HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Monday, November 24, 2008

Medical Students and Abortion

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran a lengthy article entitled, "A Hard Choice," discussing a pro-choice medical student and her struggle with decisions concerning her future medical practice and abortion particularly.  The article provides a look into the decision of a young female medical student as she considers whether she will perform abortions as part of her medical practice.  It reviews the danger that some of the doctors who do provide these services experience as well as some of the conflicting viewpoints individuals hold about the abortion procedure.  The article spotlights some of the ethical dilemmas that doctors face in their practice,

You think you are pro-choice, Carole Meyers was saying. But, really, "how pro-choice are you? What does it mean for you? What's your limit? Will you do an abortion on a woman who is 12 weeks pregnant? Twenty-four weeks pregnant?"  What's your limit with birth defects? she asked. "Would you do an abortion at 28 weeks if the baby had a club foot? How about hemophilia?" 

Meyers, a 51-year-old obstetrician and genetics expert, has performed hundreds of abortions over the course of her career and, until earlier this year, served as the medical director of Planned Parenthood of Maryland. She loves her work -- it's very rewarding, she said, and women always thank her -- but she doesn't shrink from examining abortion's ethical dilemmas or from setting her own limits. The truth, she told Lesley and the other medical students, is that abortion is not a black-and-white issue, not for patients and not for doctors.

"If you are going to perform abortions, how is your family going to think about it?" she asked. "How will you tell your kids? What are you going to do if your church doesn't want you to come anymore?" . . .

How medical students choose to become abortion providers is in some ways no different from how they choose to become cardiac surgeons or pediatric neurologists. They explore the specialty and test themselves in it, finding some connection to a patient or a mentor that ignites their passion. Except for one difference: Medical students must explore abortion largely on their own.

Today, the Washington Post has a forum for those who wish to discuss the article with the featured medical student Lesley Wojcik and the article's author freelance writer Patricia Meisol.  They will be online Monday, November 24 at 12 noon ET.

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