“The circumstances in our lives can change in an instant and we might be a Jane Doe ourselves”
Dr. Veronica Anderson, Host, Functional Medicine Specialist and Medical Intuitive interviews Dr. Carolyn Purcell about unplanned pregnancies, political issues, and learning to forgive yourself
Do you suffer from regret, perhaps for something you consider unforgivable? Retired OB/GYN doctor, Carolyn Purcell, counseled hundreds of women as they made and lived with decisions about unplanned pregnancies.
In this episode, Carolyn will talk about the moral issues of your choices, Roe v. Wade supreme court case, and what we have learned after 40+ years of legal abortion. Listen to the end to find out what Carolyn thinks pro life and pro choice is missing.
Listen to episode 55 on iTunes here or subscribe on your favorite podcast app.
55: Show Notes
Dr. Veronica Anderson’s Links:
Saving Jane Doe (A Novel)
04:01 – Motivation behind writing Saving Jane Joe
05:38 – Fathers affected by abortions
06:56 – When abortion was made legal
09:18 – The moral issues of your choices
12:50 – The name of the book explanation
14:58 – Roe v. Wade
19:46 – Learning from 40+ years of legal abortion
20:44 – What is pro-life missing?
23:18 – What is pro-choice missing?
Female VO: Welcome to the Wellness Revolution Podcast, the radio show all about wellness in your mind, body, spirit, personal growth, sex, and relationships. Stay tuned for weekly interviews featuring guests that have achieved physical, mental, and spiritual health in their lives.
If you’d like to have access to our entire back catalog visit drveronica.com for instant access. Here’s your host, Dr. Veronica.
Dr. Veronica: I’m Dr. Veronica. This is Wellness for the Real World. I’m a medical doctor, medical intuitive, and bringing you a different way of seeing life in your health. I would like you to understand how to be well in mind, body, and spirit, and so understanding different ways to do it so that you can get it right. You can live your life purpose. And when you live your life purpose and you get this right, that is what makes a whole, healthy person.
I love when I have my colleagues on who… You know all of us in medicine we wear several hats, and are great talkers, very informative. My next guest is another physician. We have an interesting topic here, kind of a touchy topic. We’re in a political season. I’m not going to even introduce the topic to you because we’re going to just get right in and discuss it. It’s a really touchy topic considered to be a women’s topic but it’s not just a women’s topic, it’s a human topic that we’re going to talk about.
I’m going to introduce to you Dr. Carolyn Purcell. She’s an obstetrician-gynecologist. And her book has just come out, Saving Jane Doe. Who is Jane Doe? Jane Doe, maybe that baby that somebody chose not to have. Isn’t that interesting? We as women get the right to choose. And that comes with it an awesome responsibility. We get to choose life or death.
And when you think about that responsibility, the creator gave that to us to be able to create life and then decide whether that life is going to come into the world or not. And this is a heavy topic. It’s become a very political topic. It tends to be debated by men more than women interestingly.
It’s interesting that we as women have the ability to choose life or death. And there are reasons for people to choose either way. And it’s part of their soul journey, and it’s part of Jane Doe’s soul journey. And as you know that my belief system is not your traditional belief system, I understand that Jane Doe agreed to come in and be chosen that way to teach mom and dad a lot of times something interesting and special about themselves so their soul will evolve.
I have Dr. Dr. Carolyn Purcell here. You can find her at carolynpurcellmd.com. Dr. Purcell, welcome to Wellness for the Real World.
Dr. Carolyn: Thank you so much Dr. Veronica. I’m thrilled to be able to talk with you today.
Dr. Veronica: I know you’ve done so many things in your career. You’ve worn a lot of hats. But I want to jump right into this novel that you wrote and find out about why you’re an obstetrician-gynecologist. Your main job was helping families grow, helping bring people into the world. But yet there’s another side of that. Tell us what motivated you to write Saving Jane Doe.
Dr. Carolyn: While I was practicing as obstetrics and gynecology I counseled hundreds of women as they made and lived with the decision to abort unplanned pregnancies. And their pain broke my heart. I wanted to write something to say to them that there is forgiveness and healing. And that one decision need not define your whole life.
