Guest Commentary

In our heightened abortion wars, where are the real Republicans?

Then-state Sen. Marvin Singleton, a Republican from Seneca, spoke about a bill that would classify certain types of late-term abortion as murder on Sept. 16, 1999, in Jefferson City. The Senate later voted to override Gov. Mel Carnahan’s veto and the bill became law.
Then-state Sen. Marvin Singleton, a Republican from Seneca, spoke about a bill that would classify certain types of late-term abortion as murder on Sept. 16, 1999, in Jefferson City. The Senate later voted to override Gov. Mel Carnahan’s veto and the bill became law. Associated Press file photo

With the assault on women’s health care, conducted for the last 20 years by Republicans and carried on today by those who follow President Donald Trump, the GOP is no longer the party of compassion, individual rights and responsibility.

What has caused this blinding epiphany? I have recognized the party’s total aversion to family planning and its ignoring the benefits of reproductive health for all.

I must admit, I am old enough to remember President Richard Nixon signing family planning legislation in 1970 that authorized federal funding for groups such as Planned Parenthood. In fact, Former Sen. Barry Goldwater’s wife, Peggy, was a founding member of Planned Parenthood in Arizona. When he represented Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives, George H.W. Bush was an outspoken advocate for family planning, birth control, sex education and reproductive rights of women. These were some of my mentors, and I followed their example.

Although these issues were not particularly on my horizon at the time, events occurred during my service in medical school rotation that left a lasting impression. As medical students in 1964, we were assigned the duties of providing private care to seriously ill patients on the wards. I was once assigned night duty to look after four different young women who had received illegal abortions. I watched my patients die agonizingly painful deaths from tetanus, also known as “lockjaw.”

That was my personal experience — not to mention that of many other doctors, student doctors, women and the rest of the country — prior to the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, which legalized abortion. Making abortion legal, medically safe and more freely available has ultimately saved thousands of women’s lives.

Considering the principles that I developed through my experiences, I remain in favor of family planning and a woman having control over her own reproductive rights.

On Sept. 30, 1976, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the original Hyde Amendment, named for its chief sponsor, Republican Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois. This federal law guarantees that no federal funds can be used for abortions, except in narrowly limited circumstances.

My journey following my Republican principles lead me to serve over 12 years as a Republican state senator in Missouri. Prior to my time in office, I practiced medicine, and also served on the board of a free medical clinic and as president of the Missouri State Medical Association. As I do today, I continued to believe that abortion should be available for certain exceptions.

This was not sufficient for the most extreme elements of the electorate, and I now realize that apparently nothing will satisfy these people other than government-mandated pregnancy or a total loss of our freedoms to make personal choices. The near-total abortion ban that Gov. Mike Parson signed Friday was a major step in the wrong direction.

I continue to hope that the phoenix of the Republican Party will rise again in support of individual responsibility and choice, including family planning services — and certainly not send people to jail for obtaining or performing an abortion.

I hope members of the party will finally recognize that compassion and humanism are strengths — certainly not weaknesses.

Marvin A. Singleton is a physician. He represented Missouri’s 32nd District as a Republican in the state Senate from 1989 to 2002.

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