Dr. Kristin Lyerly on health care and defining abortion

Kristin Lyerly, M.D., an obstetrician/gynecologist who was based in northeast Wisconsin, describes the spectrum of medical outcomes in pregnancies and reproductive health care defined as abortions.

By Marisa Wojcik | Here & Now

August 31, 2023

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Dr. Kristin Lyerly:
Politicians have defined abortion. For most of us, when we hear about abortion in common usage, we hear about this very black and white, "It's bad, you're a bad person if you had an abortion. You're gonna go to hell if you had an abortion." In many faiths, especially in the Catholic faith, that is something that really weighs heavily on people. And because we've let politicians define abortion in this very black and white thing, we are not having these conversations about what abortion truly is, which is health care. There is a spectrum of abortion care, from miscarriage, which is by definition a spontaneous abortion. If I had a dime for every patient who has said to me, "I didn't have an abortion, I had a miscarriage," well, it was an abortion. That's what it says on your record because that's actually the medical term. Technically an ectopic pregnancy, treating an ectopic pregnancy is an abortion. There's cardiac activity. It's not in a viable place where it can live and grow, and become a baby in the future, but technically that's an abortion. What about when someone seeks infertility care, and they do IVF, and they end up with more embryos than they can implant? What do we do with those embryos? Sometimes they can be donated, but sometimes that ends in abortion. So people don't realize the intricacies, and all of the different places where abortion care is found. And those are the physical things. Then you think about the socioeconomic and the psychological aspects, and I saw this so often with the patients that I took care of in Sheboygan. One patient was a former patient of mine from Green Bay, who I delivered her baby, and she and her sister showed up with the baby I delivered. She had an unplanned pregnancy, and I was privileged to be able to counsel her, and to get her the information she needed. She came back for a second visit, and I was able to give her the medication that she needed and wanted. And then I saw her out in the parking lot crying, and I went out and asked her what was going on, and she said, "My gas gauge is broken on my car, and I don't have any gas to get home, and I don't have any money to buy gas." I mean, that is what some of these people are dealing with. Or the mom who had three kids at home, and clearly wanted to keep her pregnancy, but knew that she couldn't, 'cause she couldn't afford the daycare. She couldn't afford a new vehicle. Their house was maxed out. And so we talked a lot about that during our first visit. And as she was leaving, she said, "Do you have kids?" And I said, "I do." And she said, "How many?" And I said, "Four." And she went, "Okay." When she came back for her second visit, I gave her her pill, she took it. She knew that she had to, that was the right thing for her. And before she left, she looked me in the eye and said, "What's your fourth baby like?" She wasn't gonna have her fourth baby. I mean, these people are dealing with so many complicated things in their lives. There's no way that we can make laws or rules. Only they can make those decisions

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