Protecting Abortion, Ignoring Safety

This is the official statement of the National Association of Pro-life Nurses on the Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstatd decision of the U.S. Supreme Court:

The National Association of Pro-life Nurses joins the chorus of astonished Americans who are in disbelief that the Supreme Court of the United States has turned their backs on American women who procure abortions in facilities which do not meet the same health and safety standards as other facilities performing similar invasive procedures.

In Whole Women’s Health V. Hellerstadt the Supreme Court has once again sacrificed the health and well-being of women to political correctness in its 5-3 decision. This is the real War on Women. As the American Association of Pro-Life OB Gyns says (see statement below), it is Supreme Stupidity as it drastically reduces the safety of abortion across the United States. If the Texas law and similar other state laws across the country incur an “undue burden” on the abortion industry, do not similar laws governing the safety and health standards of other free-standing clinics also place an undue burden on the operators thereby negating the justification of such laws?

This is a sad day for the health of Americans everywhere with its far reaching implications and for those of us in the medical profession who are forced to observe these tragic decisions. Such is the state of political correctness in America today.

For Immediate Release from The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists:   

SUPREME STUPIDITY:  Common Sense Health and Safety Requirements for Elective Abortion Struck Down by Supreme Court.

As a professional body of 4000 physicians and reproductive health care professionals,   the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists exists to defend both the lives of pregnant women and their unborn children.   AAPLOG is greatly concerned about the impact of the Supreme Court decision in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstadt,  the Texas Clinic Regulations case.    By striking down common sense health and safety regulations that apply to all standard surgical procedures,   the Supreme Court has not only taken away the ability of State Governments to regulate the practice of medicine within their borders but has also made elective abortion mills exempt from controls of any kind.

This politically motivated decision  by the Supreme Court will drastically reduce the safety of abortions across the country, as now abortion clinics and abortionists will be accountable to no one for the conditions inside their walls.   Surgical abortion carries all the risks of any other surgery, and offices which perform abortion should have to meet the same safety standards as those who perform any other comparable surgery.   Medical abortion frequently leads to severe hemorrhage resulting in the need for emergency surgery and transfusions.   Today’s Supreme Court ruling means that abortion clinics across the nation are now permitted to be incapable of responding to these known and predictable surgical emergencies.

The people of Texas clearly wanted to protect women who undergo elective abortion from the Gosnell-type situations in which the woman’s life is put in jeopardy by substandard conditions.   The 5 unelected Justices in the Supreme Court today prevented the State of Texas from regulating the practice of medicine within Texas.   

Abortionists do not face the kind of accountability and safety environments in which all other physicians operate.   Today the Supreme Court made abortionists immune from peer accountability and immune from state regulation.    This lack of accountability legally minimizes the safety of women undergoing abortion procedures.

Those who promote elective abortion as a “medical” procedure desire the status of medicine, without the responsibility of patient safety or accountability.  This Supreme Court decision puts abortionists and their substandard practices above the law.   This decision will effectively allow abortionists to practice without meeting basic safety requirements.   If the Supreme Court really cared about women’s health, this was an exceedingly stupid decision.

 The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists is a professional organization of over 4000 Reproductive Health Care physicians, midwives and others across the country.   AAPLOG exists to provide an evidence based defense of both the pregnant woman and her unborn child.

Office:  202 230-0997

My Submission to the New Zealand Parliment on Physician-assisted Suicide

On January 30, 2016, I wrote this submission to the New Zealand Parliament’s Health Committee. Today I received an email that it was accepted.

Here is my submission:

Please Reject Physician-assisted Suicide by Nancy Valko, RN ALNC

Nancy Valko, RN ALNC

I have been a registered nurse in the US since 1969. After working in critical care, hospice, home health, oncology, dialysis and other specialties for 45 years, I am currently working as a legal nurse consultant and volunteer. Over the years, I have cared for many suicidal people as well as people who attempt suicide.

I have served on medical and nursing ethics committees, served on disability and nursing boards. I have written and spoken on medical ethics-especially end of life issues-since 1984.


marievalko Picture of Marie Valko 1979-2009

As a nurse and the mother of a suicide victim, I am alarmed to learn that New Zealand is considering the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. I beg you to uphold the legal and ethical standard that the medical profession must not kill their patients or help them kill themselves. Suicide is a tragedy to be prevented if possible, not a civil right. I am also willing to make an oral submission to the New Zealand parliament.

