Our father was an obstetrician/gynecologist. Over the course of his career, he delivered countless babies, performed surgeries and counseled families. He also provided abortions. Before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, he treated women with perforated uteruses, septic shock, hemorrhages and other tragic consequences of illegal abortions and “back-alley” procedures, many of them performed by unsanitary, untrained hands.
After Roe, providing abortions became a part of our father’s practice. He also shared the joy of delivering a baby for parents who wanted to start or enlarge their family. He witnessed the anguish of women who became pregnant by partners who abused them, or by men who wouldn’t support their offspring. He likewise shared the relief that a woman felt when she terminated an unwanted pregnancy because she was about to start school, because she had more children than she and her husband could support, because she knew she wasn’t ready to be a parent yet, because she had been a victim of incest or sexual assault.
Later, Dad provided abortions in Nevada. Without naming names, he would tell us about conservative public figures who would thank him because he’d discreetly helped them when their mistresses or daughters became pregnant. He spoke with Mormon legislators who told him, “Gene, I don’t like the idea of abortion. But I hate the idea that the government should tell us what to do even more.”
Dad walked past picketers he knew by name to provide a medical service that was fundamental to his identity as a physician: to help his patients with one of the most difficult decisions of their lives. Protesters broke his clinic windows, threw stink bombs in the mail slot and put his name on a hit list. They assassinated one of his colleagues.
After he retired, Dad literally wrote the book on abortions ― “Surgical Abortion,” which helped train other physicians in safer, faster and less traumatic techniques that Dad developed after 1973. He reassured patients that the decision to have an abortion was not something to be stigmatized, but was rather a mature, courageous choice.
He used his famous humor to try to persuade abortion rights opponents ― most of whom were men ― of the implications of an unwanted pregnancy. His book has a section called “If a man could get pregnant,” where he put it this way: “If a man screwed up for one minute and as a result he swelled up for nine months, developed hemorrhoids, swollen breasts, varicose veins, threw up for two or three months, and then went through 12 to 16 hours of severe cramps followed by the passage of something about the size of a bowling ball through his rectum, how do you think a man would react?” Especially if this discomfort would be followed by “an obligation to raise another human being for 18 years... and to have all this happen when it was against his will. Do you really believe a man would take that?”
Our dad would never serve as judge or jury when a woman came to his office. He understood that women had a thousand different reasons for coming to see him. One thing he knew for certain: None of those reasons were the government’s business. He believed that forced pregnancy and forced birth are crimes against humanity, and he would have no part in any of it.
“Our dad understood that women had a thousand different reasons for coming to see him. One thing he knew for certain: None of those reasons were the government’s business.”
As we contemplate how angry and incredulous our father would be in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, we know that he would have shared stories of the women ― and the men ― he helped over his long career. The women who sent him pictures of babies they’d had when they chose to have them. The women who showed up at his clinic after driving for days because they had no place else to go and no money ― and he helped them anyway. The men who sat in the waiting room, grateful and relieved.
Dad would be incensed, as we are, at the dishonor of our recent Supreme Court nominees, who apparently flat-out lied in order to get confirmed. It is hard to understand the sheer Machiavellian thinking that led Mitch McConnell to refuse to fill a court seat in the name of “letting the voters decide” ― and then rush through a last-minute nominee to confirm a third Donald Trump appointment. By what standard of decency, or democracy, did that happen?
Our father performed abortions because he knew the horrors of living in a country where reproductive rights were denied to women and birthing people. He knew his patients had already struggled with their consciences, their beliefs and their needs before coming to him. Our father supported each one with kindness and reassurances as well as practiced medical hands.
We don’t know exactly what Dad would be doing now, but one thing we’d both bet on: He’d still be fighting for a woman’s fundamental right to control her body and her reproductive decisions. As men who have inherited our dad’s brave and compassionate legacy, we feel compelled to do the same ― and we call on others to step up, speak out and join us.
Daniel Glick is a journalist and author. He is a former Newsweek correspondent and has written for more than 50 national and international publications, including National Geographic, Smithsonian, Rolling Stone, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Washington Post. His book “Monkey Dancing: A Father, Two Kids, and a Journey to the Ends of the Earth” (PublicAffairs) won the Colorado Book Award.
Steven Glick is a retired registered nurse who worked in medical ICU and neuro-trauma units as well as a cardiac catherization lab. During his career, he was a preceptor to new nurses, a nurse-representative on a hospital ethics board and a guest university lecturer on palliative care. He has been married 35 years and is a devoted husband, father and grandfather.
More on the Supreme Court abortion ruling:
- Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, dismantling decades-old precedent
- Roe overturned: The fight begins
- Abortion is now illegal in these states
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “We have to fill the streets”
- Clarence Thomas: Cases protecting gay marriage and contraception should be next
- Republicans make it clear they want to ban abortion nationwide
- Here’s how the world is reacting to the end of Roe
- Pro-abortion rights protesters attacked and threatened
- Donations, chants and calls for change: Celebrities react to end of Roe
- SCOTUS decision threatens right to interracial marriage, experts warn