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Teachers Required to Give Students False Information

Monday, August 12th, 2013

In a prime example of why parents must stay informed about their children’s school curriculum, North Carolina governor Pat McCrory signed a bill in July requiring that middle school students must be taught that abortion is a preventable cause of preterm births. Incidentally, this comes after McCrory’s promise not to sign any bills regarding abortion, period. But McCrory did not act alone; 73 state senators agreed that it was okay to give students erroneous information in the classroom.

I realize that this is a hot button issue for many, but let’s focus on the real issue here: middle school teachers required by law to lie to students. Is lie too strong a word? Absolutely not, and here’s why: There is no scientific evidence that abortions cause preterm labor. Let me say that again. There is no scientific evidence to support the idea that abortion causes preterm labor. This seems to be just another thinly disguised attempt to limit women’s ability to make choices for their own lives.

Proponents of the bill point to recent studies that show a limited risk of preterm births following abortions, but these studies and the recommendations made based on them are flawed. For one, they did not distinguish between successful medical abortions and those requiring surgery. In addition, they did not distinguish between induced and spontaneous abortions. Furthermore, legislators ignore the fact that the studies showed no increase at all in preterm births after abortions from 2000 onward, a fact probably contributable to modernized abortion methods.

In fact, David Grimes, a North Carolina professor of obstetrics and gynecology, called the bill “state sponsored ideology,” and pointed out that “the World Health Organization, the CDC, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics… and the American Public Health Association have all concluded that abortion does not cause prematurity.”

So why would these legislators support this bill? Do they have their own agendas, or do they just not understand the facts? Who knows – just do your part by staying informed, thinking for yourself, and getting your facts from the experts, not the politicians. Have a conversation with your middle school kids about this and other sex education topics. Don’t leave it to the schools.

To close, let me be crystal clear on this. This issue has nothing to do with how anyone may feel about abortion. It has only to do with the integrity of our schools’ curriculum being compromised by untruth. Be the voice of accuracy at home. Teach your kids how to find reliable information. You are free to teach your children about your moral beliefs. But at least tell the truth about the facts so that they are free to develop their own morals and form their own conclusions based in reality, not folklore.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

Better Knowledge of Symptoms Leads Gynecological Cancer Survivors to Seek Treatment

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Though your doctor can provide much in the way of education about your health, the burden of determining whether or not a symptom is in need of treatment or diagnosis can fall into the hands of the patient. However, this can be a catch-22—self-diagnosis via Internet message boards and medical sites can be just as detrimental to a woman’s health as ignoring her symptoms completely, especially if she makes her own decisions about her care or treatment without consulting with her doctor. This leads to a problem that many doctors are finding it difficult to solve.

We want patients to be informed about their bodies and their health; however, we don’t want our patients to think that self-diagnosis is the way to go when it comes to caring for their bodies long-term. It is important to consider how women use message boards and medical websites to supplement their own understanding about their health. One study done on women in Japan showed that gynecological cancer survivors were more likely to seek treatment after searching online and connecting with others who had those same symptoms.

This proves that the Internet can be a great tool for assessing whether or not a symptom is normal—after all, it can be easy to dismiss something as natural without taking into account that it very well may not be. What seems to be a minor issue can easily be a symptom of something much greater. When women use the technology at their disposal to educate themselves about their health and use that education to open a dialogue with their doctor about whether or not they are in need of diagnostics or treatment, they are taking a proactive step toward bettering their health. Every woman should be aware of the importance of educating themselves about their bodies—but it is just as important that women realize self-diagnosis can be dangerous. Part of educating yourself is understanding that you are learning to communicate with your doctor, and aren’t trying to play “doctor” yourself.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.