My Daughter Marie Killed Herself Using an Assisted Suicide Technique

In 2009, I lost a beautiful, physically well 30-year-old daughter, Marie, to suicide after a 16-year battle with substance abuse and other issues. Her suicide was like an atom bomb dropped on our family, friends and even her therapists.

Despite all of our efforts to save her, my Marie told me that she learned how to kill herself from visiting suicide/assisted suicide websites and reading Derek Humphry’s book Final Exit. The medical examiner called Marie’s suicide technique “textbook final exit” but her death was neither dignified nor peaceful.

Marie was not mere collateral damage in the controversy over physician-assisted suicide. She was a victim of the physician-assisted suicide movement, seduced by the rhetoric of a painless exit from what she believed was a hopeless life of suffering.

Suicide Contagion

Adding to our family’s pain, at least two people close to Marie became suicidal not long after her suicide. Luckily, these two young people received help and were saved, but suicide contagion, better known as “copycat suicide”, is a well-documented phenomenon. Often media coverage or publicity around one death encourages other vulnerable people to commit suicide in the same way.

Study Shows Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide is Associated with an increased rate of Total Suicides

A recent article in the Southern Medical Journal titled “How Does Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide Affect Rates of Suicide?” came to these conclusions:

“Legalizing PAS has been associated with an increased rate of total suicides relative to other states and no decrease in nonassisted suicides. This suggests either that PAS does not inhibit (nor acts as an alternative to) nonassisted suicide, or that it acts in this way in some individuals but is associated with an increased inclination to suicide in other individuals.”

The Health and Economic Costs of Suicide

My Marie was one of the almost 37,000 reported US suicides in 2009. In contrast, only about 800 assisted-suicide deaths have been reported in the past 16 years in Oregon, the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for Americans in 2012, with “More than 1 million people reported making a suicide attempt in the past year” and “More than 2 million adults reported thinking about suicide in the past year.” The CDC estimates that suicide “costs society approximately $34.6 billion a year in combined medical and work loss costs”, not to mention the emotional toll on families.

Obviously our real health-care crisis here is a staggering and increasing rate of suicides, not the lack of enough assisted suicides.

Brittany Maynard

There was a media frenzy in October 2014 when of Brittany Maynard, a young newlywed woman with a brain tumor, announced plans to commit physician-assisted suicide on November 1 and raise money to have physician-assisted suicide legalized in all US states. There was an immediate and unprecedented media frenzy surrounding Ms. Maynard’s tragic story that routinely portrayed her pending assisted suicide as “heroic” and even counting down the days to her suicide. Personally, I thought this looked like a crowd on the street shouting for a suicidal person on a window ledge to jump.

In the end, Brittany hesitated for a day before she went through with her pledge to take the lethal overdose.

Now, assisted suicide supporters even deny that physician-assisted suicide is suicide, insisting that media stories use euphemisms like “aid-in-dying” and “death with dignity” in cases like Ms. Maynard’s to make assisted suicide more palatable to the public. However, this defies common sense when the definition of suicide is the intentional taking of one’s own life.

Physician-assisted Suicide and Medical Discrimination

I have been a registered nurse for 46 years, working in intensive care, oncology, hospice and home health among other specialties. Personally and professionally, I have cared for many people who attempt or consider killing themselves.

Some of these people were old, chronically ill or had disabilities. Some were young and physically healthy. A few were terminally ill. I cared for all of them to the best of my ability without discrimination as to their condition, age, socioeconomic status, race or gender. I will do anything to help my patients — except kill them or help them kill themselves.

Suicide prevention and treatment works, and the standards must not be changed just because some people insist their desire for physician-assisted suicide is rational and even a civil right

Tolerating Evil

Years ago, one of my daughters was caught after she did something she knew was wrong. “But it looked so good!” she wailed. I told her that if evil looked like it really was, no one would choose it.

I thought of this incident when I read Kathleen Parker’s June 10, 2016 USA op-ed titled “Freedom to kill and permission for sick people to die”.