Dr. Veronica: When you say that one decision need not define your whole life, I’ve talked to people… When you’re a physician, it doesn’t matter what type of physician you are… I’m the type of person that people feel that I’m safe and they tell me all kinds of information. Even when I was a practicing eye surgeon I used to know people’s deep secrets, including secrets about children that were aborted.
And I actually had a gentleman confess to me one day that he feels like… He was married at the time. Him and his wife were pregnant. They had another child. It was close behind that. They were struggling. And they decided to abort that child. And he said to me, “It was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve always been sorry about that. I would never do that again. He was very remorseful about this.”
And I can’t even remember how this topic came up. I’m just a person that people lay stuff on. But it was amazing to me because I feel like that was the first time that I thought about how a man feels about this. Although we talk about women and they’re making the experience I’m sure you’ve dealt with men too. Tell us a little bit about some of the men that you’ve dealt with over these types of experiences.
Dr. Carolyn: One of the things that I did with my pregnant patients was ask them to bring their partner to their first prenatal visit. And so I did have the opportunity to talk with a lot of the fathers. But when the decision was made to choose abortion I didn’t actually speak to the men as much as the women.
But it was clear from what I heard that men are profoundly affected by this. And it was certainly to your credit that someone trusted you enough to share that pain. There’s just so much pain as a result of having made this choice.
Dr. Veronica: Is your message now to tell people not to make that choice? You decided to write a novel. You saw a lot of people in pain. How do people look at this? Because this is such a difficult hot topic. What are your feelings after going through all this? The choice should be there. It should be legislated. What do you say now?
Dr. Carolyn: Well, I chose to write a novel because I had read that conflict is the basis of a good novel. And I’ve been conflicted about the issue all of my career. My position is that making abortion legal does not make it the right choice. And I think sometimes, especially when it first became legal, women tend to think that because it’s legal it’s okay.
I believe that women who made the choice feeling that way are more likely to be those who suffer the most regret as a result. I don’t believe that it’s a decision that I or anyone else should force on a woman early in her pregnancy. But I just believe so strongly that it is usually not the best choice that I want women to consider it more carefully.
And I want them to consider that it is a moral issue. Because at some point, my experience was that most women come to consider it. And it seems to me it’s better to do it before you make the choice rather than after.
Dr. Veronica: A lot of women when they are choosing this, or choosing it because they don’t feel that they have other options or alternatives. And so I specifically told them, people think about the young, single woman without resources. And I specifically was telling you about there was a couple, they were concerned that they were struggling but they probably had more resources than a young teenager out there.
But I’ve also seen people who have made the choice because it just wasn’t “convenient” at the particular time that they were pregnant. They made that choice. And then years later they had that regret because they made that choice, because it was just at an inconvenient time. Talk to that.
Dr. Carolyn: I don’t personally believe that it should ever be chosen for convenience. And I think that that’s less likely to happen if you ask yourself how you feel about the moral issue. And if you remind yourself that this is in fact taking a human life and we don’t even know what that means. Because what that life would do or achieve during its lifetime, we’ll never know.
It’s such a far reaching choice. It needs more consideration. And I know sometimes, at least in the early years when women were counseled about abortion, and still are told statistics three in ten women will have had an abortion by the time they reach the age of 45. That’s almost one in three.
And it’s said as if to say that because a lot of people do it that makes it okay. That doesn’t make it okay for you. That’s a question that people need to ask themselves more clearly. And I think if you do you’re not nearly as likely to choose it for convenience.
Dr. Veronica: I know there are people who are listening right now who are seething mad at me. “Oh god, how could she bring somebody on to talk about that issue, and somebody who’s going to say you got to think about it.” Please, keep listening, just because you learn something new. It’s about hearing all types of views, because all types of views make you feel about your life and think about your life differently. And possibly your ability to affect another life that will grow inside your body.
And so we understand. If you don’t think Dr. Carolyn knows that this is complicated, she’s been standing by these people for years in her career. I’m a physician. I’ve seen this happen on standing by people, making this decision. We understand that it’s extraordinarily complicated. And the choice and decision is different for everybody who comes in contact with us, very different.
