Abortion waiting period is needed

Posted: Monday, April 24, 2000

In reading the Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition ``My Turn'' article against House Bill 329, it is hard to believe they are talking about proposed legislation that is intended to protect uninformed women from unscrupulous abortion facilities.

HB 329 required that the woman be provided with basic information about abortion alternatives, risks of abortion, fetal development and a 24-hour waiting period between consultation and the actual abortion. The waiting period is to protect the woman from being pressured into having an abortion by unscrupulous operators before she can leave the abortion clinic and she has the opportunity of considering the information provided to her.

It has been asked: Why a special requirement of informed consent for abortion? The reason is simple. Abortion is a very unique procedure. There is nothing else like it. It involves a life-and-death decision. There are two patients involved. With an affirmative abortion decision one will be killed. In addition to the death of the child the result may be a lifetime of psychological and emotional problems for the mother.

We may think we can change laws and make this practice acceptable but we will never be able to change the natural bond between a mother and her child. Consequently, the abortion decision is like no other and, to make the problem worse, the mother is frequently denied the relevant information she needs to make an informed decision.

It is well documented by prior abortion clinic operators and women who have had abortions that patient counseling for abortion in many clinics is a sham. They are selling a product and that product is abortion. Consent may be obtained but that is vastly different from informed consent, which is the cornerstone of good medical practice. Ask any abortion facility for their consent form and see what you get.

Abortion clinics do not counsel patients on alternatives, fetal development and all the risks because it is not in their monetary interests to do so. They fear the mother may choose to have her child and the abortion revenue is lost. From a business standpoint that is understandable. What is not understandable is the fear of abortion supporters that the woman may choose not to have an abortion, especially since those are the people who claim to be pro-choice.

Abortion appears to be the only acceptable choice for radical abortion supporters. Their objection to providing women with facts about abortion shows a lack of concern about the health and welfare of the woman. This country is full of hurting, guilt-ridden and depressed women who have had abortions. It strikes us as simply unconscionable to deny women the information needed to make an informed choice.

Opponents to HB 329 repeatedly refer to the required information as being ``biased counseling.'' That may be admitting more than they like. Informed consent laws for abortion are not new. Many states have such laws in recognition of the serious problem of women being uninformed about abortion. The information is in writing. It is not an individual giving an opinion. Everything is factual and can be easily documented as true. Therein lies the problem for abortion advocates. The truth hurts. They are correct in their assessment that pro-life organizations support this legislation because we believe that when given the truth, many women will choose to have their baby. That is good for women and their babies. For those who still choose to abort their baby they will at least be informed and not suffer the pain of discovering what they had done after the fact.

Informed women still have the legal right to get an abortion. HB 329 does not diminish that fact one bit. The 24-hour waiting period may cause some inconvenience but that is a small price to pay in order to ensure the patient makes the correct choice. The consequences of the decision are simply too great to allow for the present practice to continue.

The arguments presented in the ``My Turn'' article against the 24-hour waiting period are simply too extreme and far-fetched to have any credibility. For example, the claim is made that the 24-hour waiting period can force a woman to delay an abortion until the second trimester or that protesters will follow the woman home to harass her. This is ridiculous.

Abortion supporters oppose informed consent because the abortion practice can survive only by denying people the facts about it. To make it acceptable, abortion is shrouded with a curtain of euphemisms and slogans. However, good medical practice requires that the patient be fully informed about all issues relevant to the procedure even if these facts are unpleasant. It is good state policy. It is good public health policy. It is good for women contemplating abortion. In many instances it will mean life for the baby. We can only hope that the majority of Alaskans support efforts to ensure that women are given the information necessary to make an informed, knowledgeable choice, which involves life and death. HB 329 attempts to do that.

Ida Barnack of Juneau is the president of Alaskans for Life Inc.

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