The unwanted pregnancy: One physician's perspective

Published: Monday, January 24, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 23, 2005 at 10:24 p.m.
Abortion continues to be a most troubling issue, as is evidenced by the numerous and diverse opinions expressed in The Sun (Speaking Out Dec. 27 and Jan. 3, and Voice of the People Dec. 30). I would like to add some comments from many years in the practice of medicine.
There will always be unwanted pregnancies, and since some will consider abortion the least-bad solution under the circumstances, there will always be abortions.
In my experience, this is always a difficult and stressful decision for those involved, and one that is made only after a period of agonizing appraisal of the situation.
I have never encountered a casual attitude toward abortion, a so-called "abortion-on-demand" attitude.
Some who seek abortion are married couples who find that the two, three or four children they already have are straining their physical and emotional resources to their limits. They feel they do not have the stamina to care for another child. They are good parents and this is a painful decision for them. Guilt and depression regularly accompany the decision.
When abortion was illegal, the affluent usually found competent medical care either in this country or abroad.
Those with limited means all too often relied on incompetent abortionists and risked infections, permanent sterility and even their lives. It was a dreary period for them.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, I am afraid that history will repeat itself.
This is an intensely private affair and, in my opinion, best left to the pregnant woman to consult those she trusts - her family and physician. The law and government should stay out.
What can be done to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies?
Abstinence is the ideal, but given the reality of the sex drive, impractical for many. Honest and competent sex education will help.
Effective application of all we know about contraception undoubtedly will help.
We always encourage innocence (in its original moral meaning), but never ignorance.
Unfortunately we live in a society that exploits sex - in industry, advertising, entertainment and sports. It's everywhere.
We desperately need to emphasize true moral values: honesty, kindness, compassion, fairness, taking responsibility for one's actions, trust, courage, openness and consideration for the community.
Unfortunately, few of the leaders in industry and government have provided us with good role models.
Samuel L. Greenberg is a Gainesville physician.

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