Medicine and religious freedom support abortion rights

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Allow a good word for procrastination. If Jeffrey Nelson, a retired family physician from Cottage Grove, wrote his last book when he first thought about doing it 20 years ago, it may be forgotten now when it is most needed.

Nelson’s book is about abortion.

A doctor’s opinion on whether abortion should remain legal is not immediately clear from the book’s title: What Do I Do?: A Family Doctor Discusses Abortion, Religious Freedom, and Difficult Decisions. Nelson further frustrates readers looking for a quick reference to his views by describing himself as a “supporter/breeder”.

But Nelson’s diminutive size offers plenty for readers wanting to join him in thinking deeply and compassionately about what is fast becoming the hottest political issue of this election year. For readers who have spent the past two weeks on a media-free diet: That’s because the US Supreme Court’s draft majority opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade and ended 49 years of federal protection for abortion rights was leaked It was published by Politico on May 2.

Judge Samuel Alito’s draft is certainly not the court’s official word. But given the storm it has already created, this country is well on its way to a political hurricane if the Supreme Court’s order in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, expected late next month, goes in the direction that Alito indicated.

My hunch is that for the past decade, three, or four years, many Americans have believed that legal abortion has been an established law (silly ones!). a the vast majority Of the citizens were fine with that. Many of this majority group were too happy to leave the abortion quarrel to the professional culture warriors. They did not feel the need to learn about how best to make a case to their fellow citizens to keep abortion safe and legal.

Some of them may be seeking a crash course now. For them, Nelson’s book will be useful.

Many recent arguments about abortion have been legal, with an emphasis on who deserves the protection of the law. Instead, Nelson bases his argument for keeping abortion legal on two other usefully compelling grounds.

The first is medical. Nelson has worked at the Twin Cities east metro for 38 years. His practice included full OB-GYN services, including abortion, for about half that time. He cites national data and personal experience to suggest that pregnancy and childbirth pose risks to women’s health that far exceed those associated with legal abortion, and those risks are getting worse. In this country in 2017, maternal mortality ratio It was 17.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, up from 7.2 deaths 30 years ago.

“A lot of people don’t know the medical facts and have been convinced by the misinformation that abortion is as dangerous for a woman as pregnancy,” Nelson told me in an interview. “This is simply not true… I don’t know of another case where the law says someone should take a medical course that gives them a higher chance of dying, rather than taking the safer medical course that person would prefer.”

The second argument in support of Nelson’s case for abortion rights rests on the protections for freedom of religion found in the First Amendment. His Lutheran faith does not claim that abortion killed. Not a number of other religious traditions.

Nelson respects religions that teach the opposite. But a Supreme Court order imposing the view that abortion is a murder of the nation, or allowing state legislatures to do so, would amount to the government’s creation of religion in violation of the First Amendment, he argues.

The fact that Alito’s draft lasted 90 pages but did not address freedom of religion or the separation of church and state, upsets Nelson. He hopes that another case will move to the courts targeting this argument. He went so far as to send a copy of his book to each of the nine Supreme Court justices, in the hope of preparing them for such a suit.

“Either we decide that we have religious freedom in this matter, or we have a country completely different from what we know,” Nelson said. Imagine the religious systems from which many Americans and/or their ancestors came to this country to escape.

Nelson is not a politician or advocate of special interests. The 68-year-old is a widower and father who could have avoided controversy in retirement. I think that makes his book more noteworthy.

It says something politicians in St. Paul and Washington should hear. Something about the threatening power of abortion rights to move ordinary citizens from complacency to activism. There is something about the depth of the case to be made that outlawing abortion would be so harmful to both individuals and this nation.

And something about not assuming a Republican wave is inevitable in the fall elections.

Laurie Stordvant is a retired editorial writer for the Star Tribune. She is at lsturdevant@startribune.com.