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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Monday, April 23, 2007

Journal decries Supreme Court abortion ruling

By Carey Goldberg, Globe Staff

The New England Journal of Medicine this afternoon published online two commentaries and an editorial critical of the US Supreme Court's decision last week upholding the federal ban on the abortion procedure that opponents call "partial-birth abortion."

"With this decision the Supreme Court has sanctioned the intrusion of legislation into the day-to-day practice of medicine," writes Dr. Jeffrey M. Drazen, the Boston-based journal's editor-in-chief. Physicians are open to oversight and discussion of delicate matters, he says, but those discussions should occur "among informed and knowledgable people who are acting in the best interests of a specific patient."

The political ruckus over Terri Schiavo in 2005 demonstrated "the disastrous consequences of congressional interference" in a medical case, Drazen writes. And now, "the judicial branch has regrettably joined the legislative branch in practicing medicine without a licence."

Dr. Michael F. Greene, director of obstetrics at Massachusetts General Hospital, writes in another piece that the Supreme Courtís decision to uphold the ban "creates an intimidating environment" around second-trimester abortions. The result may be that doctors will feel too scared of prosecution to perform such abortions, even if the motherís life is in jeopardy, he writes.

"Both health care providers and patients should be alarmed by the current degree of intrusion by our government into the practice of medicine," Greene writes.

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