Opinion Prohibitions on abortion with exceptions for mental health

To the editor:

In “Psychiatrists Can Decide on Access to Abortion” (Opinion guest essay, Sunday Review, June 5), Sally Satellite believes that the mental health exceptions to abortion bans call on both doctors and their pregnant patients to lie. This claim has led some countries to ban abortions outside of cases involving “physical” life-threatening emergencies.

Such fears ignore the reality that unwanted pregnancies often cause severe mental health crises. For example, according to the ban on abortion in El Salvador, 38 percent of maternal deaths – hundreds each year – are the result of the suicides of pregnant girls under the age of 19. Of course, not everyone who is forced to conceive will attempt suicide, but we must not doubt the serious effects on mental health of being forced to have an unwanted pregnancy.

Mental health exceptions require doctors to face the circumstances surrounding abortion – poverty, the need to care for other children, bad relationships – and to understand how denying access can lead to serious mental breakdown or suicide. The truths of their patients, not all lies, impose these exceptions.

Michelle Oberman
Palo Alto, California
The writer is a professor at the Faculty of Law of Santa Clara.

To the editor:

I had a so-called “therapeutic” abortion in California in 1969. At the time, as Sally Satellite rightly described it, California was one of only three states to allow abortions.

But in order to have an abortion, I was interviewed and certified by two psychiatrists that my mental health was hanging in the balance as a result of an unwanted pregnancy.

So the doctors had to lie; I had to lie. I have been to blame for the lies – not the abortion – for more than 50 years.

Women should not be stigmatized or demonized because of our decisions. And the medical profession should not be complicit again in illegal, unethical, but compassionate practices.

Nancy Schultz
Vancouver, Wash.

To the editor:

I am a family nurse and over the years I have had to take on a lot of mental health care management for my patients due to lack of access to psychiatrists. Many psychiatrists are not involved in insurance plans, and it is particularly, if not almost impossible, for my Medicaid patients to find a psychiatrist.

How will this affect women in the scenario proposed by Sally Satellite if psychiatrists are called upon to decide who has access to abortion care? Will psychiatrists be available only to women who can pay for them?

I fear that this will be another way for people with funds to have access to abortion, while those with less money will not.

Abortion is health care. Mental health is health care. Both must be an integral part of our health system accessible to all.

Michelle Cochrane
Washington

To the editor:

Regarding “Trump’s aides for loss, denial of reality” (front page, June 14):

As I watched the commission’s January 6 interviews with insiders who advised President Trump to accept the results of the 2020 election, I couldn’t help but think of the enormous impact a person can have on our society.

Just think what a different state the United States would be today if Mr. Trump had recognized the accuracy of the vote count, kindly acknowledged defeat, facilitated the smooth transition to Biden’s presidency, and then quietly withdrew to Mar-a-Lago.

Oh, how I would like to live in this country!

Bruce Harville
Madison, Weiss.

To the editor:

On “Finding clues as to why armed men are so young” (first page, 2 June):

The article on why young men are disproportionately involved in mass shootings offers several plausible reasons, but misses a critical point: Young men in many industrialized countries face social pressures, changes in brain development and social media violence – but mass shootings ( including school shootings) are extremely rare outside the United States

Most school shootings involve unsafe pistols. The ease with which these and other weapons can be obtained in the United States – unlike in other countries – creates a perfect storm in which the turbulence and loneliness of emotionally upset adolescents are often deadly.

Ronald W. Pease
Lexington, Massachusetts
The writer is a psychiatrist.

To the editor:

On “Trumpets, Guitars, Violins and A Little Consolation in Uwalde’s Tears”, by Rick Rojas (news article, June 5):

As a Mexican American mourning the massacre of 19 students and two teachers in Uwalde, Texas, I am grateful to Mr. Rojas for his extraordinary honor and respect for the lost innocent lives, the musical tradition of Mariachi and its bereaved performers, and generations of immigrant and Mexican American families across the country came together – in pain, anger and love – through this tragedy.

Mr. Rojas’ culturally rich, analytically elegant, and emotionally respectful presentation of our Mariachi music and songs, and how they apply to extremely difficult times in life, should be read by all Americans, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or cultural tradition. .

Unfortunately, the constant gun violence we are experiencing across the country has become a national crisis affecting all cultural communities.

Alexander Lugo
Forest Park, Il.
The writer has taught anthropology and Latin studies for three decades at several universities.

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