Ep. 18 – Abortion pill reversal and the myth of late term abortion
Conversations with Consequences

 
 
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Is late term abortion ever medically necessary? Can the abortion pill really be reversed, or is that just a pro-life twisting of the facts? Our host Dr. Grazie Christie interviews another doctor, Dr. Mary Jo O’Sullivan, about late term abortion, pro-life bioethics and how Dr. O’Sullivan works to reverse medication (abortion pill) abortions.
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Ep. 18 – Abortion Pill Reversal and the Myth of Late Term Abortion Transcript

Hello, my friends. This is Dr. Grazie Christie and this is Conversations with Consequences, the podcast of the Catholic Association. Today I am interviewing Dr. Mary Jo O’Sullivan. I met her many years ago when I was training as a medical student, and she at that time was the head of maternal fetal medicine at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where I trained as a medical student at the University of Miami.
My husband got to know her better because became an OB-GYN resident and he was a resident under her for almost two years until he switched over to radiology. Both my husband and I developed a great respect for Dr. O, that’s how we called her. That’s how people call her at the hospital, for Dr. O, because she was stern and strong and exactly the person that you would want to be running a very busy labor floor with every possible complication and always, always with the most the most incredible mercy and love for the patients, both the mothers and the children. That’s what she was known for at the hospital, her great respect for all her patients. So Dr. O, thank you so much for joining me today on Conversations with Consequences.

It’s a great pleasure to join you, Dr. Christie.

I have to tell you, I am so thankful that you’re on with us, because you and I have talked a few times. Dr. O is not only a woman who has tremendous experience in maternal fetal medicine, but she’s also a person who’s taken the time to get a Master’s in bioethics.
She understands all the ethical ramifications of all the things that happen when a woman is pregnant and she comes to the doctor and Dr. O brings that pro-life bioethics to every encounter. I know she’s helped me many times when I’ve had a question, not sometimes about practice, but sometimes just about the things we talk about at the Catholic Association and on our podcast, because it’s important to understand exactly what we’re doing. Dr. O understands all of these things and one of the things Dr. O does is that she does abortion pill reversals. Recently, I was able to help her out with one of these cases and I became so interested in that process. I’ve asked Dr. O to come and talk to us about it.
So Dr. O, can we start by explaining to our listeners what a medical abortion is? Because I think people, most people don’t understand all these technical terms.

Well a medical abortion is using two drugs. One of them is RU486 and the other one is a drug called misoprostol, which is very similar to a Cytotec. In fact, it’s the same drug.

What happens is women who go for an abortion to a center that does abortions and agreed to a medical abortion are given both the RU486, which they must take before they leave that clinic, and then they are given to the Cytotec to take it home or the misoprostol, and they use the terms interchangeably. They’re given this misoprostol to take 24 hours later and again 24 hours after that.
The reason they do it this way is that the RU486 is a drug that interferes with the placental production of progesterone. Then that’s followed by the misoprostol, which causes uterine contractions and uterine evacuation or an abortion.

Dr. O, so the first drug, if I could make sure that our listeners understand, the first drug cuts off progesterone and progesterone is what keeps the baby – I mean, just to speak in very broad terms – keeps the baby alive when the embryo is very small. The progesterone makes sure that the embryo is getting all the right nutrients. Is that correct?

It’s essential to the support of placental transfer. Yes.

Okay. That’s the scientific way to say it.

You have to feed the baby

You have to feed the baby. When the first drug is ingested at the clinic – and you know what I want to tell the listeners? This is something I found out because I called my local Planned Parenthood office. Planned Parenthood charges the same amount of money for an abortion that’s performed surgically in their center, a first trimester abortion, as they do for medical abortion, which is basically they watch a lady take the pill and then they take her home and then she goes home and aborts at home into, I guess, her toilet in a very painful manner.
Both prices at my local Planned Parenthood clinic, it’s $500 for both abortions, even though one is a lot more work intense and it has a much greater cost to Planned Parenthood. So just to point out to our listeners that it’s in Planned Parenthood’s best interests to promote the more and more usage of medical abortions.
But going back to the medical abortion, the first drug cuts off the nutrition to the baby so the baby usually dies. The second drug, taken a day or two later, causes the expulsion of the baby.

Correct.

Okay, so an abortion pill reversal is what?

