Since the North Carolina Legislature passed a major pro-life bill this spring, we have heard many myths about abortion and the so-called “dangers” of these increased restrictions. Many of these myths have been used as the primary basis for the defense of legalized abortion, and so we thought now would be a good time to address these myths and show that they are just that: myths.
This week on Family Policy Matters, we are re-airing a show from October 2022, where host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Dr. Susan Bane to discuss (and correct) some of the myths surrounding abortion. Dr. Bane is an OB/GYN, and is currently the Medical Director at Choices Women’s Center in Wilson, North Carolina.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. As Americans adjust to a post-Dobbs world where on-demand abortion is no longer mandated nationwide, there is a lot of confusion and sometimes incorrect information out there. The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists has created a helpful document that separates the facts from fiction.
Dr. Susan Bane is here to discuss that resource, which is called, “Myth vs. Fact: Correcting Misinformation on Maternal Medical Care.” Dr. Bane is an OB/GYN who was in practice for 25 years in the Greenville area. She currently serves as the medical director at Choices Women’s Center in Wilson where she oversees the medical aspects of the center and sees patients with unintended pregnancies.
Dr. Susan Bane, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
SUSAN BANE: Thank you for the invitation to be with you.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So, first of all, why is it important for all of us to read this document that you guys created and correct so much of this misinformation that’s out there?
SUSAN BANE: Well, it’s important because, as you said, there is a lot of misinformation out there, and at AAPLOG we believe women deserve the best possible medical care and the best information about their healthcare, so that’s why we produce and provide this information for patients, as well as anybody else who really wants to understand this issue.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: And I really appreciate that because I know a lot of the arguments that are made by people who support abortion are very convincing unless you know the other side, and so that’s what you do in this document. Let’s start first with the myth that you discuss first in your publication that abortion is an essential healthcare service. We hear that all the time. So, is it?
SUSAN BANE: I think before I say the answer, let’s make sure we understand what we’re talking about before we say the word “abortion,” because abortion is used in a wide variety of clinical ways in medicine. So if a woman comes to me and she’s early in her pregnancy and she’s cramping or bleeding but everything looked fine on ultrasound, then she has a threatened abortion. If somebody miscarries, she has what we call a spontaneous abortion. So what we’re really talking about with the Dobbs opinion is completely different. We’re only talking about elective or induced abortions, which are performed with the intention of ending the life of the baby. So really the goal of the abortion is to produce a dead baby, and so, no, it is never necessary for us to do an elective abortion to provide complete medical care for women.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: One of the other myths that we hear pro-abortion advocates suggesting is that unrestricted abortion is necessary for doctors to provide life-saving care for pregnant women. But you don’t agree with that, do you?
SUSAN BANE: No, and that is one of the most important things for us to talk about, so I’m glad you asked that question. I’ve been an obstetrician and gynecologist for 25 years. I’ve treated thousands of women and hundreds with life-threatening medical situations, and never once have I had to perform an elective abortion in order to help save her life. The fact is that elective abortion is not life-saving medical care, and when medically necessary to treat women in those situations, we can actually respect both of the patients’ lives. A big part is the timing of when the mom gets sick. If the mom is sick and the baby is viable, which now is about 22 to 23 weeks, we can actually deliver that baby, and both the mom and the baby can be cared for. If the baby is really premature, the baby may need to go to the NICU or the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. If the baby is what we call around viability, then the NICU team can actually assess the baby when the baby is born to decide if the baby can be resuscitated or not. And then if the baby is too young to survive, we can do a life-saving induction, and the mom would give birth. The baby would be too young to survive, but the family can hold that baby, can love that baby, say good-bye, grieve, even have a funeral. That is completely different than saving a mother’s life without providing that same compassionate care to the baby.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Those who support abortion and who are perpetuating these myths, they know better than this. You cannot tell me they don’t know that what they’re saying is untrue. So I mean I think sometimes the general public maybe doesn’t know any different, but the people who are — even the doctors, there are doctors who are perpetuating this myth. Why is that? What is the point of that for them?
SUSAN BANE: So good science you care more about the truth than being right, and, sadly, the root of much of the misinformation is actually coming from the health professionals. American College of OB/GYN, which has been for years a leading medical organization for women’s healthcare, they’re perpetuating many of these myths. But when healthcare practitioners are being interviewed, they really have to go to the science, and even if it disagrees with what they personally believe, good research actually cares about the truth.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So let’s talk about another myth that you tackle in this downloadable document — It’s great. It’s easy to access. — is that restrictions on abortion are an intrusion on the relationship between a doctor and a patient. You were OB/GYN, a gynecologist for 25 years. Do you think that’s true?
SUSAN BANE: No, I do not. It’s a myth that restrictions on abortion are an intrusion on the relationship between a doctor and a patient. The fact is that most abortion providers have no previous relationship with the patients they see. After the abortion, they tend to leave the medical care to other physicians who either have a prior relationship or who work in the local emergency department. So given this, it’s not an intrusion on the doctor-patient relationship. I recently actually had a patient of mine whose daughter saw me on television during an interview, and she turned to her mom and she said, “That was my first doctor.” And it made me smile when I thought about that because she’s so right. As OB/GYNs, we care for two patients, and both of those lives matter and that’s a real doctor-patient relationship.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right. So another myth: that maternal mortality rates will rise under more restrictive abortion laws. Is that true?
