By Kathy Dammarell

Do you have a point you’d like to make or an issue you feel strongly about? Submit a letter to the editor or a guest column.

I am your neighbor, and have been a registered nurse for 49 years.

I love my profession, and I care strongly for those who have been my patients.

When women face crisis pregnancies, they are truly desperate.

In 1990, I developed and implemented a “state of the art” prenatal program for the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Santa Ana, California. (Yes, some Planned Parenthood offices offer prenatal care).

My scope of work included talking with women who had just been advised of a pregnancy, and reviewing ALL of their pregnancy related options with them.

In pregnancy options counseling, it is critical that providers offer nonjudgmental counsel, non-directed counsel, as the choice belongs to the pregnant woman, not to the counselor.

Whatever I may personally feel, must not affect my counsel.

Once the pregnant woman has made the decision that she feels is in her best interest (and my own thoughts may be different, but it’s not my pregnancy or my choice), it is my professional and moral responsibility to refer her for appropriate care.

I refer those who want to continue the pregnancy (and either keep the child and parent or adopt out) to prenatal care, and I refer those who choose to end their pregnancy to a qualified abortion service provider.

Remember, an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy is a crisis for the pregnant woman. (Did you know that evidence suggests that pregnancy increases the pregnant woman’s risk of being killed by an intimate partner?)

Many times, the partner’s first angry question is: “Is it mine?”

The new federal regulations will withhold funds to qualified family planning providers, such as Planned Parenthood, who also offer abortion services.

By dramatically revising the Title X family-planning program, the new rule will also prohibit, in most cases, referrals for abortion and restrict counseling about abortion services.

The rule also will eliminate requirements that Title X sites offer a broad range of medically approved family planning methods and pregnancy options counseling.

Please note: I said “medically approved”.

Simply said, that means choices that are evidenced based, safe and effective.

The new rules would allow just about anyone to offer pregnant women choices the “counselor” thinks are best, regardless of safety or efficacy, and the “counseling” they provide can be pointed to the decision THEY want the woman to make.

AND, the new rules that remove funding from Title X sites would redirect this funding to these other sites who are saying/doing what the government approves of.

This is becoming very Orwellian, don’t you think?

The patient/provider relationship is based upon trust, open conversations and informed decision making.

The government must not dictate to me or to any other health care professional what we can/cannot say to our patients.

As health care professionals, our focus is on what is in the best interest of our patients.

The federal revision to Title X Family Planning programs will prohibit, in most cases, referrals to abortion service providers and restrict our counseling so that we can’t even include abortion (which is a legal right) in our options counseling.

There’s the “gag.”

I personally know of no health care professional who, in good conscience, can comply with any type of “gag rule” that will restrict our ability to fully inform our patients about all of their options AND our ability to provide them with referrals to receive the treatment that they feel will be in their best interests.

This is a clear violation of the Code of Medical Ethics.

We must regard responsibility to our patients as paramount, and support full access to medical care for all people.

— Kathy Dammarell is a registered nurse who lives in Sunriver.