Discussion with Louise Perkins King, a surgeon and bioethicist at Harvard
It doesn’t change our ethical obligations; it makes them more challenging, because to meet our ethical obligations, to provide abortion—which is health care—in some states physicians will be facing criminal and financial penalties. And, from a utilitarian standpoint, if you meet your ethical obligations and ignore the law and risk those criminal and financial penalties, it may be that you’re then no longer available to treat other patients. Figuring out how to thread that needle is difficult, as is figuring out when you can legally treat women who are pregnant, if they’re facing various emergencies, because it is very difficult to know what you can and cannot do…
My personal opinion is that many of the legislative approaches to abortion that existed were inappropriate. The actual legislation that we have in Massachusetts—the one that I support, and I’m very glad that we have here—is called the roe Act, and it allows for abortion up to twenty-four weeks. After that time frame, meaning essentially in the third trimester, abortion is still permitted when necessary to save the life of a person who’s pregnant or in the setting of lethal anomalies or anomalies not compatible with life. That allows meaningful access to abortion, the meaningful exercise of people’s rights to bodily autonomy, and a meaningful interaction with teams of doctors, midwives, and other health-care professionals who can help people reach decisions on these matters and who can help determine in that third trimester when abortion is truly necessary—which is exceptionally rare but sometimes important.
And the discussion continues…not only pointed and well-informed; but, offering more useful information than most of the pap in print.