In the article, Ms. Parker reveals her struggle:

“Here, I should confess my own ambivalence. Basically, I’d like to have the means to end my own life on my own terms when my body has clearly called it quits. I’m just not sure I like the idea of the state and doctors lending a hand.”

Many people can find physician-assisted suicide alluring when they ponder their own potential demise. As a former hospice nurse myself, I recognized this in some of my patients even before assisted suicide was legalized. However, with care and treatment, we were able to help these patients live as well as possible before death. And I never saw a patient go on to die by suicide or assisted suicide.

It is a myth that a personal choice for assisted suicide will not affect others or have far-reaching consequences.

Ms. Parker’s conclusion recognizes this:

“As more than a dozen other states consider similar legislation, it isn’t irrational to wonder whether, in tampering with our medical culture of healing, we aren’t inviting unintended consequences that we’ll live — or die — to regret.”

The truth of her conclusion became starkly obvious when a few days after California’s new assisted suicide law took effect,  one doctor immediately opened up a dedicated assisted suicide clinic in San Francisco.

Dr. Lonnie Shavelson, 64 and a long-time supporter of assisted suicide, was an emergency room doctor for 29 year and then spend 7 years at an Oakland clinic for immigrants and refugees before taking a 2 year break.

His new assisted suicide business could be quite lucrative. Although Medicare will not pay for assisted suicide costs, Shavelson says he will charge $200 for an initial patient evaluation. If the patient is deemed qualified under California law, Shavelson said he would charge another $1800 for more visits, evaluations and legal forms..

Like the past so-called “back alley” abortionists, Shavelson defends his business by claiming that “..the demand (for assisted suicide) is so high, that the only compassionate thing to do would be to bring it above ground and regulate it.”

We cannot afford to be ambivalent or tolerant about evil, whether it is abortion, assisted suicide, terrorism, etc. Evil never limits itself because evil always seeks to expand unless it is stopped

We only have to look at Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium and other countries where assisted suicide has already expanded to direct euthanasia and, in some of those countries, even without consent and for virtually any psychological, emotional or physical condition.

“If We are Blessed with Children…”

Joy and Chris were married May 21, 2016. Joy is my daughter and both families were thrilled when Chris proposed. The ceremony was solemnly and beautifully performed at Immaculate Conception Church in Dardenne Prairie, Mo. where they will live. The wedding reception was great fun and went off without a hitch.

But one of the most moving times for me first came at Joy’s bridal shower. Chris was videotaped answering questions like “What do you like most about Joy?” for a bridal shower game played by the guests. Points were given for every right answer Chris and Joy predicted the other would say.

One question was “How many children do you want?” Chris answered “If we are blessed with children, we will take them one at a time.”

That answer caused a stir among the young women at the shower. One remarked that you could tell that Joy and Chris went to Natural Family Planning classes during the Pre-Cana preparation for their marriage.

Actually, they did and they learned about fertility awareness to naturally achieve or postpone pregnancy. Such classes are also available to people of any religion or none at all through groups like the Couple-to-Couple League. There are even fertility awareness methods to find the causes and treat infertility through Naprotechnology.

It is common today to hear newlywed couples talk about not necessarily having children at all or postponing off having children indefinitely for various reasons like finishing school, achieving financial stability or establishing careers. It is as if children are an just another option rather than a blessing.

With the myriad of glossy contraceptive commercials, free contraceptives under Obamacare promoted as “reproductive health” and sex ed courses in schools focused on how to avoid pregnancy and STDs, it is not surprising that many of today’s young adults also often view sex as recreation or “tryouts” rather than a physical/emotional union that can produce children.

Joy and Chris are also very health conscious. That is another big reason they were attracted to Natural Family Planning. They have seen the damage caused by abortion, the risks of hormonal contraception, single parents who are struggling,  and couples coping with infertility. They take marriage and childbearing seriously.

But best of all, they also see their adorable nieces and nephews and friends’ children growing up with loving, committed parents who are wonderful role models. This another reason they are excited by the prospect of parenthood.

Life is a challenge with many surprises and marriage requires a lot but I salute Joy and Chris for trying to make a great start!