Arlin Fidellaga, RN on Roe v Wade: Not a political or religious issue but a health care issue

Her first time to assist in an abortion was when she was a young nurse of 21 years old. Facebook photos

By Cristina DC Pastor

Nurse educator Arlin Fidellaga was on her way to work on June 24 when the news popped up on her phone: Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, ending 50 years of federal abortion rights.”

It was a jarring piece of news, something Arlin did not expect to hear that morning. With a nursing career spanning nearly 40 years, something in her mind was unwilling to process the report.  More than 20 years ago when she was a young operating room RN of 21, she assisted in an abortion procedure in a non-denominational New Jersey hospital.

My first job here in the U.S., they did abortions because it was not a Catholic hospital,” she told The FilAm in an interview. “So pretty much, we have to sometimes be assigned to that procedure room. We have Surgical Technicians who assist the surgeon and the role of the RN is to make sure that the patient is safe at all times, do the documentation and assist the anesthesiologist with his needs.”

Arlin’s first time was truly uncomfortable because she is Roman Catholic, and “it is against our belief and moral ethics.”

“But, I told myself that I should be respectful of the patient’s wishes and that was a decision that she made with her doctor and it had nothing to do with me,” she said.

Arlin is a Roman Catholic and hails from Cebu, where the Sto. Nino is revered as a patron saint.

She performed a couple more times until she transferred to her current hospital where assisting in terminating a pregnancy is not mandatory and nurses are given a choice.

“Each time I was in an abortion procedure, I always said a prayer and sprinkle sterile water on the products of conception like in a baptismal blessing,” she said.

The debate over Roe v Wade continues to inflame both sides to this day since the Supreme Court has reversed the constitutional right to an abortion. Five conservatives in the court said they would prefer to give states the power to restrict or allow it, while pro-choice groups believe such decision are best left to women, at least in cases of rape or incest or when their pregnancies put their health or lives at risk.

A perioperative nurse who is currently the OR Nurse Educator in Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey, Arlin said politics and religion tend to muddle the issue. Abortion, she declared, is principally a health care concern. Nurses are there to help save lives.

“We cannot judge people and we are in the profession of saving lives and making sure that they are given the safest and best treatment while they are under our care,” she said.

She likens it to criminals on the wrong side of the law or soldiers from enemy countries. “When they are brought to us for medical care, we treat them and provide unbiased care.”

What exactly happens in an abortion?

Arlin gave a medical blow by blow. “Depending on how many weeks the fetus is, we have the D&C+ (Dilatation and  Curettage.) for up to eight weeks gestation. This procedure involves scraping the products of conceptions from the uterus and then suctioned out. The D&C for 12 weeks and beyond involves taking out the products of conception in segments or parts because the fetus is already bigger. D&Es are also done for fetal demise or when the fetus is no longer viable. It is also indicated sometimes in rare cases where the fetus detaches from the uterine lining causing an intrauterine infection or abscess that can cause toxicity to the mother.”

With husband Rodney Fidellaga who works in the pharmaceutical industry.

Arlin said, she would characterize her position on  Roe v  Wade as “pro-choice.”  

“There are instances of rape and sexual abuses that result in unwanted pregnancy especially with teenagers from stepdads or uncles, teachers, pastors,” she pointed out. “We cannot subject a young girl to a lifetime of hardship because they are not ready to tackle the difficulties of raising a child because they are still children themselves.”

Born and raised in Cebu, home of the Sto. Nino baby Jesus, Arlin said her family understands her job and the circumstances they presented.

“They were understanding of it; they know it was part of the job,” she said.

© The FilAm 2022

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