Archived Opinion

Let’s have a discussion without hate and anger

Let’s have a discussion without hate and anger

As a pediatrician, I spent many years on hospital call in Haywood County and many long hours in the middle of the night trying to keep a newborn alive. So, I do understand and share the passion and concern expressed in the recently published response to my July 6 column in The Mountaineer about political violence and the reproductive rights of American women.  

I disagree, however, with several of its main points.  

The author writes that I “forget that abortion is the murder of a viable child.” That’s a strong opinion, and factually wrong. For those of us with decades of experience taking care of newborns, it is understood that no baby born before 20 weeks is a “viable child.” Medically this means the baby cannot survive outside the mother’s body. 

Fewer than one percent of abortions occur after even possible viability at 21 weeks. Almost all post-viability terminations occur because the mother’s life is in danger or the baby has terrible birth defects that will cause it suffering and death if carried to term. Over 93 percent of abortions are done before 13 weeks, long before the fetus is viable outside the womb. (kff.org/womens-health-policy/fact-sheet/abortions-later-in-pregnancy). 

Certainly no six-week embryo, about the size of a small blueberry, can be thought to be a viable child, although some would say this is still a person. It might instead be said that this embryo, just starting to lose its tail and gills and just starting to develop a brain, has the potential to become a person.  

We should discuss this highly emotional issue without hatred and anger and threats of violence. 

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It is very difficult to have that discussion when people publish untruths that inflame and misinform. The column claimed that some states are passing laws that would legalize killing infants up to 28 days after birth. No such law exists or is being considered. This untruth spreads hatred and anger. ( factcheck.org/2022/04/california-not-poised-to-legalize-infanticide

The writer reports that he himself suffered hatred and anger — pushed and screamed at — while protesting against abortion in Asheville. I join him in condemning that kind of behavior. But I hope he doesn’t mean to say that this was the equivalent of a sniper killing Dr. Slepian while he was standing in his kitchen, or the other murders of doctors and clinic workers mentioned in my July 6 column. 

When does life begin? There have been many ideas about this throughout history. Is it when the first breath is taken (an interpretation of God breathing life into Adam’ nostrils in Genesis)? Or perhaps when “quickening” occurs — around 16 weeks, when a woman first feels the baby move. This was a common belief in colonial times. The Catholic Church agreed with ‘quickening’ until 1869.  The sperm meets egg story is a recent addition to the discussion. (irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/religion-and-beliefs/catholic-church-teaching-on-abortion-dates-from-1869-1.1449517

Some people believe that life and personhood begin at the moment a sperm penetrates an egg. For them, the use of any emergency medications to end or prevent pregnancy, even after rape or incest, is regarded as killing a person. For them, in-vitro fertilization should also be outlawed, as well as intrauterine devices (IUDs) that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. 

A newly fertilized egg is slightly smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. 

I do not believe that this tiny potential life outweighs the right of a women to determine her own destiny. I do not want the government to force its control over a woman’s uterus and her future life. That decision should be between a woman and her God. 

For those who do believe that life begins at conception, their right to express this religious conviction is protected by the Constitution. However, it is not a belief shared by many in the medical, scientific  and faith communities nor by many Americans. It is understandable that there are different views on this most profound of questions. Religious teachers, saints (St. Thomas Aquinas for one), philosophers and scientists have pondered this for centuries. 

Finally, and tragically, we should remember that one of every five women in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. About one-third will be between the ages of 11 and 17. Many women desperately ask for  prescription drugs that can terminate  a pregnancy at a very early stage. This can be an emergency, like rape or incest, or just a terribly difficult decision a woman may have to make. At least 22 states are already banning or severely restricting access to these medications and threatening to prosecute women who use them as criminals. Texas has set up a bounty hunter system to track women down and collect a $10,000 reward. 

This could be in North Carolina’s future. The coming November  election may decide these issues, and citizens who oppose this attack on the human rights of women must make their voices heard. 

(Dr. Wall practiced pediatrics in Haywood County for 30 years. He was a founding member of the KARE child abuse task force and Certified Child Medical Examiner for the county.

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10 comments

  • "It is very difficult to have that discussion when people publish untruths that inflame and misinform. The column claimed that some states are passing laws that would legalize killing infants up to 28 days after birth. No such law exists or is being considered."

    Too bad that is a false statement. Such laws have been under consideration. Stating facts is not inflammatory.

    "For those who do believe that life begins at conception, their right to express this religious conviction is protected by the Constitution. However, it is not a belief shared by many in the medical, scientific and faith communities nor by many Americans."

    It's very nice that you would allow people to have a religious conviction. That it is not a"shared belief" is irrelevant. The fact remains, a child was created at conception. That your list of people are denying science is quite the point. Leftists whine about conservatives denying science, yet, from what I have observed, the left denies science routinely, and that includes those people on his list above.

    The good doctor also needs to gain a better command of the language. A child does not have to be able live outside the womb to be viable. A child can be viable in the womb as well as outside, and the time at which that is the case depends on the age of the child from conception.

    That you have worked to keep an infant alive is your job, and does not give you any sort of moral position. Given your credentials, however, simply makes your position all the more egregious.

    posted by Quartermaster

    Tuesday, 08/16/2022

  • JB, I take it you have never seen an aborted baby. It is far from a pile of cells but if that helps you sleep at night to o believe that go ahead. As for Dr. Wall shame on him. He took an oath to save lives.

    posted by Grace

    Sunday, 08/14/2022

  • "Why don't people practice birth control"

    It doesn't matter if a person uses abortion as birth control. Let me say that bluntly. It's a pile of cells in someone else's body that ain't yours. You'd understand this if you paid attention in school.

    posted by JB

    Sunday, 08/14/2022

  • You hear your baby's heartbeat at 6 weeks. Nothing else needs to be said.

    posted by Grace

    Sunday, 08/14/2022

  • Thank you, Dr. Wall for a very informative factually based article!

    posted by Mary

    Saturday, 08/13/2022

  • Thank you, Dr. Wall for a very informative factually based article!

    posted by Mary

    Saturday, 08/13/2022

  • Thank you Dr Wall, for stating the facts. Unfortunately there are way yoo many who believe lies.

    posted by Deni Gottlieb

    Saturday, 08/13/2022

  • The commenter below who asks, "Why don't people just practice birth control?" is neglecting tragic facts that happen to millions of little girls, teens and women. 1) Rape, some of it incestuous, does not give the victim the option of birth control. 2) The medical complications that Dr. Wall describes, which can kill a mother, happen after she and her husband or partner have chosen to have a child.
    The commenter's advocating "safe precautions" to prevent conception hasn't read about Supreme Court Justice Thomas and other officials writing that ALL forms of contraception prevention, or "birth control," should be illegal. That hasn't ever happened in the history of my ancestors (British, Irish, and Cherokee). I hope Ms. Josephs and I can agree that to prosecute women using diaphrams and other methods--and men using condoms--sends Americans spinning downward into barbarism.

    posted by Mary Curry

    Friday, 08/12/2022

  • Lucille doesn't read. Just hates.

    posted by Tyler

    Thursday, 08/11/2022

  • Why don't people just practice birth control or take one of the many safe medical precautions out there to avoid pregnancy in the first place? Many of which you can pick up at your local drugstore. I don't get it? Why does it have to always come down to hoiking out a fetus that is already forming in the womb?

    posted by Lucille Josephs

    Wednesday, 08/10/2022

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