A lot of misinformation is currently floating around about Freedom of Choice Act, and I am afraid that Brian Lock’s letter that ran on Feb. 6 reflects some of this.
First, the law of the land currently is that abortions are banned post-viability, when the fetus could live on its own, unless an abortion is necessary to save the life or health of the mother. This will not change under FOCA.
Second, there is no such thing, technically speaking, as “partial birth abortion.” What is being referred to is intact dilation and extraction, which may in some cases be necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother. When such measures are medically necessary in the third trimester of pregnancy, sometimes to preserve the future childbearing ability of the mother, this judgment should be made by doctors, not by legislators or judges.
Third, there is nothing in FOCA that would allow abortions to be performed by those without medical licenses.
Fourth, Planned Parenthood and others do not grant abortions on demand, without counseling, and would prefer that parents be involved in such a decision. The reason there is no requirement for parental involvement is that in cases where young women do not want their parents involved, often the pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse by someone in the family itself.
Finally, Lock claims that rights of conscience for medical providers who do not want to perform or assist in abortions would be forfeited. He misunderstands that protecting a woman’s right to an abortion does not mean that any particular provider needs to be forced to perform one. That is, a different provider could be found.
This is how emergency contraception prescriptions are currently handled in the state of Illinois. A pharmacist objecting to filling such a prescription may hand it to a pharmacist who does not object.
Overall, FOCA will protect an important right that has been nibbled badly around the edges in recent years.
Emily R. Gill
Caterpillar Professor of Political Science
Former Board Member, Planned Parenthood Heart of Illinois