It’s an attempt to try to reverse the effect of the RU486 by giving these women high doses of progesterone to take for three days. Then the dose is reduced, but still progesterone continuously until they complete the twelfth week of gestation, so long as, of course, there’s growth of the baby and a fetal heart rate.

Okay, and this is a choice that women make on their own, correct? I mean, first they chose the abortion and then what?

They choose the abortion, and as I’ve asked many of them, “Why did you change your mind?”
“I walked out of that place,” is the commonest one. “I walked out of there and said, ‘What have I done’ or ‘I thought about it and decided I really didn’t want to take the rest of the medicine and I really didn’t want to take that first pill but I had no choice.’”

Do you think they might be afraid of the second pill, which causes violent uterine contractions and pain?

It’s a little hard to know. I mean, whether that’s really the reason, I’ve never had one of them tell me that that’s what they were afraid of. It was mostly, “What have I done” or “Why did I do this? I really want to keep this baby. I really don’t want to do this.”
Sometimes when they get home and they tell the baby’s father or their family, then they get support not to continue the pregnancy.

That’s right. So then maybe the support that they thought they didn’t have, they do actually have.

They have, yes.

And they want to at least try to walk it back.

Right, and they have to go after this. I mean, the woman who decides that she really doesn’t want to do this or the woman who wants to look at the possibility of reversing the medicine, has to take the time and go look it up on the computer or her friends or something. She has to see this herself.

Okay, so this is a silly question, but no one at Planned Parenthood or wherever, whoever gave her the medical abortion, no one’s saying to her, “Hey, if you change your mind, there is a chance we could walk this back?”

Oh, absolutely not. I doubt it very much. I don’t know about signs up that say that and I don’t know of any legal ramifications that say this is what they have to do with Planned Parenthood or any other abortion service. I don’t know about what a private doctor does who does abortions like this. I don’t know if he gives them the option that, “Oh, by the way, if you change your mind, call this number.”

I’m glad you brought up the number. How does this work? So a woman goes home. She already took the first pill and she says to herself, “Oh, my gosh, I didn’t realize my husband…”

Or my boyfriend.

Or my boyfriend.

Or my family or I, myself.

“I didn’t realize that this baby, this is someone I can welcome into the world. I have that support.”
What does she do next? She Googles “abortion pill”?

Yes, she has to Google, yes.

She has to Google it.

She has to Google it.

So what will she find if she Googles it?

When she Googles it, she finds the phone number of the hotline phone number.

Do you know it offline?

No.

I’m going to link it. I’m going to put that link on our podcast.

She calls that number and she speaks to one of the nurses. There’s a nurse on call 24/7. The nurse speaks to her, discusses how she feels about it, why she’s changed her mind. Maybe, maybe not.
Maybe she doesn’t even bring that up, but makes sure that she understands what this might entail and then gets the information from her regarding her name, date of birth, phone number, age, gravity, how many times she’s been pregnant, which isn’t really important, but it’s part of the full medical history that somebody like me, who is going to prescribe the medicine, is going to either get from the nurse and/or from the patient. Most of the time I also speak to the woman who decides that she wants to take the abortion pill reversal program.
Then it’s simple. It’s a matter of explaining to her what the risks are of RU486, which by itself, by the way, does not cause congenital malformations.

That’s an excellent point. We need to come back to that, Dr. O.

Right. Whereas the Cytotec or the misoprostol, which is the same drug, indeed can cause congenital malformations. We explain to the patient, or the nurse does, that she needs to get the progesterone ideally started within 24 hours, but sometimes it’s 48 hours.
Nonetheless, we’ll try. I mean, we have nothing to lose and everything in the world to gain if it works.

That’s an important point. Dr. O, if you don’t mind, if we just drill down on that for a moment? If a woman takes the first pill and she doesn’t take any abortion reversal pill protocol, but she doesn’t take the second pill of the medical abortion, you said that that first pill doesn’t damage the baby. The baby’s not going to be born with birth defects because of that first pill?

If it survives.

Right, if it survives. So basically, the first pill is sort of all or nothing. It either kills the baby or the baby’s born fine.

As far as we know and all the information that I know of that’s available says it.

Okay, then if the woman does choose to try to reverse the medical abortion, the progesterone, which is the medicine that she will be given a prescription for and she will take, that medicine has no dangerous side effects for the woman?

No, it does not. In fact, that’s the hormone that’s being destroyed by the RU486, so that’s what you’re trying to support by giving it to her to raise her own progesterone level.

So you’re just giving her something she would have onboard anyway in a normal setting of a pregnancy?

