Dear editor guest column

Dear editor,

Though I was not born and raised here in Arkansas (I was raised in Baton Rouge and studied at LSU for three years before transferring to what was then LRU, now UALR, in 1968.) I have lived here well over 40 years and raised six kids here. I am an Arkansan. For me it's "Go Hogs," not Tigers, anymore. I graduated from UAMS in 1977 and have practiced medicine here since that time and remain in practice today. Though I am 67, it is hard for me to think of myself as an older physician, but I guess my age and years of practice prove the point even to me. Many of my medical school classmates have now retired and most of my mentors in medicine and medical school professors are long since gone from active practice.

I say all of this to make an important point. Medicine and the world we live in have changed a great deal over the past five decades, and many of the lessons we doctors and patients learned back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s are not taught today, because the problems we faced have been solved. Gone are the small pox vaccinations, the iron lungs and braces used to treat polio victims, and long periods of bed rest following child birth which resulted in many a pulmonary embolus and death.

Gone also is the number one killer of women of child bearing age, the number one cause for female infertility and a major cause for hospital admissions across the entire nation. We can thank our personal God for this true blessing. This plague that ravaged young women has been cured and the cure was more legislative than medical. Up until the early 70s the number one killer of women of childbearing age was complications associated with abortion. When abortion became legal and accessible to all, complications from abortion dropped out of the top ten causes and now has dropped out of the top 100 causes. Today far more women die from lightening strike than from complications associated with therapeutic abortion.

I am old enough to have witnessed first hand some of the horror stories lived out by friends, associates and patients who suffered from "botched" illegal abortions. Making abortion accessible, affordable, and legal has saved the lives and wombs of countless American women. Surgical first trimester abortion is now statistically the safest surgical procedure done in this country, with a lower serious complication rate than dental extraction. Making abortion services less accessible, illegal, or more expensive by imposing unnecessary regulations on abortion providers can only serve to increase the incidence of complications associated with abortion by forcing women with unwanted pregnancies to seek and use unsafe means for terminating their pregnancies. Those who can afford to go elsewhere will travel; many others will resort to unsafe means as they have always done in the past. Making abortion illegal does not, in any way, end abortion.

The undeniable fact is that the single advance in medicine in the past fifty years that has saved more women's life than any other is the legalization of abortion, which has given women access to safe terminations provided under controlled conditions by skilled and licensed providers.

I have been an abortion provider in Arkansas for over 25 years and am both proud of and thankful for this state's allowing me to serve my patients to the best of my ability. Anyone who truly cares about women's rights and women's health can understand the importance of protecting a woman's right of "Choice." A legislative candidates position on "Choice" should play an important, if not the most important, role in one's decision on who they support and vote for. There is a concerted effort by many religious zealots to turn the clock back to a time when legal abortion was not available in Arkansas. Insuring their failure is our duty to the women of this state.

Tom Tvedten

Heber Springs