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Medical Training for Abortions

August 02, 1994

I consider Katherine Dowling's anti-abortion article, "No Choice for Hospitals" (Commentary, July 20), confusing and lacking in relevant information.

While I am sure it is true that more than 20% of abortions in this country are done after the first trimester, Dowling does not mention that the vast majority are done before the third trimester, when the procedure is done only if the life of the mother is endangered. She also completely fails to mention the increased maternal mortality that would occur if safe abortions were unavailable and they were performed by untrained personnel. With the increasing ability of medical technology to diagnose lethal and/or catastrophic disorders prenatally, the availability of safe, legal abortions becomes ever more important. This does not take into account the numbers of women who, for personal reasons (teen-age pregnancy, financial insecurity, drug or alcohol use during pregnancy, high-risk pregnancy, etc.), seek their constitutional right to a safe and legal abortion. It is incumbent on medical schools and hospitals to provide training in abortion technology in their obstetrical/gynecological residency programs.

The Catholic hospitals and medical schools that refuse to sanction abortions are out of step with current philosophy for the majority of Americans. It is unfortunate that they provide inadequate ob/gyn programs to their residents. We need well-trained physicians in this increasingly important specialty.

RICHARD KOCH MD

Professor of Clinical Pediatrics

USC School of Medicine

Dowling's article states that 20% of all abortions occur in the second and third trimester. While she is quick to give the graphic details of the procedure, as a true anti-abortionist always does, she never explains that only 1% of legal abortions take place in the third trimester (about 160 per year). She also never mentions that these procedures are always medically necessary and are to save the life of the woman.

Abortion is a medical procedure that is a part of a woman's total reproductive health care. The Catholic Church is also against contraception and infertility procedures. Should these areas of education also be omitted? Doctors should learn this procedure no matter what type of medical school they attend (Catholic or otherwise). They just might need it to save a woman's life.

LESLIE C. HOFFMAN

Redondo Beach

Republican Govs. Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey and Pete Wilson of California recently stated their intention to work for the exclusion from the 1996 Republican National Platform of the principle that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life. They say that the recognition of that right, and opposition to the practice of abortion, is not an appropriate position for the Republican Party to take because abortion is a "personal" decision and should not be a political issue.

What is "personal" about U.S. citizens being forced to pay for abortions? What is "personal" about public policies and laws that create programs to carry out experiments on freshly aborted fetal tissue?

The Roe vs. Wade decision, which legalized abortion throughout nine months of pregnancy, has propelled us into an era in which lawmakers and public-policy experts are dealing on a daily basis with issues that 30 years ago seemed unthinkable. Are women entitled to informed consent before they submit to an abortion? Should parents have the right to consent to medical treatment for their minor children--except for abortion? Will legislators decide that people have a right to commit suicide? Can those who are extremely ill be denied nutrition and hydration? Far from being "personal," the life issues are a very public matter indeed.

The majority of American voters expect the Republican Party to remain pro-life, and we don't intend to disappoint them.

COLLEEN PARRO, Executive Director

Republican National Coalition for Life

Dallas, Tex.

Re "Bishops Should Sit This One Out," by Andrew Greeley, Commentary, July 25:

While it never surprises me to see Father Andrew Greeley at odds with the bishops of our church, it does disturb me that he, a priest and a sociologist, would position himself at odds with the truth.

Greeley claims that the U.S. bishops, by opposing mandatory abortion coverage in any comprehensive health-care package, are "trying to force on Americans moral principles that the majority do not share, including the majority of Catholics." This is simply not true.

Polls consistently show that a significant majority of Americans do not want to pay for someone else's choice to kill her pre-born baby and do not want abortion as part of the basic benefits in any health-reform bill.

Greeley fears that the bishops will be cast as the "bad guys" if universal coverage (which they, like most Americans, favor) fails because of the abortion issue.

I submit that the real villains are those pro-abortion members of Congress who have vowed to torpedo any health-care bill that does not include mandatory abortion coverage, the will of the American people be damned.

REV. GREGORY COIRO, O.F.M., Cap.

Director, Office of Public Affairs

Archdiocese of Los Angeles

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