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Abortion News: Expert and Author Dr. David A. Grimes Describes the Past and Present State of Abortion Care in the US

First Posted: Feb 09, 2015 11:35 AM EST
Every Third Women in America

Photo : Dr. David A. Grimes

Every third woman in America will undergo one or more abortions during her lifetime. Young and old; Brazilian and Swedish; curvy and thin; professor and student; and rich and poor ...abortions are a part of the lives of women across the nation.

Dr. David A. Grimes, author of "Every Third Woman in America: How Legal Abortion Transformed Our Nation," spoke with Latin Post, detailing facts about the epidemic of unintended pregnancies in the U.S. and important truths regarding the realities of abortion.

Before Roe v. Wade, the number of illegal, unsafe abortions can be estimated between 200,000 and 1.2 million per year. But associated death was better documented, and the year Grimes was born, more than 700 U.S. women died trying to control their fertility through abortions. While the legalization of abortion didn't dramatically change the numbers of abortions done each year in the U.S., it did dramatically change access to safe abortions.

Forced marriages ("shotgun weddings"), out-of-wedlock births, very premature births and infant death rates all decreased quickly after legalization of abortion, stated Grimes. Every major municipal hospital in the U.S. had a "septic abortion ward," filled with women suffering from complications of clandestine abortions. After legalization, these wards emptied, and then closed.

"The deprivation of women's reproductive rights today is analogous to the deprivation of civil rights of African-American citizens in the 1950s and 1960s," said Grimes, who studied, provided, and taught abortions for over four decades. "If women do not have the ability to make fundamental decisions for themselves, such as if and when to have children, then other civil rights become largely irrelevant."

According to Grimes, anti-abortion groups, working with the Republican Party in state legislatures, have passed more abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than the entire previous decade, revealing an unprecedented epidemic of hostility toward women. Some women will, again, be driven into back alleys for abortions, or they'll attempt medically unsupervised self-abortions. And it's difficult to say how many women will needlessly suffer and die because of it. Already, women are being forced into interstate treks to get safe care, which was also the case before Roe v. Wade. Women in west Texas often travel to New Mexico because of the anti-abortion laws in Texas.

"Within a few years of Roe v. Wade, deaths from abortion nearly disappeared in America. Today, the risk of death from abortion is less than that from an injection of penicillin. [And] continuing a pregnancy to delivery of a child is 14 times more likely to result in death of the woman," said Dr. Grimes, who is the former chief of the Abortion Surveillance Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "The risk of complications from abortion is a few percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of complications from pregnancy and childbirth is 60 percent. Given about 4 million births annually in the U.S., that translates into more than 2 million women having complications."

The legalization of abortion care is a proven social equalizer, as is contraception. Sexual and reproductive health has enabled women to attain higher education, enter the workforce, and contribute to society in many important ways other than childbearing. And the fact is, opposition to abortion is rooted in misogyny and male privilege.

"Like vaccination against measles, abortion has become a victim of its own success. An entire generation has grown up unaware of the dangers of the "bad old days." Hence, many among us are complacent about the dangers of measles and unsafe abortion," stated Grimes. "Having watched women suffer and die needlessly from unsafe abortion as a young doctor, I am committed to seeing that we don't revisit those dangerous times. Women deserve better from us.

"Opposition to abortion and contraception is, at its core, just another ugly and dangerous manifestation of misogyny. The spectrum of misogyny ranges from passive -- apathy, disdain and neglect -- to active -- intimate partner violence, dowry murders, female genital mutilation, and honor killings. Child marriage and rape, as an instrument of warfare, are other examples. All of these hurt women and thus are unethical."

For 40 years as a gynecologist, Grimes has dedicated himself to abortion care. Early in his career, he had the privilege of working at the Centers for Disease Control, where he participated in several landmark studies of abortion that led to rapid improvements in the quality and safety of abortion care in the U.S. and overseas.

All major medical and public health organizations support legal abortion, according to Dr. Grimes. This includes the World Health Organization, American Public Health Organization, American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Women's Association, American Psychological Association, and American Psychiatric Association.

At the same time, National Right to Life and well-funded abortion opponents continue to push disinformation through Crisis Pregnancy Centers, the Internet and an alternative medical literature. Grimes wrote his new book to present the indisputable medical and public health evidence about the importance of safe, legal abortion for women of America.

"Abortion cannot be legislated out of existence. A good analogy is Prohibition in the U.S. a century ago. Making the manufacture and distribution of alcohol illegal did not stop alcohol use," said Grimes. "Prohibition simply drove it underground. Many suffered and died from unsafe bootleg spirits, and the only real beneficiaries were criminals like Al Capone.

"Abortion is fundamentally important for women's health. Anything that deters or delays a woman from getting abortion care violates the ethical principles of beneficence, autonomy, and justice. We physicians have an ethical opposition to oppose such improper interference in the doctor-patient relationship."

Abortion will not go away. The real question facing our nation today should severe restrictions persist or Roe v. Wade be overturned is the price women will be forced to pay for their abortions in terms of dollars, disease, degradation, and -- for some -- death, according to Dr. Grimes.

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