Happy Mother's Day, Mrs. Burns


What kind of Mother's Day card do you send a woman like Ruth Ann Burns?

At a time when we honor the finest qualities of motherhood, Mrs. Burns is suing two of her doctors for child support for her 2-year-old son not because either of them fathered the boy, but because they allegedly denied her the opportunity to have an abortion.

For those unfamiliar with the lawsuit filed in Mesa earlier this month, Mrs. Burns claims that her doctors didn't realize she was pregnant until she was in her second trimester of pregnancy and it was too late for her to have a legal abortion in Arizona.

"Had she been given the opportunity, she would not have had the child," attorney David Hume told the Tribune newspaper. "Why should it be entirely Ruth Ann's burden to take care of this child when her doctors prevented her from exercising her options?"

Why indeed?

Although anti-abortion groups want to use this suit as an excuse to deny women the right to choose, and others are upset because Mrs. Burns and her husband have a combined annual income of more than $130,000 and don't appear to need the money, those objections miss the point. The core issue here is personal responsibility.

The moment Mrs. Burns sued her doctors, she tried to shift the responsibility of becoming pregnant to someone else and that's a hard responsibility to shift. At the time of conception, Mrs. Burns and the father of the child were the only participants.

According the Associated Press, Burns went to her doctors for fatigue, swelling of the left breast and abdominal pain from March to June 1997. "The doctors checked her for fibrocystic breast disease and the return of cervical precancer, but she had neither," the AP reported. "When she had an ultrasound in June, she and the doctors thought she had a retroverted uterus, only to discover she was pregnant."

The doctors claim that a technician told Burns she was 16 to 17 weeks pregnant after her first ultrasound. State law prohibits abortions past 23 weeks.

Mrs. Burns, like all women in America, had the right to an abortion. But she never had the right to shirk her personal responsibilities because of a difficult diagnosis.

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