I’ve never had an abortion so I can’t say how it feels to be in the position to make that decision. I can say that I’ve counseled hundreds of women who have had abortions. I talk to women daily who cringe when I review their obstetric history and they recount details of previous abortions; I can see the anticipation of judgment in their eyes. I reassure them that it’s not my place to judge their decisions but to help them with their current concerns. So with great certainty, I know that the choice to have an abortion is never easy.
With that being said, what is happening in this country has many at a loss for words, as it should. Agency over one’s body, should only be up to that person, not some governing body. When people are forced to make decisions not aligned with their personal beliefs the outcomes are generally not good. Historically, prior to the legalization of abortion, women with undesired unintended pregnancies would seek care from untrained laypersons to carry out illegal abortions. I’m a huge fan of Call the Midwife, a PBS show set in 1960s East in London. If you too are a fan, then you know that recent episodes have featured illegal abortionists and the devastating consequences of their actions. History has shown us that some women will go to drastic lengths, that for some have ended in death, to end an unwanted pregnancy.
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I personally don’t perform abortions and that is my right. However, as of now, there are women who will choose to terminate a pregnancy and physicians who can meet their needs. Sadly, if women are forced to seek care outside of medical facilities, the rate of complications including uterine perforations, hemorrhage, post-procedure infections, and even death are sure to rise. As an ob/gyn I can also say with certainty that my colleagues and I do not look forward to treating women for incomplete and septic abortions that are likely to result from the performance of so-called “back alley abortions.”
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Also, let’s talk logistics. For those of you who mistakenly think that only single women, black women, adolescents and insert any other stereotype surrounding abortion, are the only ones choosing this procedure think again. In 2014, 61% of patients were in their 20s, and 39%, 28% and 25% were white, black and Hispanic respectively. Moreover, 54% reporteda religious affiliation and many were married. Click HERE for more stats.
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Additionally, pregnancy termination is not solely performed for undesired pregnancies. Unless you’ve been faced with the gut-wrenching decision to end a pregnancy after receiving a diagnosis that your child has a lethal (incompatible with life) anomaly, you may not be aware of this. I also recall in my training women undergoing terminations, as continuing their pregnancies could’ve resulted in the loss of their lives. So, abortions aren’t sought by women who were just “irresponsible” as some may think.
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Abortion is a complex topic to unpack and I’ve only scratched the surface. It is not my job to lift up the woman who made a decision that society may approve of and tear down the woman society deems unworthy. It is my job to safely, compassionately and effectively care for the women who seek my advice. It is not the job of men to govern what a woman does with her body, especially when said men have no culpability once their seed is sown. Note, no one is calling for forced vasectomies for all men or jail time if they impregnate a woman who ends up having an abortion.
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In an ideal world we could completely avoid situations (unprotected sex, rape, incest, lethal anomalies etc…) that lead women to make such difficult choices. In an ideal world women would have ready access to contraception, sexual health discussions would be had, access to quality health care wouldn’t be limited, men would be equally responsible for their role leading up to a woman’s choice to terminate, convicted rapists wouldn’t walk free while physicians and their patients have the potential to face criminal charges and jail time for actions on which both parties agreed. Yet, this is not an ideal world, so here we are. What are your thoughts on the current state of women’s reproductive rights? I’d love to hear them in the comments.
As always thanks for following and be well.