Hospital Reverses Abortions For Women Convinced By "Sidewalk Counselors"

A Chicago hospital has instituted a new policy of immediately treating women who want to stop their second-trimester abortions mid-procedure. But some are concerned these women might be pressured by anti-abortion "sidewalk counselors" into a potentially dangerous abortion reversal.

According to Manya A. Brachear of the Chicago Tribune (via LA Times), the Catholic hospital Resurrection Medical Center "has put in place a practice that when a woman arrives in the emergency room with an activist seeking to stop a second-trimester abortion, she should be treated immediately." Since second-trimester abortions can take several days, there's a time window when the cervical dilator (often the seaweed laminaria) can be removed and the procedure can be stopped. Resurrection isn't the only facility in the area that will halt abortions — the medical director of Family Planning Associates Medical Group, which also provides abortions, says, "We have staff on call 24 hours a day, and are prepared to remove laminaria at our facility day or night, in the event that a patient reverses her decision to complete the abortion procedure." Anti-choice groups claim this isn't sufficient because "abortion providers aggressively dissuade women from interrupting the procedure" — but some fear that women who visit Resurrection, which doesn't provide abortions, may have been pressured in the opposite direction.

Indeed, one woman was. Of the four women who have visited Resurrection for abortion-stopping procedures, one told doctors in private "that she felt pressured by the sidewalk counselor and wanted to continue the abortion." They allowed her to do so — and Resurrection doctors say they screen patients for signs of coercion — but the fact remains that no "sidewalk counselors" exist to try to force women to get abortions, or to go through with them once they've started. And while anti-choicers routinely portray abortion providers as desperate to get women to end their pregnancies, there's no evidence of this. It makes sense to allow women to reverse their abortions as long as it's possible — and as long as Resurrection knows how to minimize the risks involved (dilation can cause cervical changes that increase the possibility of miscarriage), there's no reason it shouldn't carry out the procedure. What's upsetting is the involvement of activists in a decision that should be a woman's to make. If Resurrection wants to help women, it should refuse to partner with those who try, uninvited, to interfere with their choices.

Hospital Offers Help For Women Who Want To Halt Abortions [Chicago Tribune, via LA Times]

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