CHOICE IS HEALTHCARE- nothing more and nothing less.
Updated: May 6
By Rosalind Kaplan, MD
I wasn't surprised by the SCOTUS draft opinion on abortion. Not in the least. It's been in the works for a long time, and the minute Amy Coney Barrett became a SCOTUS justice, the deal was sealed. Blame Mitch McConnell's refusal to vote on Merrick Garland's nomination to the Court. Blame Trump's agenda (yes, I always want to blame Trump...) Blame the complacency of those who believed that Roe could not, would not be overturned. Blame whoever you want, because there's plenty of blame to go around. Womens' health, safety and lives are at stake, and we have, as Vanity Fair Magazine said so eloquently, four old men and a woman who believes that the Handmaid's Tail is a rom-com.
If I'm not surprised, then why this blog post? The death of Roe and Casey and the era of increased reproductive freedom for women was, for me, like any slow, painful death. The signs of illness were there for a long time. Then it became terminal, and then death became imminent. Yet, until a certain point, no matter how dire a situation is, there is always a glimmer of hope, right? Not only that, but it's difficult to wrap one's mind around death while the heart is still beating and the body is still warm...so we put off our official mourning until the death is declared. No matter how much we expect it, it's still a shock to the system when it happens.
In the early 1980's, in my senior year of college and the following year, before I started med school, I worked at a clinic in Boston called New England Women's Service. We provided counseling, contraception, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and first-trimester abortions. My job as a 'counselor' was to talk through health decisions with my clients. HEALTH DECISIONS. What was best for the physical, emotional, and practical well-being of my clients and their families. If a decision to terminate a pregnancy was made, I walked my client through every step of the procedure. That often meant accompanying her through a line of anti-abortion protesters in front of the clinic. It also meant keeping her company, holding her hand during the procedure, and making sure she went home safe, physically and emotionally.
Two clinics not far from New England Women's Service were violently attacked during that first post-Roe decade. Staffers died in one attack, in the name of 'pro-life' activism. We were regularly threatened with death, with bombings, with torture. Reproductive rights have been under attack since their advent. We had the law on our side, but we weren't safe.
Now, without legal protections, what is going to happen? Are we going to return to a pre-1973 world, in which dangerous illegal abortion will be the only option to bearing and raising children in poverty and violence or being forced to carry a pregnancy that resulted from rape or incest to term? The good news is that, at least for now, we still have access to contraception, and to emergency contraception. If half the states in the US ban or severely restrict access to medical and surgical abortion, there are still states that won't. That means that women will have to travel further, pay more, and wait longer for care, but there are ways to ameliorate that. Finally, there IS medical abortion, a safe and effective option, obtainable through on-line medical counseling and pharmacies. It won't necessarily be legal for women in some states to access it, but it won't be easy to enforce on-line and through-the-mail treatment. Women have always been incredibly resourceful. We need to dig deep for our resources now to help ourselves and each other.
The death of Roe is a tragedy, a huge loss, especially for impoverished and marginalized women, who have always struggled to access adequate reproductive health services. What we must do now, even in the face of imminent tragedy, is to aggressively preserve what is left, to maximize the impact of the protections we have. WE CAN'T AFFORD ANY COMPLACENCY. We have to vote, lobby, protest, organize and resist.
Tell everyone you know about medical abortion- many women are unaware that this option exists, and have no idea how to access it. Spread information on how to access needed care. Support the organizations that provide care and information to women in all states, and organizations that help women who struggle to access care because of bans, restrictions and disparities. See a list of organizations (by no means comprehensive, but all very useful) below.
REPRODUCTIVE CHOICE IS HEALTHCARE.
Planned Parenthood https://www.plannedparenthood.org
Physicians for Reproductive Health https://prh.org
National Organization for Women https://now.org
National Network of Abortion Funds https://abortionfunds.org