“Senator Tuberville’s Abortion Stand: The Clash of Politics and Personnel Dilemmas in the Pentagon”

By John C. Hobbins MD
Denver/Key West

Senator Tommy Tuberville is refusing to allow the Senate to process 200 promotions in the Pentagon until the military stops supporting any of its members to travel across state borders for abortions.
Let’s see if I have this right. A male ex-football coach, who has no idea about the agony many women go through in abortion decision-making, single handedly has hamstrung the Department of Defense from helping women in the military seek medical care outside their state because, as a “Christian”, he believes that “life starts at conception”.

In abortion debates the question often seems to center around the question of when life starts. Then, to establish timelines, the question itself has taken on a life of its own: Has the 200-cell blastocyst attained personhood? Does a primitive 6-week embryo (4 weeks after conception) with a basic cardiac tube capable of making a heart-like flutter detected with ultrasound have a soul? Another question applied to vintage abortion legislation: When can the fetus survive outside the womb?  Even that one has no valid answer since survival is based more on the evolution of medical care than on the premature newborn’s capabilities. So, it has changed over time but, frankly, it is beside the point if used for abortion limits. None of these tangents address the basic question, which is purely philosophical and impossible to answer scientifically.

Many have cited “religious reasons” for opposing abortion. Where did this come from? There is no direct mention in the Bible of when life starts but the closest one suggests that “the soul enters with the first breath” and even though abortions were being done when the Bible was written, no attention was given to abortion per se. Where does any accepted religious document say that abortion is unacceptable even to save the mother’s life – a stance that assigns more value to fetal life, or even embryonic life, than to that of the mother? That seems very “un-Christian”.

Coach Tuberville is not capable of becoming pregnant – at least not yet. However, if someone close to him, like a daughter, felt the need to have an abortion, it would not be performed in Alabama because the other Tommy Tubervilles of that state have managed to quash that option. Now the fallout is spilling over into many other states. Something is very wrong with our system if “Coach” has been handed the power to deter women from seeking out-of-state reproductive care by holding the DOD hostage.

My career as a retired high- risk pregnancy doctor has been devoted to finding ways to save the lives of fetuses and to develop methods through research to help improve their lives after birth. Unfortunately, at times I have had to deliver devastating news to parents that their fetus has little chance of surviving or has a devastating condition that we cannot reverse– one that will drastically compromise its life after birth. The excruciating decision of whether to continue their pregnancies should be theirs alone, not those of their doctors or, for sure, not that of a clueless senator they will never meet, especially one who, while citing faux-Christian talking points, should never be involved.

How in the world have we gotten to the point where the backdrop of these very personal dilemmas has strayed so deeply into partisan politics? Here sides are taken that often are not a product of reason but, rather, what your tribe has decided to hype for self-serving political reasons – in this case, one that has national security repercussions.  Fortunately, we still have the freedom to fight back at the voting booth.

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