Dr. Lawrence Lazor: Outlawing elective abortions will increase danger for women

We are all living in a political era fraught with division. Our politics are steeped in tension and charged with emotion and no issue is more volatile than abortion. As the Republican nominee for Connecticut’s 1st Congressional District and an OBGYN who’s been practicing for more than 30 years, I feel I have a unique perspective to add to the discussion — both on abortion and on our approach to politics more broadly.

I have been clear from the beginning of my candidacy that I support abortion rights. This is not a position I came to lightly. Anything but. I’ve had countless difficult exam room discussions with patients over the past 30 years. I have seen children pregnant from incest, pregnancies caused by sexual assault, fetuses with anomalies significant enough to call the baby’s quality of life into question, and woman who have medical comorbidities that make pregnancy a life-threatening proposition. In all of these cases, the ability to opt for an abortion is important.

True, most first-trimester abortions don’t have any of these extenuating circumstances, but I also support elective abortions until the baby is viable. This position is also informed by my patient care experience. Unplanned pregnancies are just that, unplanned. While we can and should ask ourselves what we would do if we found ourselves, our significant others, our daughters, our sisters facing such a difficult situation, we don’t truly know unless it happens. I’ve had countless patients and families from every conceivable background reconsider their previous opposition to abortion when they find themselves suddenly facing an unplanned pregnancy. Everyone deserves empathy — and I believe this group also deserves the benefit of the doubt.

There are plenty of reasons why protecting elective abortions is best for the potential mother, best for the family and best for society. Outlawing elective abortions will result in increased danger for women, as some will invariably risk their lives attempting to induce an abortion using unsafe means. Further, physicians expect that a ban on abortions would lead to more children born into situations where an unstable parental relationship, financial hardship, medical issues, or mental health struggles come into play. An abortion ban would increase the number of children born into families without the social, emotional, or financial resources to care for these unplanned children, raising the question of whether we want to commit the resources we would need to respond to the consequences of mandating every unplanned pregnancy be carried to term.

To be clear, abortion is the last resort. In Congress, I would vote to outlaw any elective termination of a healthy pregnancy after medical viability (20 weeks from conception). At that point, the calculus changes. At 20 weeks in, the fetus meets the broadly accepted medical definition of human life and the mother has had ample time to consider getting an abortion.

I understand that as a Republican, my pro-choice position makes me a sort of unicorn in this political climate, but I believe that doing so is important. As a congressional candidate, voters deserve to know where I stand so they aren’t confused or misled. It’s also a chance to remind people that there’s room to deviate from the views of their camp for the sake of compromise, progress, deeply held moral beliefs, or some combination of the three.

I’m a Republican because I believe in limited government. That said, the abortion issue is one I feel we Republicans have gotten wrong. Further, it’s one we need to move away from — especially if we want to win the support of a wider, more diverse swath of the American public.

Those I side with in the abortion debate aren’t blameless either. Attention-grabbing tactics like staging mock abortions in front of churches and purposefully antagonizing pro-life demonstrators aren’t helping anyone. We need to show more empathy and respect.

Mindless tribalism from both camps distracts us from the fact that there’s a lot we can agree on. Whether or not we support abortion, we can agree that it’s in everyone’s best interest to minimize unplanned pregnancies. We can come together to implement policies to do just that, starting with making quality sex education more widely available, discouraging risky sexual behavior and expanding access to birth control, especially IUDs.

I understand that this is a difficult to talk about, as opinions are both deeply held and very personal. I am aware that there are many thoughtful people who disagree with my viewpoint and I respect that their beliefs come from a place of good intentions. What I’d call for on this and every issue — whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice — is a mindset centered on building consensus and respect rather than division and distrust. That is the roadmap toward progress for all Americans.

Lawrence Lazor is a Republican running to represent the 1st Congressional District