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Thomas E. Jacobsen, M.D., Published May 04 2013

Letter to the editor: New laws punish ND women

I have practiced medicine in North Dakota for nearly 47 years. I have delivered nearly 5,000 babies, and I do feel I understand pregnant women better than the average individual on the street.

I always thought my examination room was for me and my patients. This past legislative year, my examination room has become very crowded with legislators, the governor, clergy and anyone else who wants to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.

I do not perform pregnancy terminations, but I have advised some patients to undergo them if I believe they have a medical condition that could jeopardize their health and well-being, or if they had a fetus that had no chance of surviving the pregnancy or life outside the womb. Now our lawmakers and governor make it mandatory that the woman has to carry a fetus with Potter’s syndrome or one with anencephaly, knowing it will not survive under any circumstances. Why not let her have a choice?

How can a bunch of lawmakers know what is going on in the mind of a pregnant woman who is raped or is carrying a fetus with no chance of survival? Do all these lawmakers have degrees in psychology and know what is best for the woman’s mind and body? They do not know the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy, yet they pass and sign laws preventing the woman from having any choice. Most rapes are not reported because the woman feels no one (especially men) would believe them, or she has been made to believe that she was at fault and now she is ashamed.

I am old enough to remember seeing women die because of botched “coat hanger” or “slippery elm” abortions done in back-alley abortion mills. Do we want to go back to those days? I think not.

I have done obstetrics for the past 47 years and am still doing so, including ultrasounds. At six weeks, the pregnancy is seen as a blob with a heartbeat. If that pregnancy now shows up at 18 weeks with Potter’s syndrome or worse, should not the woman have a choice to terminate the pregnancy and move on with her life?

All these new laws interfere with a woman’s right to choose. How about the male who impregnates her against her wishes? Very little happens to him. I know of a “sperm donor” who at 26 years of age has impregnated six different women. I really cannot call him a father. Can’t the Legislature pass, and the governor sign, laws to have him castrated? They pass laws limiting a woman’s civil rights, so they should be able to do the same for a man.

It is a shame that the state will have to appropriate monies to defend these laws when that money could stay in the state and be used to increase the minimal salary for teachers so they do not have to leave the state to make a living.

I hope the responsible voters of the state will make certain that there will be an entirely new face to the next Legislature, so that such a powerful body of lawmakers cannot make such poor decisions regarding a woman’s mind and body.


Jacobsen practices family medicine at West River Health Services in Hettinger, N.D.