Dr. Harry Roach

Dr. Harry Roach

Editor’s note: This opinion column is a rebuttal to Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, who is seeking to ban abortions

I have to take issue with the “logic” presented by state Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, in the April 6 edition of The Times and that of all other pro-life supporters in that they fail to comprehend, most being male, that it is the woman who becomes pregnant and it is they who, even when having children, are the primary care givers for children.

Men, being men, are incapable of comprehending the ramifications of pregnancy and its subsequent outcome. That is comment number one, and the second is the fact that a woman who doesn’t wish to be pregnant will have an abortion, whether it is legal or otherwise. Yes, the concept of abortion, per se, is an abomination but it is a fact of life. It has been a procedure that has occurred forever.

Yes, it is more common nowadays since Roe vs Wade, but it won’t be abolished by reversing Roe v. Wade. Yes, it may be made illegal locally, but that won’t stop those who want to have the procedure from finding someone who will perform it for them. God forbid that it be a “back alley” abortionist, as was the case previously.

Let me identify who I am and my credentials for my arguments against abolishing Roe v. Wade. My name is Harry C Roach, MD. I am a physician, still licensed to practice medicine in Ohio. I graduated from medical school, University of Cincinnati, in 1969. I became boarded in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 1966 and practiced that specialty in Cincinnati until I retired in 2000.

As a medical student I worked for Planned Parenthood, whose clinics in most instances are in the poorer districts of most major cities, these being the areas of need for most lower income and underprivileged persons. Planned Parenthood provides desperately needed medical and contraceptive services for these people, and in my day, employed by them, I fitted diaphragms and provided oral contraceptives as well as counseled and treated all comers for all of their medical needs. This is what Planned Parenthood does, its main function and it remains its primary purpose.

Once Roe v. Wade became the “law of the land” I became consultant for Cincinnati’s Planned Parenthood’s botched abortion procedures. Going back to those early years, before abortion became legal, I witnessed the horrors of botched abortion procedures, the infection that often followed resulting in loss of fertility and of the woman’s reproductive organs, as well as many deaths. When I started private practice I sent my patients requesting an abortion and those who could it, to Mexico City.

At a cost of $1,000 the patient was flown there and returned, had the procedure performed, and was kept overnight. An aside, all of the patients who I sent there happened to be Catholic so for these women, being Catholic didn’t interfere with their repugnance at being pregnant.

Then New York legalized the procedure so we sent our patients there and subsequently Roe v. Wade was enacted. Of interest, although I did not know the man personally, there was a person who took women up in a plane, circling over the tri-state area, performed the procedure, and then returned to Lunken Airport. Law enforcement knew who he was and what he was doing, but none had jurisdiction over him as no one knew over which state he did the procedure.

What has made the procedure so much easier to perform in the first trimester is the advancement in medicine in the late ‘60s with the vacuum curettage, or suction aspiration of the uterine contents which we gynecologists used frequently after miscarriages and in those instances of missed abortions (fetus has died but the pregnancy tissue remains). Often the catheter used is small enough such that the cervix isn’t dilated, making the procedure relatively painless. Obstetricians would perform abortions up to 20 weeks gestation in women determined to have genetically abnormal fetuses; eg., Down’s syndrome. Additionally in nearly all states an abortion procedure can be preformed if a psychiatrist attests to the fact that the woman will kill herself if she continues with the pregnancy.

That being said, yes I am a proponent of legalized abortion for I know and have witnessed the horrors of the after effects of back yard or dark alley procedures, as we dub them. I advocate only those procedure performed in the first trimester, or those medically indicated procedures up to 20 weeks gestation; I strongly oppose it being performed anytime in the second half of the pregnancy.

Let me end by stating two facts that you anti-abortionists fail to comprehend: 1] A woman who does not want to be pregnant will have herself aborted, legal or otherwise. This is a “given” — a fact of life you will not change. And, 2] even if Roe v. Wade is overturned there will be one or more states wherein the procedure will be legal, New York for certain. So, those who can afford to go elsewhere will do so. But, making the procedure illegal will deprive those who need its availability the most, the poor and otherwise indigent people who live in Alabama, and in all of the other states who ill advisedly ban its availability.

Dr. Harry Roach is a retired physician who lives in Logan.

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