A Frank Ob/Gyn's Message

An honest assessment of all things medical and ethical.

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

In my last column, I wrote about the uniquely human capacity to choose when and if to act on our natural sexual instincts. This should be sufficient grounds to accept that we should be held accountable and responsible for all of our actions in this regard. This applies not only to the most serious issue of consent but also other issues such as the proper context in a minimum of a natural marriage which doesn’t require religious belief or ceremony. As we come to appreciate that every act of marital intercourse is a conscious decision of the free will, we can better understand how the practice of periodic continence or “natural family planning” (NFP) is an entirely reasonable approach to postponement of child bearing that fully respects the man and woman’s human dignity.

We acknowledge that there do exist legitimate situations where it may be advisable for serious reasons (medical or others) to avoid pregnancy for a time or indefinitely. Accordingly, there is nothing intrinsically evil about delaying pregnancy. However, as with any noble goals (ends), there are morally licit (good) ways of seeking ends, and there are illicit (evil) manners of attaining the same end. A commonly used analogy is one where a father seeks to provide for his family. He could do so by performing honest work or he could do so by stealing or other criminal activity. Similarly, with regard to human fertility and marital intercourse, we know that those actions which intentionally cause the man or woman to be infertile at a time when conception might otherwise occur are contrary to human nature and also violate God’s law.

A frequent objection to the seemingly subtle distinction between contraception and “NFP” is that they are ethically equal since they have the same goal of avoiding pregnancy. In other words, why isn’t NFP just a Catholic version of contraception? The answer can best be understood in the context of the need to exercise self-control in a way that contraception actions do not require. The previous discussion on how animal behavior are not subject to free will explains why the Catholic Church does not condemn contraceptives and sterilization when applied to animals. Those familiar with animal population control programs are quite familiar with various types of contraceptives (even in vaccine form) that are routinely used among animal populations. Sadly, I think it needs to be stated hear clearly that those practices which are entirely legitimate for us to apply to animals are frequently in no way acceptable for human beings.

A more specific analogy that illustrates how NFP differs fundamentally from contraception can be seen in the comparison of dieting and fasting versus binging and purging with regard to weight loss strategies. Maintaining a healthy weight with occasional fasting and exercising self-restraint with regard to portions and food choices follows natural law and therefore promotes good health. Attempting to maintain a normal weight with the practice of induced vomiting and diarrhea (purging) after gorging on unhealthy quantities and types of food is contrary to natural law and is accordingly harmful to one’s health. Sexual love, like eating, were designed to be enjoyable as they are also required for maintaining and creating new life. Likewise, when these natural functions are abused (as only humans can do), profound spiritual as well as physical harm results.

On the most pragmatic level, as a physician, I must appreciate that the only 100% effective methods of avoiding pregnancy are either complete abstinence or complete castration. Many people should practice complete abstinence for at least some time for various reasons. One such example would be during the 6-8 weeks of healing after a vaginal surgery. Complete castration should only be performed when such is required to treat serious disease such as malignant cancer of the reproductive organs. Fertility awareness methods (my preferred term for what is often described as natural family planning) are equally or more effective than any of the various forms of contraception. Further development and defense of this point will follow in my next article.

Sincerely,

Dr. Frank

 

Do animals or humans have free will?

In this column, we’ll shift gears a little and talk the uniquely human capacity for reason and free will.

 While spiritual beings also share free will, no other animal does. I distinctly remember being taught in my psychology 101 university class that modern psychology has essentially dismissed the idea that free will exists, although some consider it an interesting theory to remember for historical significance. I’ll explain why such a position is utter absurdity later. For now, I’d like to simply state that this idea is quite valid and reasonable when applied to the (non-human) animal kingdom. The famous Pavlov’s dogs are but one good example of how such an understanding can provide great insights into animal behavior. Animals are indeed products of their nature and nurture, their genetic predispositions and their environment. Therefore, an animal cannot choose between good and evil. A rabbit cannot choose to be a holy rabbit any more than it can choose to be a sinful rabbit—it can only be a rabbit.

