Skip to content

This Can’t Be Right

January 16, 2014

Being a doctor I am invested with a certain credibility, for better or worse.  I know I have to be careful what I say because people (one or two at least) will listen.  But I can’t remain silent on what’s going on with women’s rights at the Supreme Court right now.

In the case McCullen vs Coakley the question at issue is the constitutionality of a Massachusetts law that requires a 35ft buffer zone around “abortion clinics” beyond which anti-abortion protestors cannot go.  The McCullen in the case is Eleanor McCullen, a grandmotherly 77-year-old with a big cross hanging around her neck.  She says she counsels women who are going into the clinic (planned parenthood in this case), and has saved hundred of babies.  Proponents of the law say it protects patients.  Opponents reject it on first amendment grounds.

So imagine this:  you’re a 16-year-old.  Or a mother of five on welfare.  Or a 45-year-old corporate lawyer with a Down’s Syndrome fetus.  You’re pregnant.  First you were shocked,  then you cried, then you talked to you mom or whomever you trust, then you cried, then you researched the options, then you cried, then you made the wrenching decision that you’re too young to care for a child.  You just can’t afford another baby.  You know you can’t handle a special needs child.  You’ve made this horrible wrenching decision with the consultation of those you love, you know it’s the right thing for you, you’ve screwed up your courage, you’re nervous and upset.

You get out of your car and a bunch of people you don’t know, WHO DON’T KNOW YOU, who know nothing about you and your situation, surround you and start “counseling” you.  Maybe they say you’re making a mistake, maybe they show you pictures of aborted fetuses, maybe they wave the bible, maybe they say they “care” about you and your unborn child.  Maybe Ms. McCullen is there and she reminds you of your grandmother and she looks so nice…

Horrible right?  Such a tough, personal decision.  Questioned by people who don’t know you.   I’m trying to think of a similar health-related issue that would serve as a contrasting example.  There’s nothing quite as controversial, but consider bilateral mastectomy.  What if you had a positive biopsy on the right breast, maybe a family history, maybe a high grade cancer.  You’ve cried.  You’ve consulted your loved ones.  You’ve made this wrenching decision.  What if when you were going in to get your breasts removed a bunch of people were crowded outside the hospital door telling you you’re making the wrong choice.  There’s no data.  You’re mutilating yourself.  Why don’t you wait and see? Maybe you’ll never get cancer in the other breast.  Let us help you.

You’d be furious right?  Not only because it’s none of these peoples’s business but because your body is yours and what happens to it is protected, private information.  And, most importantly, you are an intelligent adult and you’ve reviewed the choices and made the right choice for you.

There’s a fairly good chance the Supreme Court will find in Eleanor’s favor.  I understand that people have the right to free speech.  I understand the Supreme Court considers constitutionality and law, not decency and fairness.  I understand there are other laws protecting people from harassment and violence.  But this cannot be right.


  1. Katrina Henricks permalink

    How well do the people inside the abortion clinic KNOW YOU? And how well do you KNOW THEM?

    • Thanks for reading Katrina. Yes, you are right. But the difference is that in the case of the clinic people, you are approaching them asking for a service that you have decided to use. Ideally everyone would talk to a pro-choice person and a pro-life person before deciding about an abortion. If I went up to Eleanor and said “Eleanor, I have this problem, I’m consulting some knowledgeable sources, and I want to hear your side” great! She’d be a good resource. It’s the unsolicited advice at a vulnerable time that I find unacceptable.

  2. Phillip Gale permalink

    The problem wih your analogy is that for the cancer patients it is a question of life or death. For the woman getting an abortion it is a question of convenience. The sidewalk confrontation is not the best time or place to offer information it is true. There must be a better way for men and women to get all the information about abortion when they need it. The abortion industry is big business and is not likely to give the negative side of abortion. And as you say, the courts do not determine right or wrong but only legalities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Ideal Violinist

By Bayla Keyes

Eclectic Voices

Fiction, Monologues, Plays & More

Competing Diagnoses

How Americans talk about health care reform

Navigating Healthcare - Patient Safety and Personal Healthcare Management

A Guide to navigating Healthcare for parents, children and spouses who are concerned with managing their health and the health of their family

Children's Book Reviews


Dr. Vineet Arora's thoughts on medical training, patient care, healthcare policy, with tips for trainees

Wright on Health

Making complex issues in health policy and health services research accessible to all...

Dr John M

cardiac electrophysiologist, cyclist, learner

Navigating the healthcare system


Navigating the healthcare system

Whole Mama

Navigating the healthcare system

medicine for real

Navigating the healthcare system

%d bloggers like this: