An Atlantia ob-gyn on abortion, Kerry & the Catholic Church.
Q&A by Kathryn Jean Lopez
Q&A by Kathryn Jean Lopez
“If Senator Kerry is elected he will assure that abortion remains legal in the U.S. for another generation," Dr. Kathleen M. Raviele, M.D., an ob-gyn based in Atlanta and treasurer of the Catholic Medical Association, tells National Review Online in an interview. The Kerry campaign, despite being endorsed by "NARAL Pro-Choice America" (they gave him a "pro-choice" voting score of 100%) is trying in these final weeks of a tight presidential campaign to sell its candidate as a principled Catholic candidate. One, who might even oppose abortion in his heart, his rhetoric suggests, but who would never impose such a view on Americans. Some wonder, however, how an individual who might believe life begins at conception (Kerry said as much in a primary-season interview), could consistently, for instance, vote against a ban on partial-birth abortion, a procedure the late liberal Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan (an abortion supporter) called "infanticide." Despite Kerry's 11th hour Hail-Mary pass to try to con Catholic swing voters, his consistent (no flip-flopping on this one) congressional record in support of abortion exists, and will take more than a well-finessed speech or two to erase. As President Bush might put it, he can run, but he can't hide his public record.
In talking to NRO, Dr. Raviele — who is a fellow in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a member of the American Association of Pro-Life Ob-Gyns, and on the board of Georgia Right to Life — gets into the inexact science of abortion demography, the myth of the necessity of partial-birth abortion (one Kerry buys into), and more.
It's only a cursory look, but a deeper one than you'll likely get from your MSM (Mainstream Media) outlet of choice; it's you might want to share with your favorite swing voter.
National Review Online: Some — including a professor from the University of Notre Dame, writing in the New York Times in support of John Kerry earlier this month — have pointed out that abortion rates increased during the Reagan years and declined during the Clinton presidency. Is this true? If so, what explains it?
Dr. Kathleen Raviele: Abortion rates have been high ever since the procedure was legalized. In 1972, after abortion became legal in New York and California, there were 586,760 abortions performed. After Roe v. Wade in 1973, when abortion was decriminalized across the nation, the numbers doubled to 1.15 million and by 1989 to 1.4 million per year. However, unlike other countries, there is no central reporting agency to report statistics, complications of or deaths due to abortion. The CDC Abortion Surveillance System relies on estimated numbers of abortions reported from state health departments, states these numbers are underestimated by about 15 percent and they are eight years behind on even these statistics. Therefore, we don't have all the stats from President Clinton's tenure as a pro-abortion president. As long as abortion is legal, regardless of the views of the president, there will be over a million performed each year. It's very easy for a scared, lonely woman to make a hasty decision to have an abortion.
NRO: Does abstinence help at all in lowering abortion rates or is it naive to think you can discourage kids from having sex?
Dr. Raviele: Part of the reason abortions have declined of late is that teenage sexual activity is down, therefore teen pregnancies are down, and teens pregnant with their first child, unmarried are 25 percent of those women seeking an abortion. Our goal has to be to educate young people that they can delay sexual activity until marriage. This is a sound, healthy policy. Educating young people on sexual activity and how to avoid the natural consequences of it simply increases the incidence of STD's and out of wedlock pregnancies.
NRO: Has President Bush done anything to help aid a decline in abortion?
Dr. Raviele: President Bush has made several significant contributions to ending legal abortion in this country. The practice of partial-birth abortion, which involves the delivery of a baby in the second and third trimester of pregnancy as a breech, then inserting scissors in the base of the brain and suctioning out the brains of a live infant so it can be delivered through a partially dilated cervix, is clearly a horrific procedure. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated this procedure is never medically necessary, but that the decision-making should be between the woman and her doctor. Publicity about this procedure — and I'm sad to say many Americans still do not understand what is being done here — has raised public awareness about abortion. President Bush signed into law a ban prohibiting this procedure. Senator Kerry voted against banning this barbaric and never necessary procedure six times. Senator Kerry has stated that he believes that human life begins at conception, yet he thinks it is fine for doctors and parents to do this to children.
President Bush also signed into law the "Laci and Conner's Law" which recognizes as victims unborn children who are killed or injured in violent federal crimes. This high-profile case also has raised public awareness of the unborn child as a human being with rights. Senator Kerry voted against this common-sense law. President Bush supported legislation that would prevent minors from being taken across state lines for an abortion by another adult to avoid parental-notification laws. In other words, a 14-year-old-girl pregnant by a 19-year-old man, could be taken by him or his mother to another state for an abortion without her parents' knowledge, when in fact, he should be prosecuted for statutory rape. Senator Kerry voted against parents being notified before an abortion being provided on their minor daughter, despite the fact that until age 18, no other surgical procedure could be performed on her without their permission. This promotes the abuse of minor girls by adult males, In addition, President Bush opposes U.S. tax dollars being given to groups that promote and perform abortions overseas. In many parts of the world, these groups are performing coerced abortions on women. Senator Kerry would continue to give tax dollars to these groups.
NRO: John Kerry has consistently voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion. Is there any medical need for such a practice?
Dr. Raviele: Maternal-fetal medicine, a subspecialty in obstetrics and gynecology, can help a mother get through any difficult pregnancy. We have the highest level of healthcare in the world. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has stated this procedure is never necessary to do to save the life of the mother. In utero surgery can help treat spina bifida and hydrocephalus and babies can be safely delivered by cesarean section. Gone are the days where we have to choose between the life of the mother and child. Even in cases where the mother has to receive a treatment for cancer, you do not have to kill the baby to treat the mother and statistics have shown that the mother is not more likely to survive if you abort her.
NRO: John Kerry has also voted against parental notification for children seeking abortions. Is the argument that the girl would be further victimized in cases of incest a valid one?
Dr. Raviele: Without realizing it parental rights have been eroded for many years in this country and we need to change that. Minors need to be protected from predatory adults. As an obstetrician-gynecologist, probably only one percent of teen pregnancies are due to the biological father of the girl. The rest of these are due to older teen males or young men. It is statutory rape for a male to have sexual relations with a girl under 16 in many states. Without national parental-notification laws in place, this male can then take this minor girl to a state with no parental-notification laws and have her aborted, when in fact he should be in jail and she should be with her parents. Senator Kerry's vote against this bill allows for further abuse of minor girls.
NRO:John Edwards says that when John Kerry is president people like Christopher Reeve will get out of their wheelchairs and walk. An obvious over-promise there — but is there any reason we are having this heated, ugly debate over stem cells? Aren't adult stem cells just as good or better than embryonic stem-cell research?
Dr. Raviele: The media coverage of stem cells has been extremely one-sided. [The misleading media message is] that the Bush administration is backward and is stifling research in the areas of stem cells and cloning. In truth, 98 diseases are already being successfully treated with adult stem cells. Adult stem cells are the logical solution as they already exist in our bodies and therefore our body doesn't reject them. Research in this area has been going on for decades. Bone-marrow transplants are an example of the therapies that have developed. To date no therapies in humans have been successful using embryonic stem cells — in fact they have caused tumors and immune system reactions. The handicapped champions of this have been sold a bill of goods with false promises from those promoting embryonic stem cells. They make it appear that this is the answer to [many] health problems when cures are first of all a long way off and there is no private research to support that embryonic stem cells are of any benefit, anyway....
Father Kevin Fitzgerald at the bioethics institute at Georgetown and Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Boston are excellent spokesmen for adult-stem-cell research. PBS also recently had a documentary on adult-stem-cell treatments.
NRO:Has medical progress in this field been allowed to progress under President Bush?
Dr. Raviele: President Bush finds no moral difficulty with using adult stem cells and that's where the NIH funding has gone. He also allowed experimentation on existing embryonic-stem-cell lines from previously aborted fetuses but said no further abortions with resultant stem-cell lines would be funded with federal money. Senator Kerry is in support of experimenting on embryos, which is in keeping with his disregard for the right to life of the weakest members of our citizenry.
NRO:As a Catholic doctor, who are you voting for this election and why?
Dr. Raviele: As a Catholic physician and as an obstetrician-gynecologist it's very clear that President Bush is the man we need as president. A country is only as strong as the care it provides for our weakest members.... President Bush recognizes the dignity of all human life and consistently stands up for the weak and the unborn. John Kerry, on the other hand, has promised that "pro-abortion" will be his litmus test for each judge he nominates to the federal bench and the Supreme Court. If Senator Kerry is elected he will assure that abortion remains legal in the U.S. for another generation as he will determine the Supreme Court judges.