E. Stewart Taylor

 

You might wonder why Colorado was one of the first group of states with a modern abortion law in spite its conservative Rocky Mountain states location.Our take on this question is that E. Stewart Taylor was the difference between Colorado and the surrounding states.He had attained the position of professor of obstetrics at a rather young age shortly before we (Mary and John Frantz) spent 3 years at the University of Colorado Medical Center from 1949 to 1952, Mary as a medical student and John as a resident in internal medicine.

 

The psychiatry department there had a long tradition of supporting a quasi-therapeutic psychodrama written and produced by the fourth year medical students in which they satirized the professorsí and institutionís foibles.A few years before our arrival, the entire play had taken Dr. Taylor apart.All other faculty were spared that year.Until this psychodrama, E. Stewart had been, we were told, authoritarian, distant, and generally unpopular for his attitude toward the students.The entire efforts of all the writers and actors in these dramas through the years were justified by the ensuing transformation in E. Stewart Taylor.He started keeping hours for students who wanted to talk to him for whatever reason.He became their advocate on the faculty.He told his students that after they were practicing, if they had a problem with a woman in labor, to call him and that he would do his best to help, even in the middle of the night.A few years later, Mary had occasion to make such a call with very satisfactory results.The foregoing is just the preamble to Johnís experience with Dr. Taylor.Remember, John was in training in internal medicine.

 

All this occurred in the early 1950s, not long after it was discovered that rubella (German Measles or three day measles) occurring during early pregnancy usually caused major defects in the fetus.There was no vaccine for any of the viral childhood diseases except small pox.Rubella turned out to have been a major cause among all causes of congenital anomalies.At that time, only maternal indications, such as serious heart or kidney disease, were legally recognized as justification for induced abortions.Dr. Taylor told his house staff and students that it was medically unethical not to offer abortion for fetal indications such as rubella in early pregnancy.He backed up this assertion with the offer to travel anywhere in the country at his expense to testify in defense of any of his students who were being prosecuted for what was required by his interpretation of medical ethics.He came across as a principled, effective advocate.

 

During Johnís residency, he cared for a Hispanic woman with leukemia.She was being treated with radioactive phosphorus with some success when she inadvertently became pregnant.She wanted an abortion especially because radioactive phosphorus, which she had received early in the pregnancy, is very damaging to rapidly growing cells, whether leukemic or fetal.

 

Her dilemma was expeditiously, but quietly resolved right in his department in a state institution in a state where fetal indications did not legally justify doing the abortion.She was burdened only with her decisions, but not those of the doctors or the state.

 

Dr. Taylor was remarkable for his forthrightness, consistency and courage even if you did not always agree.It is entirely possible that his students going in to all areas of Colorado, talking to the patients, other citizens and politicians is the reason that Colorado had one of the first modern abortion laws long before Roe vs. Wade.

 

John A. Frantz, MD, Chairman, Board of Health, Monroe City Council

Mary N. Frantz, MD, University of Colorado, 1951