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Posted on July 16, 2012
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I Will Lie to Patients. (Well, Only if They Are Having an Abortion)

Aaron Gouveia is outraged that a new law in Arizona and nine other states will allow doctors to lie to their patients about fetal deformities.

Apparently I missed the portion of the Hippocratic Oath where it says “I will lie to patients.”

There is a horrid piece of legislation recently passed by the Arizona Senate and slated to go before that state’s House, known as “wrongful death, wrongful life.” If passed, it would prohibit medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors who purposefully withhold information from a woman that could cause her to have an abortion. Or, in other words, it encourages pro-life doctors to lie to pregnant women about fetal deformities and disabilities that might lead to a woman terminating the pregnancy.

Let me repeat: some doctors are actively trying to deceive their patients. And they’re being assisted by Arizona legislators, who want to legally protect doctors for intentionally misleading people. I don’t care if you’re the most fervent pro-life advocate on the planet – that’s completely fucked up on several fronts.

First of all, doctors get more than a decade of schooling and training in order to help people. They help us prevent disease and cure it. We look to them for help – often miracles – when in dire straits because we know all the political, economic and moral differences cease to matter on the operating table. In short, we trust doctors and literally place our lives in their hands.

Which makes this proposed legislation all that more insidious.

There are nine states where this is already law. And new abortion-related laws are popping up everyday, such as the new law in Virginia which makes abdominal ultrasounds mandatory for all women seeking abortions with the exceptions of victims of rape and incest. Everyone else seeking an abortion has to be tortured with an ultrasound so conservatives can try to capitalize on a woman’s grief to change her mind. It all goes to prove a woman still has a right to opt for a procedure that is perfectly legal in this country, but only if she survives all the petty obstacles being thrown up by the religious right in an effort to steadily erode Roe vs. Wade at every turn.

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If I sound a little defensive, it’s with good reason.

Nearly two years ago my wife and I were trying for our second child. At 16 weeks our radiologist detected a fetal abnormality that turned out to be Sirenomelia, better known as Mermaid Syndrome. In addition to our baby’s legs being fused together, we found out she was also missing vital organs such as kidneys and a bladder. We got several opinions from world-renowned doctors, but they all said the same thing – our baby would eventually die.

Our world was shattered and the grief was torrential. Our doctors never advised us to have an abortion, they simply went over our options. But knowing our little girl was already near death, we decided the only thing that could make matters worse was having to deliver a stillborn. So we opted for an abortion.

Unfortunately the hospital couldn’t do the procedure for 10-14 days. By then, we were told an abortion might not be possible and my wife would have to deliver a dead baby. To avoid that scenario, the only other option was to do it immediately at an affiliated clinic, which we did.

And that’s when I was introduced to the horrors of the informed consent laws.

On the day of the procedure, we were verbally accosted by religious zealots holding signs and shouting awful things at us we entered. At the time, I didn’t think anything could be worse than having perfect strangers call you a murderer on the worst day of your life. But then I sat with MJ as the doctors fulfilled their legal obligation to inform us about what was going to happen. In detail. Graphic, horrifying detail.

We knew what was happening. We both researched the procedure. Horrible, but necessary. I quickly told the doctor to skip the speech because it was upsetting my wife. I was stunned to hear that she couldn’t do that and had to continue. And continue she did.

I’m still haunted by what transpired in the following minutes. My wife with her hands over her ears, trying to block it out. The doctor failing to relent despite my wife and I begging her to stop. My wife shrieking in agony as I tearfully held her down so we could get it over with and do what had to be done.

I understand the intent of that law. People need to be informed about what’s happening. But I also believe it’s been hijacked by anti-choice extremists who have no problem shaming and intimidating vulnerable pregnant women into keeping their babies. It’s a scare tactic, plain and simple. And it’s wrong.

But while this kind of abhorrent behavior is expected from the kind of people who stand on street corners holding pictures of mutilated babies and occasionally bombing clinics, shouldn’t our medical professionals be held to a higher standard? Don’t we deserve doctors who, at the very least, tell us the truth? Forget malpractice lawsuits – I believe any doctor who purposefully lies to a patient should be brought up on criminal charges.

Women are in charge of their own bodies. Abortion is legal. They deserve the right to be truthfully informed of their medical situation by a licensed medical professional, and then make the choice that’s best for them. They don’t deserve to be needlessly tortured via backdoor tactics and outright lies from people they’re supposed to trust the most.

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