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abortion, evidence based medicine, health insurance

Rick Santorum wants to be your OB/GYN

Okay, I admit I threw up a little in my mouth when I conceived that title, but it’s sadly fitting.

Despite his complete lack of medical education, Mr. Santorum is now qualified to tell us that amniocentesis should not be a covered benefit because he believes an amnio leads to abortion.

For the record, my amniocentesis saved the lives of my two surviving children. This is because there are genetic amniocentesis and there are amniocentesis for other reasons. For example, my amnio diagnosed a serious infection at 26 weeks and so my OB/GYN recommended an immediate delivery. An amniocentesis may also be performed to check for lung maturity if a premature delivery is considered for health reasons in the later part of the 3rd trimester.

But I’m sure Santorum is referring to genetic amniocentesis (maybe I shouldn’t assume he knows there is a difference?). Genetic amniocentesis is part of prenatal testing and is used to confirm or exclude the presence of a genetic problem. While more women who have a genetic amnio and are subsequently diagnosed with a genetic birth defect have an abortion, it is a flawed argument to say the amnio leads to the abortion. You can only know about the genetic problem with 100% accuracy with an amnio or chorionic villus sampling and more women who would consider abortion chose an amnio in the 1rst place.

But it’s not just amniocentesis that Mr. Santorum is after. He wants to do away with insurance coverage for genetic testing altogether. Because obviously genetic testing is the fast-track to abortion. This is where the whole medical school thing comes into play…there are many reasons to consider genetic testing even if you would never have an abortion.

This is how I explained genetic testing when I practiced obstetrics:

“Genetic testing is a tool to help identify serious conditions that can affect a baby. Some conditions are not compatible with life, such as anencephaly. Others are associated with varying degrees of disability, such as Down’s syndrome and spina bifida. Many parents want to know about these conditions, some because they might choose an abortion. Even if abortion would never be an option that you would consider, genetic testing can still be very helpful. For example, if we diagnose spina bifida or certain bowel conditions we may recommend a c-section. Some spina bifida defects can even be repaired during pregnancy and if that were the case then you would be referred to a medical center that is best able to provide that kind of highly specialized care. If we find that your baby has a heart defect we may recommend that you deliver in a hospital with a pediatric heart specialist. Finally, if you find out that your baby has a serious medical condition knowing in advance can help you prepare. It can help you figure out work arrangements and child care. It can help you prepare your family members and friends. It also will give you time to research the condition and speak with other parents, because knowing more will only help you provide the best possible care for your child.”

That is the difference between being a real-live OB/GYN and just playing one on TV.

Genetic testing provides a pregnant woman and her partner with knowledge. Knowledge is empowering.

And that is why politicians should not be involved in the practice of medicine. Because power without knowledge is truly a frightening thing.

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Discussion

31 thoughts on “Rick Santorum wants to be your OB/GYN

  1. When it`s a politician , never assume . ;-)

    Posted by Jim | February 20, 2012, 12:55 pm
  2. Yeah, I threw up in my mouth, too when I read an article about this in the paper today. As a healthcare professional, I am thrilled to see you speak out on these types of issues. We need more facts among the fiction. Love your blog!

    Posted by crubin | February 20, 2012, 1:27 pm
  3. Indeed! Kudos to you Dr. Jen. I love your blog.

    Posted by Ann Friedmann | February 20, 2012, 2:03 pm
  4. In fairness, he does not want to be your doctor. A doctor provides personalized medical adviced based on your individual condition. He wants to be your president, who sets generalized policy, just like the federal officials who set Roe v. Wade and other policies that affect this area. I can understand that you disagree with the policy he would set, and you are free to vote for someone else. But to imply he wants to exert any different power than any other politician is intellectually dishonest.

    Posted by Carlos | February 20, 2012, 2:53 pm
    • “But to imply he wants to exert any different power than any other politician is intellectually dishonest.”

      Hardly. Politics is an exercise in delegation of powers. Politicians can claim them for themselves or return them to the people.

      Take Roe, for example.

      Roe declares: “neither we nor anyone can regulate a woman’s decision as long as she does so in the following time frame.”

      Santorum declares: “we can regulate them all we want, because of ‘moral righteousness.’”