SUSAN BANE: Once again, it is a myth. The data are really interesting that when you restrict abortions it does not lead to an increase in maternal mortality, and just to make sure everyone understands that the CDC or Center for Disease Control, that’s defined as the death of a woman during a pregnancy or within a year afterwards. In every country where abortion was legal and made illegal, maternal mortality actually decreased, as did abortion mortality because fewer women had elective abortions. Abortion has been legal in the United States for nearly 50 years, and we maintain one of the absolute worst mortality rates in the world. So we need to shift from using elective abortion as our solution to really getting at root causes as to why we have such high maternal mortality. We have such big issues with access to quality healthcare. We have issues with education in terms of women being able to read the instructions, follow the instructions. We need women to have better prenatal care earlier so that if they get sick, we can identify it earlier. There’s just so many better ways to address maternal mortality than to use elective abortion as that solution.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: I think you’re making a really good point because that is also one of the accusations that pro-abortion people make toward the pro-life movement, that we only care about the baby and that we oppose increasing healthcare. So you feel like that’s an important step for us to make if we truly are pro-life.
SUSAN BANE: Yeah. We’ve been accused of being pro-birth if we care about both the mom and the baby, and we can’t be. If we’re going to set policies that limit the ability to have elective abortions, we have got to address the issues. For years, I did the full gamut of OB/GYN practice, and now I, basically, just see women with unintended pregnancies. And the most common reason they’re coming in, and this is what the research shows, too, is socioeconomic factors. They can’t afford to have the baby. They don’t have the social support for the baby. The timing is not right. They couldn’t afford daycare. And so there’s just so many issues when we’re thinking about policy that we’ve got to really address. We’ve got to have family-friendly work places that a female who is pregnant is welcome there and she knows there’ll be maternity leave, paternity leave for the father of the baby, there’ll be perhaps childcare as a benefit of the work site. So we have a long way to go, but this is a great start to try to create a society where we really care about the entire family.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: And these policy changes, are those a statewide thing, are they a federal thing, both?
SUSAN BANE: I’m a firm believer in both, and so I always like to start in neighborhoods and local businesses. I did a talk in Wilson last year, and I called for us to be the first pro-care city in the whole — I called it pro-care vision. We truly take — the two camps are so divided, the pro-life and the pro-choice camps, and they don’t talk very well together. But I believe they have a lot more in common than what they think, and a lot of it has to do with these policies that can promote and take away the barriers. I mean it’s a natural biological fact that women have babies, and women also can contribute to society in so many ways in the workplace. And so we have to celebrate that, but we have to rethink what does it mean for a women to be able to be a mom and a great employee.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: I love that idea of a pro-care city, that we don’t have to wait for state lawmakers or federal lawmakers. A city could take this on or even just local businesses, right, if somebody considers themselves pro-life making sure they have these kinds of policies?
Talk a little bit about the fact that you mentioned that you are the medical director now for a pregnancy resource center. You’ve done a lot of things. Like you said, you’ve been 25 years as an OB/GYN. You worked for many years with the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Tell us — what is this like now being able to intersect almost daily with women who are in quite a different position maybe than you’ve seen before? Is this a rewarding time of your life for you?
SUSAN BANE: Absolutely. It’s where I feel like I have found home. For years, most of the women I saw, they were planning to carry, and now almost everyone I see comes in scared, comes in alone, often times is in such a vulnerable place, and to be able to walk beside her with great medical care in a non-judgmental way is incredibly rewarding. I feel so called at this phase in my life. I’m 57 — it’s probably going to be kind of those last, however, 10, 20 years of full-time work. I know it is for such a time as this that I have been placed at the Choices Women’s Center here in Wilson.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So I’m assuming that you would highly recommend people volunteering and getting involved in these pregnancy resource centers that we have literally dotting the entire state.
SUSAN BANE: Yeah, we do. I mean there are, I believe, 3,000 across the nation, and they started off historically more for providing social services and diapers and some of the physical needs of women, and they have grown into many of them being medical clinics. And that’s what we have converted to in Wilson, and so we provide pregnancy tests. I have a registered nurse that works with me. I’m a board-certified OB/GYN. We have client advocates who are actually non-medical, using the model that is used oftentimes across healthcare where you have peer advocates that work with people, whether they work in substance abuse or the VA system has a lot of peer advocates. So we have advocates who have a heart to work with these women. They may have had an abortion themselves. They may have adopted a child because they couldn’t have their own, but they are all drawn there because they really want great care for these women and to love them and to know that even — you know, our hope is that they can choose life but we never pressure them to do that. And we let them know that our door is open if they need to come back and talk because we haven’t talked about this but there are strong data that look at the long-term mental health risks that happen with abortion and we know some women will struggle with that.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: We are about out of time. Can you tell our listeners where they can go to find this wonderful resource, “Myth vs. Fact: Correcting Misinformation on Maternal Medical Care,” which is provided by the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists?
SUSAN BANE: Absolutely. Our website is AAPLOG.org, and if they just type in, “Myth vs. Fact,” they’ll be able to access it and share it with other people.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Great. Dr. Susan Bane, thank you so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.