Right.

Okay, that’s a very important point.

That’s correct. Then the other thing you have to keep in mind is when we talk to her, she’s the one that goes to the pharmacy and picks up the medicine. She’s the one that takes the medicine. We’re not giving it to her. Okay? We are simply providing for her what she’s asked us, what we have discussed and what has the potential to reverse the RU486.
It’s all patient choice. It’s all the client’s choice. It’s all a woman’s choice.

You know, when I posted, I was telling you before we recorded a moment ago, that I posted about this on Twitter, and I got some very angry responses. What’s interesting is that the people who are most angry about abortion pill reversal are the people who call themselves pro-choice, which is very interesting. It’s ironic, isn’t it?

Yes, that’s very strange. If you’re pro-choice and a woman decides to go against her original choice, aren’t you supposed to support the second choice as well as the first one?

It seems reasonable to me that a woman can choose both ways.

Unless pro-choice means “for abortion”.

I suspect that must be true most of the time.

I wouldn’t be surprised.

Another question I have for you: so there’s a hotline and there’s a nurse that mans the hotline 24 hours a day. Then the nurse refers the client, the woman, who is making this decision to try to reverse the abortion. She refers her to one of several dozen doctors maybe that worked for this website?

A little bit different from that. The nurse contacts one of us who volunteers for the site, and we in turn contact the client.

Is there any cost to the client as a patient?

No.

Or the client has to pay for any of the service?

Other than the medication. Even the ultrasounds that you choose to get. We try our very best to find providers who will do that ultrasound on a weekly basis for free. The ones that are really very, very good at it are Heartbeat of Miami and the pregnancy counseling centers at the Archdiocese of Miami.

When a woman goes to get a medical abortion, she’s paying $500+ for this service that she’s being given, but when she wants to try to go back and reverse it, this is not costing her any money except the medication, which is probably not very expensive, I imagine?

Yes, that’s the only thing she’s paying for or the insurance covers that I believe, but depending upon insurances as well, of course.

That’s amazing.

It’s not expensive.

Well, that’s amazing. Here’s another question, Dr. O: What kind of doctors volunteer at this hotline? Is everyone who volunteers there an OB-GYN?

I don’t think so. I think family practice and OB-GYN happen to be the two more common, but internal medicine doctors also participate. I’ve never looked into that.

When I tweeted about it on Twitter, I got a lot of people saying, “You’re just a radiologist. What are you doing interfering?” They say, “You’re not licensed” or “You’re not allowed.” But I don’t want to fight with anybody.

That’s not true.

Yes. Could you explain? I didn’t want to fight with anybody on Twitter, but I don’t think people understand what doctors are allowed and not allowed to do.

Doctors are allowed to write prescriptions for anything that they deem, whether it’s within the range or scope of practice or it doesn’t have to be within the scope of practice but for a drug that really does no harm.

Well, you know, Dr. O, I’m a radiologist. This is true, I’m only a radiologist, but I do a lot of fetal ultrasound. To me, the fetus is just as much my patient as the woman who cleans.

Absolutely.

I know that you feel the same way.

Oh, absolutely. The baby is as far as I’m concerned. I read ultrasounds all the time in the first trimester, and I stopped a long, long time ago by calling that little embryo even an embryo.
When I record the ultrasound and the heartbeat, I say the baby’s heart rate is – whether it’s five and a half weeks or six weeks or eight weeks or twenty-four weeks – it’s a baby. It’s not going to be anything else. It’s a baby, if it survives.
It’s not going to be a fish. It’s not going to be a cat. It’s only going to be a human baby if it gets through the pregnancy.

Dr. O, you saw many, many, many thousands of pregnancies through to their conclusion. You probably never received anything into your hands that wasn’t a human baby, right?

Absolutely not. Even the babies with the most severe malformations are human beings.

That’s absolutely right. One of the things, Dr. O, when you ran the labor floor and you ran the maternal fetal program, everybody understood about you that you had a real deep respect and love for the littler patient, the smaller patient. I think that that’s very lovely. I wish that every doctor, every OB-GYN was like you.

Well, thank you. I was very fortunate to be in an area where we had a fantastic neonatal intensive care unit and I used to make rounds in the unit with them every Wednesday. To see those little tiny, tiny babies born at twenty three weeks, Of course, they didn’t all survive. Of course not, but to see them survive and grow. Yes, they went through a lot but their parents wanted those babies desperately.