 Human beings, on the other hand, represent an entirely different situation. Popular and fashionable psychology theories notwithstanding, we are very much capable of choosing between good and evil. With the use of our reason combined with free will, we actually make several moral decisions each day. Because of this we are accountable for our actions. Bad habits (which progress to addictions) can certainly weaken our free will as we become enslaved to such destructive behaviors. In such situations, our individual culpability may therefore be less for a particular repetitive mistake, as human beings, we are responsible for every one of our conscious actions. Such and understanding should be universally accepted, however, in our age of moral relativism and abdication of personal responsibility for anything, we have tickled our ears with the false teaching that we are merely animals with no free will.

 I’ll demonstrate a common-sense based logical demonstration of this key distinction between humans and all other animals. Arguably, no human action draws as much universal condemnation from other humans as rape. Efforts to address the problem of rape is one of the few legitimate causes left among the various so-called women’s rights organizations that have otherwise been corrupted with a dedication to abortion. On this issue, I stand not only with them, but with all people (be they religious, agnostic, or atheist) who condemn such unthinkable and inexcusable violence. No amount of bad genes and poor upbringing can excuse a man for violating a woman in this most inhuman manner.

 What about animals? Is there any equivalent to rape in the animal kingdom? Why not? Anyone who has been in the presence of dogs, or other pets long enough has witnessed a mating process that in no way reflects the standard of mutually consenting adults we have for humans. We intuitively understand and accept that such animals act purely on instinct and have no responsibility for their actions in any sort of moral or ethical sense.

 It is precisely because we are so different than animals in this most obvious example that we are held to an entirely different standard. We are not bound to act according to mere natural instincts. We have the capacity both for reason and subsequent free decisions of the will. Such a rational understanding of human beings explains why we should be held accountable for our actions. Whether this issue is cigarette smoking or premarital sexual activity, we are neglecting dour duty to give appropriate guidance and instruction when we treat such reckless behavior with indifference or dismiss it with the tire old adage “they’ll do it anyway.” Far too often today, especially at the highest levels of public policy, we provide our youth the message that we expect them to behave like animals in heat without any expectation of self-control. Sadly, this frequently becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

 Young people deserve better. As rational human beings, we have a responsibility to affirm their human dignity and to teach them how to live in a way they will find true freedom and fulfillment.

 Sincerely,

 Dr. Frank

 

Is abortion safe? part 3

Today, we’ll conclude our overview of abortion’s harm to women with a discussion of associated mental health problems. While a person’s health is comprised of interrelated physical, mental, and spiritual aspects, my professional competencies only cover the physical and mental (clergy and religious leaders can better address the spiritual components). Several years ago, I did some in-depth research on the issue of psychological effects of abortion. If I had any doubt as to the depth and severity of women’s suffering from this, it has been thoroughly removed after numerous personal stories I’ve since witnessed.

Sadly, I’ve had many patients suffering from the regret and sorrow of a terrible mistake they cannot undo—a suffering that the politically correct and pro-abortion culture pretends does not exist. One woman in particular comes to mind who, through tears, explains to me how not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about the abortion she had years ago. She related to me how the memory of this and the regret is destroying her marriage and making her less capable of caring for her living child. In the short space I have left, I can only describe one example of such resultant psychiatric problems.

In 1992, Anne C. Speckhard and Vincent M. Rue defined and described Postabortion Syndrome (PAS) as a variant of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Four basic components of PAS are defined:

(a) exposure to or participation in an abortion experience, which is seen as the traumatic and intentional destruction of one’s unborn child; (b) uncontrolled negative reexperiencing of the abortion event; (c) unsuccessful attempts to avoid or deny painful abortion recollections, resulting in reduced responsiveness; and (d) experiencing associated symptoms not present before the abortion, including guilt about surviving.

