without doing the hard, revolutionary work of creating true equities. These outstanding physicians would better serve women and men by harnessing the tremendous economic influence they have to create universally accessible and economically viable health care for all, including health education regarding the fact that there is no such thing as safe sex, or sex that is free from risky outcomes including unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, such as HPV, which can cause cervical cancer, and HIV, which leads to terminal AIDS. Even universal access to birth control for women and men would not likely reduce the prevalence of abortion. When surveyed, 90 percent of women who had an unplanned pregnancy and sought an abortion say they were using birth control to prevent pregnancy while engaging in sexual intercourse. By calling the actions of those who try to engage our community regarding the true inequities of abortion “harmful,” these physicians ignore the genuine reproductive health crisis at hand. They seek to silence those who would expand the debate regarding the effects of abortion on society, allowing women to continue to bear this burden alone.When women have no other options regarding an unwanted pregnancy, we take away their right to “choices” in promoting optimal health. As long as we accept abortion as the cultural default for unwanted pregnancies, physicians – and our society at large – will continue to neglect women with unplanned pregnancies, abandoning them to the realities of the workplace, which forces abortion as the only option for individual economic security.Abortion only increases a woman’s overall health risks: research demonstrates that women who undergo abortion are more likely to suffer regret, depression and anger, experience profound grief, have suicidal tendencies, be more likely to have preterm births with subsequent pregnancies, suffer higher rates of placenta previa and endure psychosomatic symptoms. It’s not clear if abortion increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer, but it certainly removes the known protective effects of reducing breast cancer risk by carrying a pregnancy to term.Researchers writing in the American Psychologist recently tallied the health risks associated with gender inequities in our culture, including poor reproductive and mental health outcomes, and declared “being born female is dangerous to your health.”We must move beyond the lie that abortion promotes women’s health; reality is that abortion is neither “healthy” nor “warranted.”Carolyn Davis Cockey lives in Glenwood Springs and is a nationally recognized women’s health editor.Carolyn Davis Cockey lives in Glenwood Springs and is a nationally recognized women’s health editor.


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