      Claiming that both are “the same type of power” is what’s intellectually dishonest here (not to mention nonsensical).

      Posted by A Viescas (@cromage) | February 20, 2012, 6:56 pm
    • Only if all of the other candidates want to control what happens in my vagina, too. Otherwise, it is perfectly, and intellectually, honest for her to shine a light on this cockroach.

      Posted by L. Hawel | February 21, 2012, 6:20 am
    • Your analysis is seriously flawed. First, Roe V. Wade was a COURT case settled in the SCOTUS not a legislative action. Second, it granted RIGHTS, not restricted them. In the third place it did not interfere with the Doctor patient relationship it granted choice. Failure to see these dfferences reflects a profound lack of depth to your commentary.

      Posted by SCott N. Carr | February 23, 2012, 5:47 am
  5. Why did this have to be on my twitter right after lunch :(

    I think ” Knowledge is empowering.” is the whole point, though — without Knowledge, people will continuously elect people like Santorum.

    Posted by Blade | February 20, 2012, 3:23 pm
  6. My position on this is all women better start to pay attention. You better get the facts as they apply to you and your family. If you care about other women so much the better , but, first and foremost care about how the men and women you elect will feel about you and your family. Are they going to do what needs to be done to provide you and yours with the wherewithal to have healthy happy lives ? Or are they going to decide that health care is only for those who have top dollar to pay for it. You decide . Vote what is best for you and yours and everything will fall into place.

    Posted by Bonnie Kimberly | February 20, 2012, 3:45 pm
  7. No letters after my name but I’ve come to recognize you as a gifted writer and also one who shares my views on most social issues. Thank goodness for doctors like you who have the ability and courage to speak out for what is correct.

    Posted by Hugh Campbell | February 20, 2012, 3:48 pm
  8. This makes me sad, I am not an Ob/Gyn but family practice. And I have had some patients who admit to having had an abortion, and when I say admit, it is a cautious admission like they did something wrong. I have yet to meet someone who has had one, who just want to use it for birth control, and I think I provide them an atmosphere where I don’t judge. It is hard enough to learn that your baby has a condition not compatible with life, but to then tell them that they have to carry baby until it dies inside of them is cruel. And even still they are not celebrating the fact that they had an abortion, but instead it is still a shameful secret, one that they should not have to feel shame

    Posted by Melissa Gastorf | February 20, 2012, 5:38 pm
  9. Does he say he wants to prevent the practice of such testing? No. His objection is to the government forcing insurance companies to provide this service for free. He wants the governments hands out of it. You yourself say “that is why politicians should not be involved in the practice of medicine”. So you’re being a bit hypocritical there.

    Posted by Concerned Citizen | February 20, 2012, 7:16 pm
  10. As a provider in a very small community hospital on an isolated hospital in Alaska I think it is critical that amniocentesis be performed when indicated to diagnose any number of conditions, especial fetal lung immaturity. An early baby with immature lungs in our community will require an evacuation, which may or may not be possible depending on weather, plane/crew availability, etc.

    Posted by bob99901 | February 20, 2012, 8:23 pm
  11. What was that horrible taste? Yuuuuch! Great points on the different types of amniocentesis. Sentorum is an idiot!

    Posted by Rich Hartmann | February 20, 2012, 9:23 pm
  12. Dr. Gunter,

    You give Santorum too much leeway. You’re being too nice. The man is not intelligent. His very belief in a desert sky god betrays his ignorance and his insanity.

    The very book he worships says that killing a child is OK if he offends his father. Matthew 15:4. So I find his position on abortion untenable.

    I stated this on a post before, there is no conversation to be had here. This is black and white. If a woman wants to get an abortion she can. No one has sovereignty over someone’s body. if a woman doesn’t want a child for whatever reason be it the child is deformed or even a gender she doesn’t want she should abort it. Period.

    Posted by Jaime | February 21, 2012, 4:28 am
  13. Really great article, really great blog. I’m so happy to have found this blog because the last OB/GYN’s blog I’ve followed (I’ve now stopped) was so unnecessarily abrasive. Thanks for blogging about relevant and timely issues in an informative and respectful way.

