Garson Romalis: “Why I am an abortion doctor”

by matttbastard

Via Jill @ Feministe: check out this speech given by Canadian abortion provider Garson Romalis, delivered on January 25th at the University of Toronto Law School’s Symposium to Mark the 20th Anniversary of R. vs. Morgentaler:

I have been an abortion provider since 1972. Why do I do abortions, and why do I continue to do abortions, despite two murder attempts? The first time I started to think about abortion was in 1960, when I was in secondyear medical school. I was assigned the case of a young woman who had died of a septic abortion. She had aborted herself using slippery elm bark.

I had never heard of slippery elm. A buddy and I went down to skid row, and without too much difficulty, purchased some slippery elm bark to use as a visual aid in our presentation. Slippery elm is not sterile, and frequently contains spores of the bacteria that cause gas gangrene. It is called slippery elm because, when it gets wet, it feels slippery. This makes it easier to slide slender pieces through the cervix where they absorb water, expand, dilate the cervix, produce infection and induce abortion. The young woman in our case developed an overwhelming infection. At autopsy she had multiple abscesses throughout her body, in her brain, lungs, liver and abdomen.

I have never forgotten that case.

After I graduated from University of British Columbia medical school in 1962, I went to Chicago, where I served my internship and Ob/Gyn residency at Cook County Hospital. At that time, Cook County had about 3,000 beds, and served a mainly indigent population. If you were really sick, or really poor, or both, Cook County was where you went.

The first month of my internship was spent on Ward 41, the septic obstetrics ward. Yes, it’s hard to believe now, but in those days, they had one ward dedicated exclusively to septic complications of pregnancy.

About 90% of the patients were there with complications of septic abortion. The ward had about 40 beds, in addition to extra beds which lined the halls. Each day we admitted between 10-30 septic abortion patients. We had about one death a month, usually from septic shock associated with hemorrhage.

I will never forget the 17-year-old girl lying on a stretcher with 6 feet of small bowel protruding from her vagina. She survived.

I will never forget the jaundiced woman in liver and kidney failure, in septic shock, with very severe anemia, whose life we were unable to save.

Today, in Canada and the U.S., septic shock from illegal abortion is virtually never seen. Like smallpox, it is a “disappeared disease.”

As they say, read the whole damn thing.  Then read it again. The dedication to providing women with an essential service displayed by medical practitioners like Romalis and embattled Kansas abortion provider George Tiller, despite constantly facing legitimate threats to their lives, is truly heroic.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

10 thoughts on “Garson Romalis: “Why I am an abortion doctor”

  1. I read a transcript of this speech in yesterday’s paper. I was left in awe by the man’s courage and conviction. It got me to thinking on the topic. If somehow men were the sex that bore babies, and men continued to maintain postions of authority in government and the church, how long ago would abortion have become not only legal, but a perfectly acceptable choice.


  2. I agree, it’s truly heroic to kill babies instead of addressing the social problems that cause women to have unwanted pregnancies. bravo. that’s truly the high path of conviction.

    mind you, I in no way support at all the terrorist actions taken against this man. those are completely wrong. however, just because someone is persecuted doesn’t mean he is right. in this case, being attacked wrongly does not make it “right” for him to attack unborn human life.


  3. American Papist, you have obviously never known a woman who has had a medically NECESSARY late-term abortion. Maybe you’d be okay with your sister or mother, or spouse (if you’re a male), or yourself (if you’re female) dying unnecessarily, when terminating the pregnancy could have saved their life, but I’m not.

    Go tell it to the Altar and Rosary Society, papist American.


  4. Oh gods. Not one of those….

    The “problems” that have existed since time began you mean?
    Unwanted pregnancies. Geeeeeeeeeeze. I guess you can try to rewrite the last few thousand years….
    Abortion and Contraception have been in use for that long.
    Its just been the last couple thousand years where some cult demands everyone does it their way.


  5. well.. good for the women in his area.. atleast, they have him to run to.. and they have a choice.. a safe choice.. hmmm..


  6. I would like to first point out that the two attempts on this man’s life is wrong. He also has lots of gumption to make his name and views known. I admire this quality in him.

    I do not, however, admire what he does. The simple reason is this. Modern science has proven that the human embryo is a distinct life form separate from the mother. He/she has a distinct DNA code that is unique from the mother and will do what it can to survive on it’s own. (granted that the embryo is not all that capable of surviving on it’s own, but a birthed baby is not that capable as well) Back in the 70s we did not have the same level of knowledge of DNA that we have now. The question if an embryo is a distinct human life is now out of the hands of theologians and philosophers, and has now been proven by hard empirical data. To believe that an embryo (and later stages of development) is similar to other organs in the mother’s body is to ignore the scientific facts that prove the embryo is distinct.