They did.

That’s what everybody was there to support.

You know, when you think about it. Dr. O, it’s amazing that in a medical field that works about maybe 90, 90 something percent of the time bringing children as safely as possible into the world with the greatest health that they can possibly muster, right?

Certainly we try.

Then there’s this section that also devotes themselves to destroying the children. That’s very sick. Those two things can coexist in the same profession.

Grazie, with an aside, you need to know this. There was a period of time on the labor floor where doctor where the chairman of the department decided to change to shift the second trimester abortions to the labor floor.

Oh, no.

I would have and I had terrible times with my nurses over this, of course naturally, because in one bed, I would have a woman desperately trying to keep her baby and then the other bed, a woman desperately trying to get rid of her baby. They would be both at the same gestational age. It would just be very difficult, you know. Really it took a lot of grace of the Holy Spirit, that’s all I can say, to give both of them equal care.
This was what I tried to teach my staff and it took them a while you know, but eventually they got into it. Finally, of course, that all began to change but there was quite a period of time when this is what we had to do, because it was in the best interests of the woman who was having an abortion to be on the labor floor. Can you believe that? Because the best care, according to the chairman, was provided by the labor floor team.

I really didn’t know that Dr. O. When I trained when I was training at the hospital, there weren’t any abortions performed there. I never heard of one.

They were never performed there. The abortion was performed on another floor and the patient was transferred down.

That’s amazing, I really didn’t know that. That’s sad to hear.

Yes, it was sad but I had to tell the nurses at the time, “Listen, you didn’t and I didn’t and none of us on this floor performed that abortion. However, this woman requires care, regardless of how we feel about what’s happening, that she requires care for herself. And we have to do the best we can to give her that care and empathy as much as our hearts can give her.”

I know Dr. O that you have tremendous empathy and also for the women that you’re helping now with the abortion pill reversal. Would you say, it’s time for us to stop but, would you tell us some last words just from your experience with these women that make another choice? First, they choose to abort and then they choose to try and save that baby. What’s your overarching feeling about working for abortion pill reversal?

I’m very happy to do it. I love doing it. Sometimes it is very difficult and trying, especially for the woman who really desperately wants that baby and then the medicine doesn’t work. Trying to carry her through that too as to get her to care and so on, but we know that. The attachment you have with that patient isn’t the same as if you had seen her in your office. You had time to look at her face to face.

That’s right.

It’s not quite the same attachment but I always tell them, “Look, I’m available 24/7. I don’t care what happens. If you need to talk to somebody just call me. You have my number.”

That’s so kind of you, Dr. O. I’m sure that these women are very fortunate to have you, whether or not they’re able to succeed in keeping their babies.

Exactly. I think that’s the important thing. They just need that somebody or to know that there’s somebody who’s willing to walk the walk with them,

That’s right.

Regardless of what choice they made in the first place. We’re all women, you know, and we know that one minute we decide one way and another minute we decide another way, you know?

Exactly.

And who am I? Who am I to judge why she decides to do what she decides to do or why she changes her mind? Who am I?

It sounds to me like people who are pro-choice should support this choice, right, Dr. O?

Exactly. Isn’t that called choice?

That’s choice.

The choice to abort and the choice to change your mind.

Thank you so much, Dr. O. I want to have you on again, maybe even within the same episode. This is a short segment, but I’d really love to talk to you because you have so much to tell us as somebody who understands all these processes so well about late term abortion and how that works. It’s a very complicated topic for most people, for me, of course, too. I’d love to have you on again.
Just to tell our listeners, we’ve been talking to Dr. Mary Jo O’Sullivan, who for decades, was the maternal fetal head of maternal fetal medicine at Jackson Memorial Hospital at the University of Miami, where I trained many moons ago.
I will link at the bottom on our podcast page for this episode, I’m going to link to the abortion pill reversal hotline and I’m also going to link to the studies, the medical studies, the clinical studies that have shown the kind of success that Dr. O has experienced working with abortion pill reversal. Thank you so much, Dr. O.

Okay. Dr. Christie. God bless you for the work you’re doing.

No. God bless you. Thank you.

Thank you. Bye-bye.

