I recently read an article in Self magazine entitled “Is Your Doctor Playing Judge?”. The article, in short, is about the challenges and discrimination women are facing when it comes to their health care and specifically in terms of their reproductive health. On the page facing the main title and article is a flow chart of sorts with the following entries:
- DENIED: Emergency Room Contraception–Lore Boyer, 35, and Tara Harnish, 21, both of whom had been raped and who visited the same Pennsylvania ER
- DENIED: Emergency Abortion–New Hampshire’s Kathleen Hutchins, whose doomed pregnancy put her at risk
- DENIED: Tubal Ligation–An Illinois mother of four who hoped to have her tubes tied
- DENIED: Birth Control Pills–Elizabeth Dotts, a single 26-year-old who visited an Alabama M.D.
- DENIED: Preadoption Physical–California single mom Cheryl Bray, 44, who was adopting a baby from Mexico
- DENIED: Medication for Ectopic Pregnancy–An Illinois patient in jeopardy who hoped to have the fertility sparing treatment
- DENIED: Fertility Treatment–Guadalupe Benitez, 35, a lesbian seeking artificial insemination in California
What this article does nicely is NOT turn into a pro-choice vs. pro-life debate. Nor does it harp overly much on the “men vs. women” elements of health care vis-a-vis their reproductive capabilities. In fact, it mentions once, and only once and rather succinctly, that men are not faced with the same challenges women are if they choose to pursue medicinal means of boosting their virility or conversely ceasing sperm production via sterilization. Rather, this article sticks to the facts: women are being denied various forms of health care specifically targeted at their reproductive capabilities and multiple states and hospitals do little to nothing in regards to preserving patient rights as it comes down to a matter of “religious freedom” on the part of the doctor (or hospital) denying care.
What sort of care is being denied, you may find yourself asking? Everything from emergency contraception, to abortions, to referrals, to certain types of health care for single mothers. And everything in between. The argument that this article makes is that legally there are an over abundance of loop holes through which health care providers–be they nurses or doctors–can refuse patient care and be dead with in their rights to do so. It cites various examples, the following an example of one of the more alarming:
Ob/gyn Wayne Goldner, M.D., learned this lesson [of putting aside one’s personal beliefs to do what’s best for the patient] a few years back when a patient…came to his office n Manchester, New Hampshire. She was just 14 weeks pregnant, but her water had broken. Dr. Goldner delivered the bad news: Because there wasn’t enough amniotic fluid left and was too early for the fetus to survive on its own, the pregnancy was hopeless. [The patient] would likely miscarry in a matter of weeks. But in the meantime, she stood at risk for serious infection, which could lead to infertility or death. Dr. Goldner says his devastated patient chose to get an abortion at local Elliot Hospital. But there was a problem. Elliot had recently merged with nearby Catholic Medical Center–and as a result, the hospital forbade abortions.
“I was told could not admit her unless there was a risk to her life”…”They said, ‘Why don’t you wait until she has an infection or gets a fever?’…”
Thankfully, this doctor went above and beyond his call of duty and paid for a cab to take this patient 80 miles away to get the abortion she needed in order to not risk infertility or her life.
In fairness to the “other side,” this article does interview a representatives from both the Christian Medical and Dental Association and the American Center for Law (which was founded by minister Pat Robinson). The gist of their stance is “Don’t make your choice my choice.”
To that I would say this: women do not chose to be raped, they do not chose to have difficult pregnancies that endanger their lives, they do not chose to be lesbians. Is it not enough (in the case of the woman adopting a Mexican child who was denied a physical because of her single parent status) that some women WANT a child? Is it not enough that some women WANT to be responsible and not continue to blithely procreate? Women are not asking their doctors to compromise their religious or personal beliefs, merely to provide the best care that they possibly can. If the services we are asking for do butt proverbial heads with your beliefs, then please have the common decency (even if, legally, you aren’t required to) to at least refer us to one of your colleagues who is of like mind with us–the patient–so that our quality of life, our health (you know, that thing you went through 8 years of school to learn about) is maintained. You are providing us a service, much like, say, the cable repair man or the telephone company or, heck, even the garbage disposal service. While many will say “Don’t like the service? Then switch!” I say I shouldn’t be forced to switch something so personal as my health care provider just because of my doctor’s personal views. Unlike other service providers, a doctor’s choice should NOT constitute shoddy service. I am not an utility bill that has been over charged, or a crappily repaired faucet. I am a human being. And as such, you MUST respect my choices if you are asking to respect yours. Simply put: Don’t make your choice our choice.