    I know that people will bring up situations where the mother’s life is in danger unless an abortion is done. This is true, and I agree that abortions should be allowed in such circumstances. If you were to look up the percentages of abortions that match this situation, you would find that it is very low. Then people will bring up the question of rape and incest, which is an extremely difficult situation. A quick look at how many rapes end up in pregnancy is surprisingly low. No one seems sure why but the numbers are there. Take these difficult situations away, and you are still left with the lion’s share of abortions. Abortions of convenience.

    You can’t make the argument of rare situations where abortions might make moral sense and use that as justification for use of abortions of all situations. Science has now proven that babies in the woman’s body is something distinct and different from the woman. In other words, the baby is his/her own life, not the same as the mother’s life.

    Laws can easily be made that can accommodate the rare situations where abortions may be justifiable while preserving the lives of distinct human lives. I wonder when the laws will catch up with science.


  7. This is flawed logic! How can people accept this? This man uses shocking examples to prove why he does abortions. These are weak arguments that prey on people’s emotions. Do we really need to hear about a 17 year old “with 6 feet of small bowel protruding from her vagina”?? No! He makes that statement to get you feeling disgusted and ill and then proceeds to justify his actions because his actions prevent these terrible things from happening. And people swallow this logic.

    The logic he proposes is that the alternative (illegal abortions) is worse does not justify legal abortion. Society does not legalize prostitution using this logic. Legal prostitution has many benefits including reduced disease transmission, improved living conditions, overall better health, greater protection from abuse, etc. None of this means we should legalize prostitution. Instead, as a society, we try to deal with the problem instead of the symptom. We try to educate, empower and encourage these women and men to live productive, healthy lives instead of prostituting themselves.

    Same argument for legalizing drugs. The problem is drug addiction, symptoms include increased crime, poor health, etc. Legalizing drugs or making drugs easier for people to get is only dealing with the symptoms. Deal with the problem, not the symptom.

    Same argument for abortion. The problem is unwanted pregnancy. The living being inside the mother’s womb is the symptom. Abortion is dealing with the symptom, not the problem. Teach contraception, abstinence (gosh!) and proper healthy living!

    Any scientist will tell you that a fetus is an individual, living being…separate DNA, heartbeat, brainwaves, etc.

    Abortion has become birth control, plain and simple. Yes, there are cases of rape or where the mother’s life is in danger. These cases are a very, very small percentage of unwanted pregnancies . They can be dealt with.

    Abortion stops a beating heart. It terminates (kills) a living being. My wife has been working for over 12 years with women who have had abortions and are now dealing with the mental and emotional trauma that results. It is a very, very difficult job and I admire my wife more than anyone else.

    What my wife does is heroic. The women who have had abortions and are now facing the reality of what they did…that’s heroic. What Morgentaler and Romalis do is not heroic. I feel sorry for people who think their actions are heroic. They are anything but.

    We look back at our ancestors and hang our heads in shame as the barbaric things they did. Be it slavery, the holocaust, etc.

    Make no mistake, future generations will look back in shame at what we’ve done to our most vulnerable group (unborn babies).


  8. there,

    My name is Jack Steele. I am the informant who helped police solve the James Kopp case.

    I provided the tip that led to the arrest and conviction of James Kopp, who shot three Canadian doctors before shooting and killing an American doctor. Kopp is an anti-abortion fanatic who targeted the doctors because they were performing abortions.

    A Canadian police task force put up a reward of $547,000 for information leading to Kopp’s arrest and conviction. I provided that information, which the FBI has acknowledged. (The FBI paid me their part of the reward already.) But today the Canadian police task force refuses to pay me the promised reward money. The FBI has written two letters protesting this injustice.

    I’ve created a website to make people aware of what’s happened:

    I hope you’ll publicize my website. The actions of the Canadian police are bound to have a chilling effect on other tipsters in criminal cases, and sends a horrible message to other people who would do harm to abortion providers in Canada and the US.

    –Jack Steele


  9. Abortion is a repulsive and selfish act, and women that die from complications of abortion FULLY deserve to suffer that consequence. Pro-choice? It’s your CHOICE when you decide to spread your legs. Grow up, take responsibility, and stop killing innocent children. And yes that is exactly what abortion providers and women having abortions are doing… Murdering children. Become educated- a baby in utero doesn’t “magically transform” into a human being when it is born.
    I’m by no means a clinic bomber, but I have NO sympathy for abortion doctors that have been killed, nor women that have died from abortions. That’s called justice. And if those people don’t face it on earth, they surely will when their time on earth is done.


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