Dr. Steven C. Brigham is accused of malpractice in a lawsuit filed by George Zallie Sr. of Cherry Hill. Zallie's daughter committed suicide about 15 months after having an abortion in Brigham's facility in July 2001.
"We lost our youngest child and our first grandchild," Zallie said in an interview this week.
His lawsuit claims Brigham and his employees did not disclose all relevant facts to his daughter, then a 19-year-old college student who was three to six weeks pregnant. That includes assertions that her fetus was "a complete, separate living human being" and "a second family member."
The suit also says Brigham and others at the American Women's Center did not warn Stacy Zallie of the "substantial increased risk of severe emotional trauma and distress" for women who have abortions. It also contends they failed to make sure her decision was voluntary.
Stacy Zallie made at least four suicide attempts after the abortion before dying at age 21 in October 2002, the lawsuit says.
While George Zallie is thoroughly within his rights -- indeed, doing a public service -- in suing Brigham, I think that he's just a few degrees off target.
Abortion supporters discuss abortion as "treatment" for the pregnancy, but what it's really "treating" is the woman's emotional distress related to the pregnancy.
The proper informed consent would address emotional distress of early pregnancy, and the efficacy of abortion in "treating" that emotional distress as compared to other ways of addressing this emotional distress.
As I've repeatedly blogged, emotional distress is common and normal in early pregnancy, and has long been known to be self-limiting. In short, it's a normal phase of early pregnancy, much like a teenage boy's voice cracking is a normal phase of adolescence. No responsible doctor would "treat" a teenage boy's embarrassment at his cracking voice by castrating him. But supposedly responsible doctors "treat" the normal emotional stresses of early pregnancy via abortion without informing the woman that the distress will typically pass quickly. In fact, the typical abortion facility has, on hand, the most powerful tool for treating early pregnancy stress: an ultrasound machine.
Abortion ideation subsides in many women who are shown an ultrasound and given a chance to bond with the unborn child. Since an ultrasound is much less invasive than an abortion -- and is in fact a standard procedure prior to an abortion anyway -- a responsible physician would show the woman the ultrasound to give her a chance to see if the distress can be treated with the much less invasive measure. Give the treatment time and see if it alleviates the problem.
Other treatments known to reduce pregnancy distress include moral support, assistance with problem-solving, and that old standby that family docs knew very well, "tincture of time".
Dr. Alec Bourne, who effectively challenged abortion laws in the UK, wrote:
"Those who plead for an extensive relaxation of the law [against abortion] have no idea of the very many cases where a woman who, during the first three months, makes a most impassioned appeal for her pregnancy to be 'finished,' later, when the baby is born, is thankful indeed that it was not killed while still an embryo. During my long years in practice I have had many a letter of the deepest gratitude for refusing to accede to an early appeal."
Mary Calderone of Planned Parenthood had a similar reflection after the 1955 Planned Parenthood Conference on Abortion in America:
"[Members of the conference] agreed, and this was backed up by evidence from the Scandinavians, that when a woman seeking an abortion is given the chance of talking over her problem with a properly trained and oriented person, she will in the process very often resolve many of her qualms and will spontaneously decide to see the pregnancy through, particularly if she is assured that supportive help will continue to be available to her."
Were I George Zallie, I would focus on this fact -- that abortion facilities immediately go to the most invasive and irreversible "treatment" as a default, without even testing less invasive, reversible treatments -- treatments that prolife pregnancy centers have been successfully using for decades.