It’s not about being one way or the other. We believe that medical procedures should be safe if that is your choice. That’s my personal belief. And so if that is the decision for you I want you to have safe access. And that’s why I believe in choice, because I want you to have safe access.
Now, you have to talk about what it’s going to be right for your soul and for the soul of the child. What makes sense for you? And that’s going to be different for everybody. And so understand, we know it’s a really complicated issue.
You chose Saving Joe Doe. Tell us the significance of that title.
Dr. Carolyn: I love the title, and I struggled with the title. And this particular title was suggested by my editor. When I was in college English classes the teacher used to ask us what you thought the author meant by certain things. And I was skeptical that there were really that many layers of meaning. But with this title there are layers of meaning.
And you mentioned Jane Doe as perhaps an unborn child. And that’s a very interesting way of thinking about it. I also think about Jane Doe as potentially being any one of us. The circumstances in our life can change in an instant, and we might be a Jane Doe ourselves. And so the title was meaningful to me because it spoke to all of us, or the possibility of all of us.
And the other significance of saving was that even though Jane Doe in my book comes in as a character who is almost losing her life, so it’s about saving her physically. But it goes on to talk about saving her emotionally and spiritually, and it felt like all of those dimensions of that word in the title as well.
I wanted to say that abortion is not an easy way out of an unplanned pregnancy. And so I used the working title, No Easy Way Out for a while. But in the end I thought Saving Jane Doe was much better.
Dr. Veronica: You have a history where you came of age, let’s call it, when Roe v. Wade was coming of age. Tell us about the genesis of being in the time of starting your career at the time where this was a really hot deal legislatively, and in the Supreme Court.
Dr. Carolyn: I feel that I was blessed in my life and career to have started just before women were given so many more opportunities. When I graduated medical school women were 5% of the graduating class. And then just four years later women were 50% of most medical school classes. And that was largely because of the Title IX changes that most people associate with women’s athletics.
But it affected women and their opportunities in all sorts of ways. And interesting that Title IX came out within a year of the Roe v. Wade decision. A lot of things happened in that one year that changed the life of women in America. And it changed my life because the same year the Roe v. Wade decision was made in the Supreme Court, I decided to be an OB-GYN. And that decision put me in the middle of what became a political issue, but which for me was each individual patient was a personal and painful issue.
My personal moral belief and my career made me unwilling to deny the moral issue, the fact that this fetus is in fact a human being. But my medical career also made me feel very strongly that abortion needed to be legal so that it would be safe. Making abortion illegal does not prevent it. But it does create a disproportionate hardship on poor women.
Dr. Veronica: It’s very interesting that I’ve gone through medical school. I’ve seen all the different phases of how life develops. And I came out of medical school thinking similar to how you think. I cannot deny that it’s a person. You can’t argue any other way. It’s a person.
And I do believe that like you said, there has to be legality so that people when they make the decision they decide and are able to get safe procedures. But on the other side of it, and when it’s illegal it does proportionately affect poor women.
And people who are judgmental of poor women who are having children, who may say, “I’m not sure I can do this. I don’t want to do it,” there needs to be choices out there. It’s very difficult from a moral standpoint for me to be able to deny after going through medical training.
And there are doctors who will differ from what I and Dr. Carolyn are saying. There’s going to be doctors that are different on that. But I could not, from a conscious perspective, deny that I believe that that was a person.
I’m not an OB-GYN. But I’ll let you know, although my training was an eye surgeon my first love was I wanted to be an OB-GYN. But then I decided I could not get up in the middle of the night. I’m not good at 2am so I better pick something up. And thus I ended up an eye surgeon. But my first love was I want to be a baby doctor.
My mentor was a woman who was an OB-GYN, and she actually talked me out of being an OB-GYN. And I’m glad now because to have people sit in front of me to make that decision and help them make that decision of what to do, I’m sure I would’ve done it but I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done it. Let’s talk about 43 years of legal abortion and we look back over it. What have we learned?
Dr. Carolyn: We haven’t learned as much as I would have hoped. Because the polarization in the political controversy continues to this day. And I believe the reason for that is because we’re not asking the right question. The question is not what are the woman’s rights or what are the baby’s rights. I believe they both have rights.
