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Science vs. Ideology

A new political low was reached in Salt Lake City Wednesday evening during a political debate arguing HB 461 which requires a 72-hour waiting period before a woman may obtain an abortion: Representative Bradley Daw made his opening remarks by reading from a “well-known philosopher and poet.” This would not have been remarkable, and perhaps it would have even been touching, had the context not been the infringement of women’s reproductive rights. Representative Daw’s opening remarks were read directly from “Horton Hears a Who” by Dr. Seuss, closing his remarks with “After all, a person is a person, no matter how small.”

Needless to say, I was outraged from the start. Representative Daw’s point was, of course, that pregnancy at any gestational age is a “person.” He failed to mention that the woman carrying the pregnancy is also a person. He was, however, quick to point out the thousands of women he represents and on their behalf advocated for HB 461. Representative Daw also seemed very knowledgeable regarding availability of health care and contraception to those in the lower socioeconomic classes, stating “contraception is available in any drug store, gas station, clinic for only a few dollars.” As someone on the front line in the daily health care battle I opine that statements like these are grossly ignorant.

Like most politicians, and like almost all who restrict women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health care, Representative Daw is not a clinician. He has no clinical training or experience and has no credentials to speak to health care provision, practice, or availability. This does not prevent him or any others from making statements such as “access to contraception is widespread,” or “pregnancy from rape is a justifiable reason to have an abortion,” as if he has a list of “justifiable” and “unjustifiable” reasons. For the record, cases like Savita’s do happen here, fortunately not often.

I have a request of journalists who have the paramount opportunity to ask questions of our legislators writing and passing laws affecting women’s lives: ask the right questions.

  • Can you speak to the risks of carrying a pregnancy to term? Of giving birth? Of rearing a child?
  • Can you speak to the risks of having an abortion? Medical versus surgical? First versus second trimester?
  • Do you feel you are medically qualified to counsel a woman on her options regarding a newly diagnosed pregnancy?

A politician no more belongs in my clinic instructing me how to care for my patients than I do in their staffing office writing legal bills. Evidence-based medicine and science, not ideology, should guide policy-making in health care.

The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism.
— Sir William Osler