    Posted by Melissa | February 21, 2012, 6:56 am
  14. I love your blog! I just discovered it last night through Zite and spent the next hour reading old posts. Keep up the good work!

    Posted by Melissa Benavides | February 21, 2012, 7:49 am
  15. Thank you so much Dr. Gunter! I have been wondering where the Doctors are in this debate. I can’t imagine that they are happy to have Politicians to tell them how to practice medicine. To say that if a patient show up wit a tubal pregnancy you just have to let her die rather than save her life by removing an embryo that has 0 chance of coming to term.

    I could never understand how the AMA one of the most powerful groups in the country with a membership of far above average knowledgeable members let the insurance companies take over medicine. I hope many more will chose to join you in educating the public.

    Posted by Lea Matthews | February 21, 2012, 1:52 pm
  16. Try having an former Ob/Gyn as your Congressman, every time I sent him an email about reproductive right he throws that back in my face! He’s delivered thousands of babies and was an Ob/Gyn for a couple of decades so he thinks he has the right to decide my reproductive health care. I hate Congressman Burgess!

    Posted by Oubli | February 21, 2012, 3:06 pm
  17. I’ve been reading your posts with great interest recently. I’ve been thinking about the abortion issue and thinking that it isn’t about religion as such, it is about power and keeping class divisions intact. Women have been interested in abortificants since ancient times but such knowledge was controlled – higher status women had access to midwives, castle herb gardens etc, while the lower classes were restricted. It isn’t all to do with reproduction either, it could include the obesity epidemic. I’ve been reading Nietzsche recently too and he says that the way states/institutions exert control is to make the opposition/those you want to control weak and ill (and perhaps we could include financially vunerable as well).

    Posted by Catherine Voutier | February 21, 2012, 7:20 pm
  18. As I heard Santorum say in an Iowa gathering in January, abortion is killing an unborn baby. It is deceptive and disingenuous to call it a “choice,” as though a woman were merely picking between morally neutral alternatives.

    Posted by Bonnie Reinders | February 21, 2012, 8:28 pm
    • Yes Bonnie, these men are so ignorant and determined to stay that way. They think abortion is a life style choice! When they figure out how to keep an embryo alive from 9 weeks when most abortions occur to 40 weeks outside of a woman’s body they can let us know. Never mind, I can’t think of a worse fate for a child than to be raised by one of these souless men. ick Santorum, (that was a typo, but I think I will let it stand) is by far the scariest. He is a sex-obsessed religious fanatic, like David Koresh and Jim Jones. Some one needs to call him on the disconnect between his personal life and his plans for every one elses. He has been married for 25 years and if he really isn’t using birth control he should have more children than the Duggars. And if he been abstaining except for the times it took to get Karen pregnant 8 times, it is no wonder that he is sex obsessed.

      Posted by Lea Matthews | February 22, 2012, 6:27 pm
      • Lea, Santorum does not “think abortion is a life style choice”; rather, he calls it killing an unborn baby. The fact that an unborn baby cannot survive outside its mother’s womb in the time frame when most abortions occur does not change the fact that abortion kills an unborn baby. You say, “I can’t think of a worse fate for a child than to be raised by… ick [sic] Santorum.” I say, “I can’t think of a worse fate for a child than abortion.” You call Santorum “sex-obsessed,” but that hardly describes a man who has been married for 25 years to one woman and has never been accused of an affair. It is reasonable to discuss what tests and procedures our tax dollars should pay for, amniocentesis and abortion, for example. It is unreasonable to engage in unfounded, vitriolic attacks against a person. To compare Santorum, a man who is trying to preserve life, with 2 fanatics who destroyed lives, is unfair.

        Posted by Bonnie Reinders | February 22, 2012, 6:59 pm
  19. Great post!

    One tiny correction–spina bifida and anencephaly, as neural tube defects, aren’t necessarily genetic conditions–there may be a genetic component, but they are probably multifactorial. While amniocentesis and other forms of prenatal testing may help to diagnose them, these are not actually genetic tests.

    Posted by Sara | February 22, 2012, 5:05 pm
  20. Interesting story. One fact is being misrepresented however. Genetic amnios have a 99.4% accuracy, not 100%. There is a difference.

    Posted by Sharp Dressed | April 16, 2012, 8:30 pm

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