This Can’t Be Right
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.