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Steven Braatz

Opinion

I’m a pro-life doctor: Abortion refusal laws are about taking good care of patients

Steven Braatz

June 29, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – I came home tired. I'd spent most of the day resuscitating a patient who had delivered twins and then went into profound shock. After many intense hours of problem-solving and implementing all the skills I possess, she turned a corner and I breathed a sigh of relief, seeing that she was going to be okay.

Then something interesting happened once I came home.

I sat down to relax and recover. Unfortunately, I opened an email from a friend which contained Julie Burkhart's June 6 article from “The Hill,” "Abortion refusal laws are not about religion, but about control." Just a few paragraphs in I read her pronouncement that pro-life OB-GYNs like me should be podiatrists.

Burkhart wrote, “If you have a problem with abortion, become a podiatrist.”

It occurs to me that many folks, Julie Burkhart included, don't really understand what OB-GYNs do.

I work in an underserved area of northeastern California. I stay pretty busy and I have quite a few patients with complicated pregnancies, and quite a few more who need surgery for complicated gynecologic conditions. I worry about my patients and the problems they might encounter.

When I take care of pregnant women I have two patients (more with twins!) in mind, not just my patient but also her baby. I want all of my patients to experience the life-enriching transformation that occurs when a child is born. I want them all to come through the pregnancy and puerperium healthy and content, and I want each baby to thrive. I cannot stop thinking about a patient who has a complication or whose pregnancy is in jeopardy.

Only good outcomes are acceptable, but when a tragedy does strike, it’s my job to provide the support my patient and her family need. It’s my calling. It’s my commission to take really good care of my patients. Having known many OB-GYN doctors in my lifetime, I believe most of us feel this way about our patients.

I could never even consider taking the life of one of my patients, a baby in his or her mother's womb. Most OB-GYN doctors I've known don't do abortions themselves because, deep down, they know this is a human life. That's profound. 

Pro-abortion and pro-life folks have different worldviews. And sometimes it seems like those differences in our worldviews cause us to live in different universes.

This makes me feel more and more like an alien in a strange land.

To me, moral law is real, certain truths are absolute, and conscience is a valuable human guide. What is conscience? I have always believed it to be the discernment and application of fundamental moral truths to our behavior. The culture, and certain professional organizations in particular, view conscience as nothing more than an unpleasant feeling that results when certain actions are taken. This enables them to suggest rather forcefully, as does Burkhart, that OB-GYNs should set our consciences aside and become team players by doing abortions.  

Regardless of what conscience is, here is the most pressing question: Do we really want to select and train doctors who easily set their consciences aside? If as a profession we cast off fidelity to conscience, who will determine our actions in medical practice?

Will it be our patients?

I think fiscal constraints in healthcare will prevent this. Will it be the state? Will physicians then be agents of the state? Perhaps we have forgotten the lessons of the last century when physicians in several nations actually did operate as agents of the state, resulting in some of the most heinous atrocities in history.

So Julie Burkhart, please don't make me a podiatrist. It’s not that I look down upon podiatrists, I have known some very fine ones. It’s just that I'd like to keep taking good care of my Ob and Gyn patients...but I won't do an abortion.

Editor's note: Dr. Steven Braatz is a Board Certified OB-GYN physician practicing in Northeastern California. He is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and serves on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Pro-Life OB-GYNs, and Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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