Dr. Nicole Saphier: Lawmaker’s comments on abortion bill are appalling – I’m thankful I didn’t abort my son

When I was just 17 and learned I was pregnant, I was suddenly faced with a life-and-death decision: get an abortion, or become a mom much sooner than I had ever expected. I chose motherhood, and am thankful every day that I am now blessed with a wonderful 19-year-old son.

The pressure on me all those years ago – like other unmarried women and girls in my situation – was enormous. Some people told me I would ruin my life by becoming a teen mom and said I should get an abortion. Others told me abortion amounted to murder and I would be committing a sin if I underwent the procedure.

I was reminded of the enormously difficult choice I faced when I read Thursday about the reprehensible comments by an Alabama state legislator who opposed legislation making it a felony to perform an abortion at any stage of pregnancy, except for women whose health is at risk. The bill passed the Alabama House 74-3 and was sent to the state Senate.

ALABAMA DEM OPPOSING ABORTION BILL: 'SOME KIDS ARE UNWANTED, SO YOU KILL THEM NOW OR YOU KILL THEM LATER'

The Alabama bill deliberately conflicts with Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide. Supporters of the Alabama legislation said it is designed to be challenged in court in a case that could eventually reach the Supreme Court and result in the high court possibly reversing or restricting the right of women to abortion.

Shockingly, Democratic Alabama state Rep. John Rogers, who opposed the bill outlawing most abortions, said during an emotionally charged debate over the bill: “Some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now or you kill them later. You bring them in the world unwanted, unloved, you send them to the electric chair. So, you kill them now or you kill them later.”

My own actions resulting in my pregnancy put me in a situation where I went from a child to an adult in an instant, with the responsibility of making a very adult decision.

Rogers’ words illustrate just how extreme each side of the abortion debate has become.

I found it strange that Rogers referred to the product of an unintentional pregnancy as a “kid” that you can “kill now.” In one single word he negated the very basis of Roe v. Wade.

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court said abortion was permitted until the time of fetal viability – which it defined as “capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb.” In a 1992 follow-up decision involving Planned Parenthood, the Supreme Court ruled that restrictions on abortion are unconstitutional if they place an “undue burden” on a pregnant woman before the fetus is viable.

Yet Rep. Rogers referred to a fetus as “a kid.” I’m not a linguist, but I have yet to hear of a “kid” who is not human.

Speaking from my own experience, I know that despite Rogers’ claim, not all products of unintentional pregnancies are “unwanted” and born “unloved.” Yes, the pregnancy itself may have been unwanted, but that does not mean the end result is destined for the “electric chair,” as Rogers put it.

Where is the role of personal accountability for the actions of those who become pregnant?

My own actions resulting in my pregnancy put me in a situation where I went from a child to an adult in an instant, with the responsibility of making a very adult decision.

I made the right decision for myself and although my life changed dramatically when I became a mother and my path forward was altered, I was able to forge ahead, going to college and then medical school and becoming a doctor.

And most importantly, my son came into the world and still has many years ahead to look forward to. There is no “electric chair” in his immediate future.

As though his initial comments were not horrible enough, Rep.  Rogers went on to say: “Some parents can’t handle a child with problems. It could be retarded. It could have no arms and no legs.”

Despite the glaringly obvious inappropriateness of his use of the word “it” to refer to a human being and “retarded,” the tone of these comments is reminiscent of the now-discredited eugenics movement, which advocated selective breeding of humans to remove what were considered “inferior” genetic traits and groups.

Eugenics reached its height in Nazi Germany, with the forced sterilization and murder of those considered “inferior.” The world recoiled in horror in response to these crimes.

As a physician at a leading cancer center, I can assure Rogers that children born perfectly healthy into perfect homes with perfect white picket fences can also have “problems” that will stress not only the children and parents, but our entire health care system.

In fact, 1 in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday in the United States and millions of children suffer injuries and serious illnesses every year.

Does Rep. Rogers advocate “killing them now” if a 2-year-old loses her arm in a car accident, or if a 10-month-old is diagnosed with a rare liver cancer? They will live with a form of disability. In fact, an estimated 5 to 10 percent of American children are living with disabilities today.

Where is the line in the sand regarding killing the children now or later for Rogers? Roe v. Wade said a fetus was not a viable human until 24 weeks, but some newly proposed late-term abortion bills are allowing termination of a pregnancy through birth.

With Rogers' statements regarding killing unwanted kids because of their “problems,” I am appalled to think there are some legislators who may want to extend the age of termination even further.

Extremism in all forms – especially in the debate over abortion between pro-life pro-choice advocates – should be rejected.

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Although my situation as a girl with an unplanned pregnancy is unique to me, I do not hold myself to a higher standard than anyone who makes a choice different than I did so long ago.

I can only say with certainty that although my pregnancy may have been unwanted, my “kid” certainly was not. He has brought unparalleled joy to my life and has grown up to be a fine young man who will enrich the world by his presence for many years to come.

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