The National Debate Over Abortion Laws

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To the Editor:

Re “Why the Feminist Movement Needs Pro-Life People” (Opinion, nytimes.com, Nov. 28):

Tish Harrison Warren cites an absurd statistic in which 37 percent of self-identified feminists called themselves “both pro-life and pro-choice.”

As an abortion doctor, I frequently meet women who, lying on the exam table, tell me that they “don’t believe in abortion,” but that they’re in a really difficult situation and have to do it “just this once.” Some even tell me that they’re “actually pro-life.”

Yet there they are, in the procedure room, accessing their legal right to an abortion. I wonder how they respond in public opinion polls on abortion. I wonder (and shudder to think) how they vote.

You cannot be both pro-life and pro-choice. Nor can you be pro-life and claim to be a “feminist” standing for the end to the oppression of women. Ms. Warren is absolutely correct that “the inequality of women is not an abstract idea.” The concrete, measurable inequality of women in any society begins with the denial of a woman’s right to determine whether and when to have children.

Christine Henneberg
San Francisco

To the Editor:

In “Texas Doctors Say Abortion Law Complicates Risky Pregnancies” (front page, Nov. 26), a female San Antonio obstetrician opined that 9-year-old girls can safely deliver a baby even if the pregnancy was due to rape or incest. I was appalled to read this opinion, which may be a religious one but surely isn’t a sound medical opinion.

Even if a 9-year-old girl was physically ready to deliver a baby safely — and that is much in dispute — that opinion does not take into account the psychological and emotional well-being of so young a child. How does so young a girl handle a pregnancy, much less one resulting from rape or incest?

The doctor who uttered that opinion should not be practicing medicine — or, perhaps better put, she should not be practicing religion but instead be practicing medicine.

Renee Franken
Monterey, Calif.

To the Editor:

Your article on the Texas abortion law provides an important perspective on the role of abortion in high-risk pregnancies.

As OB/GYNs and abortion providers, we have seen firsthand how safe and immediate abortion care can be lifesaving for those with pregnancy complications. We remember one patient in particular who broke her water midway through her pregnancy. She quickly developed a life-threatening infection that spread through her whole body.

She was able to quickly access abortion services, which allowed her to recover from her infection. She could have suffered devastating complications; instead, she was able to safely return home to her family.

For some patients, situations can worsen if providers are forced to wait because of legal constraints. Many providers hoped these scenarios would be a thing of the past, yet this is the situation patients and providers in Texas find themselves in today.

Abortion, along with prenatal care and contraception, is part of comprehensive reproductive health care — and we should fight to protect it.

Gopika Krishna
Alexandra Monaco
New York
The writers are obstetrics and gynecology fellows at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

To the Editor:

Re “‘Her Welfare Is Primary’” (Opinion guest essay, Nov. 23):

As an Orthodox Jewish woman, I very much appreciated Sarah Seltzer’s discussion of Judaism’s nuanced view of abortion. A missed point, though, is that a mother’s mental health is as important as her physical health. An abortion may not only be permitted, but may be mandated by Jewish law, in a case in which a woman would suffer mentally and emotionally if forced to bear a child.

My own experience, in talking to many, many women who observe as I do, is that an overwhelming majority can envision a case in which they would opt for an abortion, however reluctantly.

Renée Septimus
New York

To the Editor:

Judaism permits, even requires, abortion in limited cases, and responsible Jews cannot endorse measures that give a fetus the same protections as a born child.

But, with regard to Sarah Seltzer’s rumination on Judaism’s abortion position, there is nothing whatsoever in the Jewish religious tradition that permits abortion as a mere “choice” to be made for personal, economic or social reasons.

Nothing whatsoever.

(Rabbi) Avi Shafran
New York
The writer is director of public affairs at Agudath Israel of America.

Taking Action Against Omicron

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To the Editor:

Re “The U.S. Can’t Be Timid on Omicron,” by Zeynep Tufekci (column, Nov. 30):

A truly superb piece with a thoughtful attack plan. This kind of thinking and effort is what has been lacking in our national disaster planning with regard to Covid. We must ask why one individual can put this together but our government cannot.

Frank Pollack
Fairfax Station, Va.

To the Editor:

Zeynep Tufekci presents a compelling call to intelligent action based on science and “painful lessons” learned though these seemingly endless months of Covid. However, our experience of chronic uncertainty and its toll of chronic stress hinder optimal decision-making. The constant flow of new scientific information reflects brilliant technical achievement, but is emotionally exhausting.

Chronic stress depletes. It impairs our cognitive abilities, as well as our immune functioning. Supporting mental health in every way possible remains of paramount importance as we must lean into a time of even more uncertainty, increasingly to be understood as the new normal.

Ronnie S. Stangler
New York
The writer, a psychiatrist, is clinical professor emerita of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Washington.

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