Bye.
Welcome back, friends. This is your host, Dr. Grazie Christie. This is Conversations with Consequences from the Catholic Association.
Today we have Dr. Mary Jo O’Sullivan, who is an OB-GYN with many decades of experience, running a very busy maternal fetal medicine program in our local university hospital, Jackson Memorial Hospital of the University of Miami. She has more experience probably than, at least as much as any other OB-GYN in the country. She is very kind to come on and talk with me and to all our listeners about these very touchy, these very difficult subjects to understand, which are all the ramifications of terms like late term abortion and chemical abortion and abortion pill reversal.
We talked about abortion pill reversal in the last segment, but now we’re going to be talking about late term abortion. Welcome to the show, Dr. O.

Thank you, Grazie and thank you for having me on.

Dr. O, very recently, just in the last few days or last week – this podcast radio show airs a little later – we heard, we read all over the place that Dr. Wen, who was the president of Planned Parenthood for only a little over eight months, was terminated in her eighth month from her presidency at Planned Parenthood. This is a really interesting thing, because it reveals what Planned Parenthood is all about and Planned Parenthood is not about health care.

I think that is so true because when she took over, one of the things apparently, and I’m getting all of this not being a member of Planned Parenthood or not on their board, so I have to go on what the media says, and I will admit the media is not always truthful, but one of the things that they pointed out that was a reason that the board gave for ceasing her employment was that she was not of the same ilk as the members of the board in terms of what the direction of Planned Parenthood should be. She had wanted to take Planned Parenthood a little bit more along the lines of giving women’s health care and a little bit less of pushing abortion.

Right, like the political advocacy part of Planned Parenthood, which is such a huge part of their organization. Maybe in their minds, it looks like now since they got rid of Dr. Wen, maybe the main point of the organization is to keep alive those funding streams that come from our tax dollars, right? From our friendly politicians.

That’s what I think. I think that they’re very worried about their funding. I think there’s no question that they’re worried about funding, especially with Trump as president. But I think in that worry, they really want to stay focused on the abortion issue and that’s very sad, really, because they should be giving more women’s health care, focusing more on that. That would really be in their better interest in serving the communities in which they place themselves, the inner cities.

Yes, but Dr. O, that sounds wonderful, but Planned Parenthood, the GYN – I’m not going to say OB because they don’t actually deliver babies – but the GYN ideals of Planned Parenthood aren’t really health care, right?

No, they’re abortion.

They’re abortion. That’s not how you as a doctor – I’m not even going to say a pro-life doctor, just as a classic, noble doctor, that’s not how you see medical care directed at women who are pregnant.

No, pregnancy is not a disease. In a disease, you treat the disease or you cut it out, okay? But pregnancy is not a disease. It’s a normal physiologic state and to say that abortion is a right, I have a little bit difficulty understanding how it’s the right to kill.

Doesn’t that idea that abortion is a right to kill, doesn’t that come into horrifying clarifying focus when we talk about late term abortion, which is abortion in the last maybe 18, 20 weeks of pregnancy?

Yes. Initially it was only meant for in the second trimester today to 24 weeks, but more recently it’s come to mean any gestational age.

There are many misconceptions around late term abortions so just to lay the table for a moment about this topic, late term abortion is something that does happen in the United States.

Oh, yes.

One of the misconceptions is that this is very rare. It is rare compared to the many hundreds of thousands of abortions that are happening in the first trimester.

That’s right.

There’s still over, I believe the numbers are something like 12,000 that we documented late term abortions going on in the United States. Some of these are performed at Planned Parenthood facilities, but not all. That’s one misconception that these are rare. They’re not rare.
Also, the other misconception is that they are done for only two reasons basically. Reason one is maternal health, because the mother is in grave danger of her life, and the other is that it’s that they’re otherwise done for fetal disability. In other words, a disability of the fetus that is so great that the baby is going to be born and subsequently die.
First of all, I can just say to our listeners, it’s not true. From the Guttmacher Institute, from their web pages, and we’ll put a link on our podcast show notes, most of these abortions are done for the same reasons. First trimester abortions are done for economic or social stresses in the mother’s life.

That’s correct. Yes. They are not the most commonly done for maternal health. It’s thought that it’s unnecessary to terminate the pregnancy for her health, which I have to say there are ways of doing that and keeping the baby alive.

That’s what I want you to explain to us, because when people hear the words mother is sick, the pregnancy needs to be terminated, what they understand is that mother is sick. The baby needs to be aborted. Meaning the end result will be a dead baby and a healthy mother.
Tell us, what’s the real truth about what you do when you have a mom who’s pregnant after 20 weeks and she needs to have the baby removed.

Delivered.