The question that we need to be asking is what the state’s responsibility when two people’s rights are in conflict? And then if we ask that question I believe we can get to the heart of the legal issue.
Dr. Veronica: You say pro-life, pro-choice, they both are right and they both miss some things. What is pro-life missing?
Dr. Carolyn: Pro-life is missing the fact that making abortion illegal does not prevent it. That’s one thing pro-life misses. Another thing pro-life people miss is that the best way to deal with an unplanned pregnancy is to prevent it. And so their war on planned parenthood and other services that give contraception to poor women is misguided.
Planned parenthood I’m sure over the years they prevented millions of abortions. Even though 3% of their services that they do abortion, 97% of their services, health and contraceptive care. I think that when people who feel extremely about these positions take their stance and are missing these important things, it does women a disservice.
Dr. Veronica: I just got to say, I remember, I went to Princeton undergrad. I remember going to an event and listening to a very conservative, well-known TV personality, Princeton professor argue about the pro-life and why abortion should be illegal.
I’m standing up in a room. I’m looking around. I’m in a room full of people. I’m African-American, they were not. I have an adopted child. And I stood up and said, “How many of you have adopted an African-American child?” And I ask these kind of questions because you get these people who have these very dogmatic views. And they claim that life is important. But yet when it comes to giving every life who comes into the world a chance they fall down on the job, especially if that baby doesn’t look like them in color.
That is one of the issues that I have with this pro-life movement. I just got to say that upfront. What is the matter with the pro-choice? What is pro-choice missing?
Dr. Carolyn: What pro-choice is missing is the humanity of the fetus. The moral consideration, you just simply cannot deny that. And NARAL tried to bash that cute Super Bowl promotion that Doritos did saying that it tried to humanize the fetus. I don’t know if you happen to see it, but it was an ultrasound where the baby was reaching for a Doritos that the father was eating as the mother was having an ultrasound.
Dr. Veronica: That’s true. They don’t know how good that is. I didn’t see the commercial. Now I got to look it up.
Dr. Carolyn: Please do. I thought it was a darling commercial when I saw it. And it never even occurred to me that anybody would have a problem with that. But apparently there was a real outcry that Doritos was trying to humanize the fetus. Well, it is a little human. And when you delivered thousands of babies you cannot deny that.
Dr. Veronica: I haven’t delivered thousands of babies but I went through medical school and saw enough to realize that it is a little human. And it’s interesting how if you want the baby and it’s really early, and medical science may say, “We’re not sure if it’s viable.” They’re going to do everything in the world to try and save something that if you didn’t want the baby you would try to say it wasn’t human. It’s interesting.
The NICU, neonatal intensive care unit will spend thousands and thousands of dollars if the mom wants the baby, for a child that viability is questionable. There’s incongruence that’s going on in this argument all over the place.
Dr. Carolyn: And I think oftentimes we’re not asking the right questions. When we’re trying to argue about the humanity of a fetus instead of how do we deal with this so we don’t get to this point. One of the things that I hope for my novel is that it will be a plea for responsible sexuality.
The best way to deal with an unplanned pregnancy is to prevent. If you’re not in a position where it’s convenient to have a baby then use birth control all the time, every time.
Dr. Veronica: And we’re going to have to let that be the last note. I’m talking to Dr. Carolyn Purcell. Her novel, Saving Jane Doe, carolynpurcellmd.com. Wonderful to write it in a form of a novel where we can digest this very difficult issue. It’s about really knowing both sides, so that when people go in to make this decision they have some of idea of what is real is real.
Female VO: Thank you for listening to the Wellness Revolution Podcast. If you want to hear more on how to bring wellness into your life visit drveronica.com. See you all next week. Take care.
Dr. Veronica Anderson is an MD, Functional Medicine practitioner, Homeopath. and Medical Intuitive. As a national speaker and designer of the Functional Fix and Rejuvenation Journey programs, she helps people who feel like their doctors have failed them. She advocates science-based natural, holistic, and complementary treatments to address the root cause of disease. Dr. Veronica is a highly-sought guest on national television and syndicated radio and hosts her own radio show, Wellness for the REAL World, on FOX Sports 920 AM “the Jersey” on Mondays at 7:00 pm ET.
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