This designation gives much insight into the nature of the symptoms to expect from and to use in assessment of those suffering PAS. The study prompting the PAS specification of PTSD was a large-scale random survey showing that at least 19% of women suffer from diagnosable PTSD three to five years following an abortion. This study also found that 45% of the women reported having at least several symptoms of PTSD (Barnard 1990). For example: intrusive nightmares, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, reenactment, reexperience, denial, psychogenic amnesia, and psychic numbing are all reported as regularly encountered symptoms of PAS (Speckhard 1992). Unfortunately, this figure of 19% is probably far less than the actual number of women suffering from PAS since women suffering abortion-related stress usually avoid questionnaires and other such surveys pertaining to this subject matter—as would be expected with any other case of PTSD wherein the patient “makes deliberate efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations about the traumatic event (Criterion C1) and to avoid activities, situations, or people who arouse recollections of it (Criterion C2).”

Anniversary reactions are one of the particularly painful symptoms of PTSD and the PAS variant is no exception. One study found this unique symptom to be present in 36% of the women who responded to surveys (Franco 1989); again the actual number could be much higher. In clinical practice, patients typically report the onset of severe psychological distress on dates as early as the first anniversary of the perceived birth date for the child, or the date of the abortion. Such distress commonly includes overwhelming guilt and an associated episode of major depression (Tishler 1981, Spaulding 1978).

The greatest tragedy in all this is that such suffering is discredited and denied by most of the medical profession and, of course, nearly all major media outlets.

For more information, the following website is one of the best on this issue:

afterabortion.org/

Sincerely,

Dr. Frank

Is abortion safe? part 2

In my experience and research, the greatest fear women have after an induced abortion is that it may put them a greater risk for complications in a future pregnancy. Sadly, the medical evidence shows that this concern is indeed warranted. In fact, the most thoroughly documented and incontrovertible physical risk associated with induced abortion is preterm birth in a future pregnancy.

For example, a Canadian group recently undertook a comprehensive analysis of all the studies available throughout the world that addressed this issue. Their metanalysis compiling the data showed that one induced abortion increased the risk of future infants being low birth weight (LBW) by 35% and increased the risk of preterm delivery (PTD) by 36%. For women subjected to more than one induced abortion, their risk of future LBW babies and PTD was increased by 72% and 93% respectively [1]. To my surprise, even the United Sates Institute of Medicine (IOM) acknowledged induced abortion as a major contributing factor as recently as 2007 in it’s book entitled Immutable Medical Risk Factors Associated with Preterm Birth.

To put the meaning of this in perspective that, one should consider that preterm births and their subsequent complications are widely recognized as the single largest cause of infant mortality in the world. (Of course, such assumptions do not account the far greater and more direct contribution by induced abortions.)

In a related matter, various studies in the past have shown an association with induced abortion and subsequent miscarriage. In 2006, a United Kingdom study analysing potential risk factors for miscarriage found induced abortions to be among the factors independently associated with subsequent spontaneous abortions [2].

Several other medical risks have also come to light. For example, an increased risk of placenta previa after induced abortions has been well documented [3]. Previa is a complication wherein the placenta covers the cervix and requires cesarean delivery to avoid life-threatening hemorrhage during labor . Perhaps most interestingly, evidence is now emerging that induced abortions likely play a role in autoimmune diseases among women [4].

The takeaway message in summary: the physical harms caused by induced abortion do not end with the procedure’s primary target. Rather, the child’s mother and younger siblings frequently experience serious physical harms as well.

As the medical profession has grown in an appreciation of the interconnectedness between mental and physical health, we need to be careful not to compartmentalize mental illness as being unrelated and to other medical problems. Perhaps one of the greatest injustices against women today is that, despite over 30 studies in the past 7 years alone having demonstrated significant psychological harm to women, one of the chief rationalizations still used to excuse abortion is that it is particularly beneficial to her mental health. When the rate of suicide is 6 times higher among women having abortions, nothing could be further from the truth! [5]. Next week, we’ll finish our discussion with more detail on confirmed mental health harms attributable to induced abortion.