Delivered. Tell us what happens.

There are many reasons why this has to be done amongst them is infection. For example, she has ruptured membranes and she develops corioamnionitis. Corioamnionitis certainly can lead to severe sepsis and maternal death and so we have to deliver the pregnancy in that situation.
Now I won’t say, I have to honestly tell you, that I have had situations in which mothers will refuse that but I’ll come back to that. What we do in that situation, is we load her up with antibiotics. We know that the baby and the placenta are infected and so is the uterus so we have to empty the uterus in order to treat the infection. We are not willing the death of the baby. Okay?
We don’t kill the baby before we deliver that baby because we don’t know. We don’t know that that baby definitely will not survive. We can tell her that chances are extremely poor that the baby will survive. Let’s say you’re 22, 23 weeks. It’s not 100% that that baby is going to die.

So you believe that the baby deserves a chance at life if the mom is sick?

Absolutely. You don’t kill the baby first. You go ahead and you deliver the baby. Hopefully, maybe you’re going to be fortunate. Maybe, maybe not, but it’s not your aim to kill the baby. It’s your aim to treat the maternal infection without which treating, she’s likely to lose her life or her uterus.
Let’s take another scenario.

Please.

Besides infection, let’s take a scenario in which you have a mother with severe cardiac disease, okay? She’s at a point where we really cannot, because of the stress of the pregnancy, because of the deterioration in her cardiovascular status and the weakness of her heart muscles, whatever the case may be. We have to deliver her in order to relieve the increased circulating fluid volume, the stress on the heart and so on.
We do that after discussing it at great length and with the mother’s consent. I’ve had mothers refuse, but with the mother’s consent, we go ahead and deliver her by the most expeditious means that are least risk to her, which is usually vaginal delivery.
We induce labor and we hope and pray that the baby will survive. She has a chance then to hold her baby, which most of them want to do, but she has a chance to hold her baby and if that baby is going to die in her arms or the baby’s father’s arms, or maybe the grandmother’s arms with the family surrounding them, that’s a whole picture of such unbelievable love you cannot imagine.

That’s so beautiful, Dr. O.

It is beautiful and it is not killing.

It’s not killing. It’s loving that child until its very last moment.

This child is a child that they loved in utero. They still love even though this baby is going to die. They love this baby.

That is such a beautiful picture you paint, Dr. O. Another misconception, I think it’s a misconception. You can tell us. Is that abortion is easier on the mom than delivery.

Is that true? No. What do you mean abortion is easier on the mom? You mean by killing that baby first?

I think that most people imagine that if a bit of a woman were, even third trimester people, imagine that if a woman needs to have the pregnancy terminated, an abortion is an easier procedure on the mother than a birth.

Either way she still has to go through labor.

That’s true.

Unless you do a cesarean delivery. She still has to go through labor.

Have you done when the mother has to be delivered or the pregnancy terminated, have you done both C-sections and deliveries?

Yes, and a woman’s had a previous caesarean section, a scar over her uterus then you know, depending. You know, there are there are pros and cons. There are options. There are different ways of doing it but if she’s had a previous caesarean section, especially if it’s been a longitudinal incision in her uterus, what we call classical, then we then we go ahead and repeat the caesarean section.

In any case what if the people say, “Well, she should have an abortion”? In that case, then she still needs to have a C-section, right? Because she’s had a prior C-section and it could be dangerous for her to labor?

It depends upon the type of caesarean section.

Right, okay.

If she’s had a low segment caesarean section, she can still labor. You have to watch her carefully because there are risks, yes, but the risk is extremely low of rupturing her uterus.

The mother’s health is not endangered in any way with a delivery versus an abortion in her second or third trimester?

It’s still the same procedure.

Perfect. That’s exactly what I needed you to explain, Dr. O.

It’s the same procedure.

We’ve put aside, we’ve put to bed, the misconception that late term abortion is necessary for the mother’s health versus birth. You’re proposing that a birth is better for the whole family, for the baby, of course, who gets a chance at life, but also for the whole family that gets to welcome that baby and keep loving that baby instead of having the baby killed. I think that’s a wonderful point and it goes hand-in-hand with your whole attitude towards medical care for pregnant women. Right, Dr. O?

Yes. The best care for her. I want to tell you, this is an aside, okay?

Sure, go ahead.

