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Rozalyn Farmer Love -- Why I Will Provide Abortions

It wasn't until I spent time in ultrasound rooms during a research job in graduate school that I began to see late-trimester abortions in a very different light. In one case, the patient's baby had just been diagnosed with a lethal congenital anomaly. The high likelihood was that it wouldn't survive after birth for more than a few minutes. As long as the baby remained in her mother's womb, however, she would live. I asked the physician what this woman's options were. The answer was, not many. She could choose to continue the pregnancy, but then she might be waiting for almost 20 more weeks to give birth to a baby that would never take more than a few breaths on its own. She was past the point where she could legally terminate the pregnancy in Alabama. If she could get an appointment in Atlanta within the next week, she might be able to have the procedure there. Beyond that, there were only a few physicians in the nation who would perform an abortion in such a case.

I could hardly wrap my mind around the agony that this woman and her husband must have been facing. They needed a caring and compassionate physician to help them through this dark moment, and if they chose not to continue the pregnancy, they also needed a physician who was both skilled enough and brave enough to provide them with the care they needed. They needed Dr. Tiller.

I can't yet imagine doing precisely the kind of work that he did. When I think about my future practice, I think about a doctor I met at a conference who spoke candidly about the harassment his children endured at school because of what their father did. I wonder what seventh grade might be like for my children if I choose to provide abortions.

I'm not the only one with questions, of course. Once, after Medical Students for Choice co-hosted a panel discussion on reducing the number of abortions by providing better education on reproductive health, some of my classmates approached close friends of mine. They were puzzled that a pro-choice group was talking about wanting to reduce abortions -- and that it viewed ending unwanted pregnancies as a tragedy. Mostly, though, they were confused about what I was doing there. "I know Roz goes to church every Sunday and that she's a good person," one classmate asked. "Why would she be involved in a group like this?"

I know my answer to that question. Someday I hope my classmates will understand, too.

Rozalyn Farmer Love is a third-year medical student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine.

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