–Dr. Frank

 

  1. Shah PS, Zao J, Knowledge Synthesis Group of Determinants of preterm/LBW births. BJOG. 2009;116(11):1425.
  2. Risk Factors for First Trimester Miscarriage-Results From a UK-Population-Based Case-Control Study. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, December 4, 2006, pp. 1-17.
  3. Thorp, John M. Jr.; Hartmann, Katherine E.; Shadigian, Elizabeth. Long-Term Physical and Psychological Health Consequences of Induced Abortion: Review of the Evidence. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey: January 2003, Vol:58, pp 67-79.
  4. Miech, Ralph P. The Role of Fetal Microchimerism in Autoimmune Disease. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine. June 2010; 3(2): 164-168.
  5. Mika Gissler, Elina Hemminki, Jouko Lonnqvist. Suicides after pregnancy in Finland, 1987–94: register linkage study. BMJ 1996;313:1431

 

 

 

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Is abortion safe? (Part 1)

As an obstetrician and gynecological surgeon, it is my duty to inform women of the risks of any procedure they undergo. Providing honest and accurate medical information to a woman before a procedure is required to live up to the ethical standard of informed consent. The need for such informed consent is especially critical when the procedure being considered is an induced abortion.

Incredibly, despite this being one of the most frequent medical or surgical procedures performed on women, there is very little awareness of the short-term and long-term medical risks that these women are exposed to. No doubt, the extreme reluctance to allow any public discussion on the legality of induced abortion has given this procedure a “sacrosanct” status wherein it has avoided the normal scrutiny that any other procedure would receive. Worse, all attempts to publish and bring awareness to the valid research showing harm to women are immediately dismissed as “anti-abortion” propaganda. In essence there is a veritable censorship by public media outlets and official medical bodies against any scientific evidence that contradicts the dictum that “legal abortions” are the “safest procedures in medicine.” Such blatant suppression of healthy debate in search of truth is eerily reminiscent of the kind of oppressiveness intrinsic to both communist and fascist dictatorships.

Perhaps the most thoroughly documented and incontrovertible risk associated with induced abortion is that of preterm birth in a future pregnancy.

In addition to preterm birth, the other major long-term physiologic risk associated with induced abortion is that of breast cancer. No doubt, the incredible popularity of breast cancer awareness campaigns has much to do with the particularly intense efforts to discredit the scientific evidence showing the association. To allow this compelling evidence to surface would risk subjecting the dogma of “safe legal abortion” to the scrutiny of the armies of people authentically concerned about women’s health.

For example, according to Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, a surgical oncologist and breast cancer specialist, abortion causes breast cancer in about 5% of women who have an abortion. This results in approximately 10,000 cases a year of breast cancer that can be attributed to abortion. After an induced abortion, the female is exposed to very high levels of estrogen, which can act as a mitogen and a carcinogen on breast tissue. This would leave her with more places for cancers to start.

Overall, 51 of 68 epidemiological studies since 1957 report an abortion-breast cancer (ABC) link. The most recent of these is an Armenian study-whose authors examined type diabetes , reproductive factors, and breast cancer, found a statistically significant association showing a 2.86-fold increased breast cancer risk from one induced abortion. The study, led by Lilit Khachatryan, included researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the University of Pennsylvania.

 Not surprisingly, prominent pro-abortion organizations like the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists continue to ignore the preponderance of such compelling evidence in order to perpetuate the misleading idea that abortion is safe.

 For more information, including the latest updates on the abortion breast cancer (ABC) link, see the following websites:

www.abortionbreastcancer.com/index/

http://www.abortiontruths.net/abortionbreastcancerreferences.html

http://stopabortionbreastcancer.org/

Next, we’ll look at the preterm birth risk and similar problems attributable to induced abortion.

Sincerely,

Dr. Frank

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