Letter to the Editors

Against the Current, No. 160, September/October 2012

Clifford J. Straehley, M.D.

DURING THE YEARS when I received my surgical training at Massachusetts General Hospital, the specialty of emergency room medicine had not yet emerged. At teaching hospitals in the United States, the surgical service provided first-echelon care in the ER.

In 1948 I slept in the ER to be awakened by the nurse whenever a new patient arrived. There came to the ER a woman in profound shock. Her story: She had five children and when she became pregnant once again, her husband abandoned her. A medical abortion was unobtainable. In desperation she fashioned an instrument from a bent coat hanger and attempted to abort herself. Upon examination it became evident that a torn loop of bowel presented in her vagina. She was in septic shock. My effort to restore her circulation failed and an hour later she died.

Since that tragic and horrifying event, I have held an unshakable belief that every woman must be in control of her own reproductive destiny. I am completely in favor of Roe v. Wade. Already largely due to the efforts of Republican legislators, centers where safe and legal abortion could be obtained have disappeared in many communities. Mitt Romney has said he would stop funding Planned Parenthood nationally. He has misrepresented facts, stating that 70% of the finances of PP goes to abortions (the figure is 3%).

Romney, so he has stated, would also mount an assault on contraception. Thus we would return to an era of thousands of unwanted pregnancies and deaths from illegal, unsafe abortions. The well-to-do will travel to find a voluntary interruption of their unwanted pregnancies — the victims will be the poor.

September/October 2012, ATC 160