Utne Reader #1

greenspun.com : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

"The Last Abortion - How Science Could Silence the Debate," by Elinor Burkett, Utne Reader, June 1998, p. 80-81, submitted by Kim McDonald

To be an educator is to be available for your students. In todays society teachers are faced with a variety of sensitive and highly emotional issues that have evolved outside their classroom but are in need of repair before being able to educate the learner. Due to the change in the availability of the family network educators are very likely to become involved with a student in crisis. Unfortunately, in todays society, crisis means political gain and money for many politicians and companies. Abortion has the potential to be one of the most heart-wrenching experiences an educator of today might face. It also has become one of the leading political issues to target and capture voters.

Elinor Burkett describes the act of abortion as a tool for politicians to satisfy their personal political agendas. She states that, "Over the past two decades, abortion has been a public act involving physicians and clinics and insurance carriers, which is precisely what has given the anti-abortion movement its power." Through campaigning, politicians are able to gain public votes depending whether they are pro-choice or anti-abortion voters. This campaigning appears to manipulate the personal and sensitive issue of abortion while supporting the need for continued abortions. Financial gain and political standing appear to perpetuate the pro-choice movement to some degree. Burkett goes on to say, "Imagine, then, an America in which abortion becomes a private act." Speech writing and campaign efforts would have to make some rather severe changes to capture votes if abortion no longer was in the forefront.

Capturing votes often appears to be the main reason a politician takes a political stand on abortion. Burkett implies that the anti-abortion motives are exceptional political weapons. This can be noted when she writes, "Anti-abortion advocates, turning fetuses from anonymous creatures into living beings that are photographed, recorded, and loved." Her example of the images now available of unborn children to parents, the public and politicians, continue to amplify the need for the anti-abortion movement. Burkett continues to explain how the public reacts negatively to such horrid scenes of aborted fetuses. She explains that the advancements made in technology allow people to view the growing fetus. No longer is just the mother carrying her unborn child. The world can see the developing fetus. She documents this by noting current medical techniques that are routinely performed on expectant mothers. She writes, "Now parents watch sonograms of their children months before birth, making it more difficult for them -- and the public -- to dismiss fetuses as subhuman parasites." Hence making the average American voter feel deep disdain for those supporting the pro-choice movement. Exposure to visual images of developing fetuses increases the contempt society has for the cessation of the life of a fetus. People, voters, see the pictures of aborted fetuses in their mind. Silently, secretively, choices are made.

Taking a few steps backwards, Burkett points out that women are now able to find out if they are pregnant only days after conception. Women no longer need to visit the local clinic to determine if a pregnancy does exist. Once a woman determines that there is an unwanted pregnancy she is faced with her abortion choices. RU-486 and misoprostol were the non-surgical method performed by a gynecologist. Since abortions are supposed to be reported to the Centers for Disease Control, she explains that a more attractive choice for women and physicians is definitely the combination of methotrexate and misoprostol. This non-surgical abortion is now being replaced with the use of two drugs. Burkett reports that, "...a combination of methotrexate and misoprostol, there is no danger of noncompliance, since no one tracks why a physician writes a specific prescription." She goes on to explain that the methotrexate has been on the market for treating tumors, arthritis, lupus and misoprostol for treating ulcers. Since the prescriptions are so widely written, tracing them to the act of abortion is unlikely. Burkett states that, "The cost is the price of two prescriptions plus the physician's fee for two office visits."

Burkett points out that the anti-abortion crowd has yet to find an effective means of fighting this new non-surgical abortion since the only visible sign of the abortion is a tiny blood clot. One tactic anti-abortionists have utilized is to suggest a link between cervical cancer and abortion. They also are relying on the unknown long term side affects of an abortion to scare women.

The article continues on to ask what really is an abortion? Is abortion a surgical procedure that eliminates an implanted fetus? Is it the elimination of a possible pregnancy between 24 and 72 hours after conception with medication? Quietly near the end of the article Burkett explains the day after method of contraception as, "...emergency contraceptiona well-kept secret." The most common method is two to four oral contraceptives taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, followed 12 hours later by another equal dosage. "Researchers suggest that even the first single dose might be almost as effective." Is this abortion? There is no implantation, which is how an IUD works. Why isnt it widely discussed along with other types of contraception?

In summary, Elinor Burkett reminds us about the continuing battle over abortion. She does provide the reader with several non-surgical methods of abortion. However, the reader may feel as if Burkett is openly mocking women and their poor ability to manage their sexuality in an intelligent and responsible way. She concludes that, "Unlimited surgical abortion services as the measure of womens liberation." That, "Conservatives have responded by holding up Americas abortion policy as the measure of the nations commitment to life" One only wonders if these Conservatives are holding up the policy to further their commitment to their career and financial gain. Whether politicians consider themselves pro-choice or anti-abortion the message seems to be clear and the same, vote for me!

Reading the article one might assume it was written by an individual never faced with making such a highly personal and emotional decision. The article lacks emotion and sensitivity for the readers who may have been faced with making the decision to have an abortion. The author does throw in a few facts about various abortion methods along with one type of contraceptive method. The article fails to fully inform readers of the whole issue surrounding abortion. It does not explain options and choices that are presently available for women. The article also fails to explain the outcomes' one should expect if they choose any of the routes discussed in the article. It concerns me to read an article on a topic such as abortion that does not entirely point out the pros, cons, choices, alternatives and support systems available. An article on abortion has the potential to reach many readers who need information to make choices. The article might very well pop up on a quick web search for a teen faced with making a decision whether or not to have an abortion. I believe it is the writer's responsibility to fully enlighten her readers of the options and choices surrounding the issue of abortion. The author also has further responsibility while presenting her topic on how women are unable to politically address other political issues due to their political oppression.

As directed by the professors at UMD, I did touch bases with a friend on the sensitive issue of abortion. I asked her if she feels women are politically oppressed due to the continued spotlight on abortion? Her response was instantaneous. No, there are many other issues that concern women. She feels that the right to have an abortion does not seem to keep women from being accomplished politically or keep women from addressing other political issues successfully. She did wonder what type of women today has abortions and for what reasons.

Educationally speaking, the topic of abortion is definitely a relevant and important area to have personally explored as an educator. As an EBD teacher straight out of college I was immediately immersed into the scary realities of this youth. Sex was a major focal point in the lives of most of the youths I encountered. Their exposure to sex in the media, first hand witnesses to violent sex acts, and incest coupled with low self esteem amplified their sexual activity. Abortion was also a topic frequently explored birth control was openly discussed and obtainable. Unfortunately pregnancy still was an issue. Educators might assume that when working with children who have emotional and behavioral difficulties a teacher should expect to face these issues.

Lower elementary teachers may initially feel immune or safe from having to deal with teen sexuality and pregnancy. In my opinion, all educators need to be prepared to face such issues. Why should all educators prepare to face these issues? When children trust you they will seek you out!

-- Anonymous, February 10, 1999

Moderation questions? read the FAQ