Denise Hooks-Anderson, M.D.

Often times as adults, I think we are unaware of how our actions and behaviors are interpreted by children. We engage in conversation, watch television shows and even listen to radio broadcasts not considering how those conversions affect our children. We erroneously believe children are not paying attention. Yet, they are. Recently, my 12-year-old proved that to me.

We were riding in the car on our way to school listening to talk radio. The discussion involved the recently passed legislation banning abortion in Missouri after eight weeks. I listen to this station every day, and never had my daughter engaged in conversation about the topics until that day.

She asked me: “Why are men making decisions about a woman’s body?” 

Stunned, I simply replied, “Good question. Why are they?”

I was so proud of her at that moment. At the age of 12, she felt ownership of her body and felt a kinship with other women around the globe.

As I sit back and listen to the moral, legal, and medical arguments of abortion, I often ponder whether or not opponents of abortion think that pregnancy termination is an easy decision. Women do not just wake up one day and decide to proceed with that procedure. It is one of the toughest decisions a woman will ever make and one that she will not forget.

Therefore, for me, I wish our debates could be more about pregnancy prevention and teaching boys and men not to violate women’s bodies. However, in this highly polarized environment that we live in now, that conversation is often missing.

Fortunately for me, I have not had to treat a woman with sepsis secondary to a botched back-woods abortion. Just reading the case reports alone gives me chills. These women would present to the hospital with fevers, elevated white counts, and many of them died. We have to understand that when people are desperate and feel like they have no options, they will proceed to extreme alternatives to seek help.

My preference is that we shift this discussion toward contraception. Did you know that some employers refuse to cover contraception at all or charge an expensive co-pay? So you don’t want women to have an abortion, but you won’t cover birth control? 

In addition, many states, including Missouri, refused to expand Medicaid. So you don’t want women to have an abortion, but you also don’t want to take care of the baby when he/she arrives. Again, makes no sense at all.

As a society, we waste so much time debating old arguments instead of working collaboratively to find new ways to solve problems. We have diseases, such as Lupus, that have no cures. We have ethnic communities, such as African Americans, whose health outcomes as it relates to chronic kidney disease are worse than the outcomes in the non-Hispanic white populations.

Therefore, let’s encourage our legislators to spend more time finding money to fund research or work on legislation to curb gun violence.  There are many more pressing issues that deserve our attention.

In short, just like in biblical times when the Pharisees wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery, we must be reminded of our own personal issues. Right now, we all need to put down our stones, go back to our homes and get busy doing work to advance our communities instead of pointing fingers and alienating our neighbors. Our children are watching!

Denise Hooks-Anderson, M.D., is an assistant professor at SLUCare Family Medicine and the medical accuracy editor of The St. Louis American. Email her at

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