I heard a story on NPR the other day, probably two weeks ago, about this woman who had a baby with a severe congenital anomaly, and she was told that this baby is suffering in utero and that the baby in the pregnancy needed to be terminated. Because the baby was undergoing such suffering and if the baby were to survive, the baby would be suffering as well.
I have a lot of issue with that. Of course, I wasn’t there. I don’t know what the baby had. I wasn’t the consulting medical person but I would take issue with some of those statements. This poor woman, and she was really happy with her decision that she decided to have the pregnancy terminated.
I don’t know how what gestational age, but it was late in pregnancy.

Because she felt she was being kind and merciful to her child.

Right. She felt that in her heart and soul, this was what she thought was best for what she was being told for her baby. I said to myself, when I’m listening to this, I wonder who is telling you this. I’m wondering what their thinking was.

And what their intent is.

Because I don’t think I’ve ever or whatever have to say that to a patient even with the most severe anomalies and I’ve seen some pretty severe anomalies. I’ve never had to say or felt that this baby was suffering in utero.

I’m glad you bring that up because the other misconception is that when children, when these late term abortions happen, if not for maternal health, because that’s necessary, which we know now is not true, they also happen because of fetal fatal disability.
We know and this is statistically the truth that many fetuses, many babies are rejected through abortion because of minor disabilities. I’ve seen babies eliminated because of a cleft lip. Personally, as well as a radiologist.

Or because it’s a male or a female.

Yes, or because it’s because it’s a girl.

Down’s syndrome.

Or Down’s syndrome. This is also a misconception. People really think that the babies that are being aborted have these terrible, terrible disabilities where the baby is going to be in pain, as you said in this NPR interview, and die a terrible death when their death could be quick. I guess they feel it’s merciful, an injection into the baby’s heart of digoxin and then be killed.

I think that they forget that we do have a system of palliative care for these babies as well. When we know, if we know that a baby is suffering, we can give the baby pain relief, okay? Without killing the baby we can give some pain relief and still leave the mother and baby together, if that’s her wish or the family’s wish or if they do not want to have the baby with them, then the baby goes to the intensive care unit nursery or something like that, but it’s the intensive care unit nursery. Those nurses really take great care of those babies.

Dr. O, you told me a story one time and it’s almost time for us to go but I thought maybe we could finish by you retelling the story. I hope you remember, it wasn’t long ago that you told me, because I think this shows what a pro-life OB-GYN is like and how their heart is moved by the plight of the children, not just the mothers.
You told me a story one time of a baby that was born too early to be to be viable. A baby that wasn’t viable, maybe he was 20 weeks or so. The mother didn’t want to hold the child and you carried the baby with you. Can you tell the story to our listeners?

Yes, I’ve done it so many times on the labor floor where when a baby like this is born and the mother no longer wants to hold the baby or have it with her, I will wrap the baby. I would wrap the baby in a towel and put the baby underneath my lab coat over my shoulder and walk around the floor with my lab coat closed and hold that baby so that when the baby’s dying with somebody who cares.
At least that’s the way I felt. I cared about that baby. I was loving that baby. I was keeping that baby warm. Some people might say, “Oh, you’re so damn proud.” That wasn’t why I was doing it.

I believe you.

I was doing it because I cared about that child and I didn’t want it to die alone.

Dr. O, if every OB-GYN in the country were like you, this would be a much better country and mothers would be getting the help that they really need, the care, the dignified, human, noble, highest care that a woman can receive when she’s pregnant, which is love for her and her child.

You speak very highly of me but let me tell you, I just couldn’t do it any other way. I just could not.

We wish that everyone was like you, Dr. O. Thank you so much for joining us for Conversations with Consequences.

You’re welcome, Grazie.

You must join us again. I’m sure we have lots of stuff to talk about in the future.

Okay, I’ll be happy to do so. May God bless you for the work that you’re doing.

God bless you, Dr. O.
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This week, as is customary, Father Roger Landry gives us a short but brilliant homily on this coming Sunday’s gospel. Please stay tuned for Father Landry and do look up his daily homily written and audio on his website catholicpreaching.com.

This is father, Roger Landry, and it is good once more to have a chance to enter with you into the conversation with consequences Jesus wants to have with us this Sunday.
As Jesus heading up to Jerusalem, teaching the multitudes, person from the crowd asked him how many actually make it to heaven. Jesus response is relevant to us, as it was to his listeners 2000 years ago. He didn’t respond by giving a number or even a relative percentage because he hadn’t come to die on Calvary to satisfy our curiosity.
He replied by answering not how many would be saved, but how to be saved. Strive to enter through the narrow door, He tells us, for many will seek to enter and not be able. The word translated as strive is the Greek word to agonize. To get to heaven, in other words, we need to agonize like Jesus did in the garden, get Simone to conform our will to the Father’s.
We need to work harder than when an undrafted free agent gives everything he’s got in training camp to make the cut. The width of the narrow door to heaven is the span of a needle’s eye, the girth of the cross, something that is anything but easy to pass through. Jesus told us that many will seek to enter through the narrow door, but not make it. There will be left outside the door pleading. We ate and drank in your presence, you taught in our streets and remembering, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?
Jesus says that God will then reply, “I never knew you”. He’s emphasizing there’s not enough to have heard Him speak, or to have eaten and drunk with him, even the Holy Eucharist, to proclaim the gospel in his name to exorcisms or even work miracles.
After all, didn’t Judas Iscariot do all of these things? But he never knew who Jesus was. Do we know him? Jesus wants to enter into intimate friendship in communion with us, but we need to follow him, not just on the outside, but in the inside. We need to become his true friend.
Jesus while he never answered the question of how many would be saved, did give us a snapshot of how many are heading in the direction of heaven and how many are on the path to hell. He said in Saint Matthew’s gospel, “For the door is wide in the road is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many and the door is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
This is not necessarily a picture of the way everything ends up, thanks be to God, because the whole mission of the church is to try to rescue people from the broad, easy, congested highway to hell and lead them to the narrow, uphill way of the cross that leads to life.

But it is a striking image given to us by Jesus himself about the way the vast majority of people are trending. Quick glance at the practice, the Beatitudes or the Sacraments or the Ten Commandments show us why Jesus’ point is as valid today as it was two millennia ago. Many are simply not living the Beatitudes or receiving the sacraments. So many are breaking regularly one or more of the commandments.
When we consider these relative trends and note how many times Jesus in the Gospel preached about judgment and about hell, does it really make any sense that many presume that the final exam of life, is going be an easy A, that almost everyone will get to heaven?
Hell, of course, was not part of God’s original plan. He created everything good. He formed a cinema in his image and likeness to share His life and love. But he took a tremendous risk in creating us free. The radical consequence of that liberty is that we could misuse our freedom against him, others and against ourselves. Jesus said that he had come into the world not to condemn it, but to save it. But then added, “One who rejects me and doesn’t receive my word, has a judge. The last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge.”
Those who reject His words of eternal life prefer to walk in darkness rather than light, become their own judges by the way they respond to the truth God has revealed.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end. Those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’, and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.’”
Hell exists therefore not despite God’s love, but precisely because of it. In order to honor the desires of those who don’t want to live in communion with Him and others, those who really don’t want to know Jesus and the Father who sent him in the spirit they themselves send.
So much, therefore, rests on our freedom, on our choices. God loves us indeed, wants us to be saved, but He also wants us to love Him.
But then Saint Paul says, “Work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” We can’t take that gift to salvation for granted. We have to seize it. Jesus wants us to strive to make knowing Him in prayer, in the sacraments, in others in the church he founded the greatest priority of our life. May each of us receive his help this Sunday and after this consequential conversation enter more fully into Him who is the gate of the eternal sheepfold.
God bless you.

Thank you, Father Landry, for another wonderful homily segment. It’s short, but it’s very sweet and very good and it prepares us for our upcoming Sunday gospel. For our listeners, if you’d like to listen to Father Landry’s daily homily or read it because it’s also written out, you can go to catholicpreaching.com and I highly recommend. It’s a wonderful way to do your daily meditation or your daily prayer. That’s how I use it. Thank you again, Father Landry.
To me this was a fabulous episode. I hope our listeners also enjoyed it. I’m Dr. Grazie Christie with Conversations with Consequences. We’re a service of the Catholic Association and we had Dr. Mary Jo O’Sullivan, who is a long time, many decades OB-GYN, head of maternal fetal medicine at our local teaching hospital, a woman of tremendous experience and more importantly, a woman of tremendous understanding of the dignity of every human life, especially the life of the unborn little children, and then in her hands, also the born. She told us a beautiful story.
I hope all of you enjoyed the podcast and please join us next week. You can subscribe to our weekly podcast at thecatholicassociation.org/podcasts, or if you’re listening on the radio Fridays at 11:00 a.m. on the Guadalupe Radio Network.