Yesterday when the Supreme Court handed down its decision reversing Roe v. Wade, a guttural, primitive anguish was felt, the likes of which my generation has never known. Short of an emergency c-section, I’ve never been in a position of needing to consider emergency reproductive interventions, but I have rested easy knowing that they would be available to me should an unthinkable medical situation arise.
Yesterday that was taken away. While I am not worried for my own reproductive situation in this moment (thank you tubal ligation and IUD), I am terrified for every other woman of reproductive age (including my daughter) and the ramifications that this decision will have on our society as a whole. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to write a blog that was saturated with expletives WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS, releasing ALL OF MY RAGE into the universe. While that would be incredibly cathartic, I recognize that it would not be helpful. I’m hoping that what I write might speak to people who have altering opinions and might shed light on why, as a Christian woman who loves Jesus and babies, I can feel so strongly about supporting a woman’s right to have access to medically appropriate reproductive choices.
I need to first try to clear up the misconception that people who are “pro-choice” are somehow evil, baby-killing monsters who relish the notion of dismembering and killing a 39 week fetus. This is the absolutely and unequivocally false. The farthest possible thing from reality. Nobody in the pro-choice camp wants to kill babies. Please understand this. The collective “we” are working on and advocating for ways to end the NEED for abortion but we recognize that until we have these tools, there will still be rational, morally reasonable and medically appropriate reasons that women seek to end a pregnancy. If you’re curious, a few of the tools we need are as follows (not a comprehensive list):
- Excellent, honest and early sex education.
- Free birth control.
- Free or reduced cost and access to healthcare for everyone.
- Accessible and high quality childcare.
- Maternal and paternal leave from work.
- Significant punishment for rape of any kind.
- More accessible adoption resources.
As an aside, I would like to point out that the only people I DO know of who seemingly DO like to kill babies are the increasing number of men who, with our government’s knowing enabling, continue to buy assault weapons and murder dozens of innocent children in one fell swoop. I digress…but it had to be said.
As I doom scroll my social media, I am overwhelmed by the number of physicians who are legitimately terrified in light of yesterday’s ruling. They are terrified because now, performing life-saving procedures for women who are pregnant may result in loss of their medical license and potentially even criminal charges and jail time. This sounds insane, right? There are OBGYNs who are now being instructed (by their health systems) to consult with their legal department prior to intervening on medical emergencies like an ectopic pregnancy. For a little background, a ruptured ectopic pregnancy is for all intents and purposes, universally fatal as it causes a woman to hemorrhage to death. But now we apparently need to “consult legal” before providing an intervention to save the woman. An intervention that, until now, has been the standard of care.
Can you, for one second, imagine a sharp pain in your pelvis, followed by a gush of blood? You rush to the emergency room, desperate for help only to be told that you’re going to have to wait while we “consult legal” to make sure that saving your life isn’t going to break the law. Insane, right?
Now, you might say “Well, the law will allow for abortions in an emergency situation.” That sounds fantastic on the surface, but riddle me this: Who defines “emergency situation?” And how do we find said entity when it’s 2 in the morning and a woman being treated for acute leukemia, who is also 18 weeks pregnant, needs to have a safe termination before her platelets drop to nil and she bleeds out?
How about the woman whose water has broken and, while trying to cling to her pregnancy develops an endometrial infection that has turned in to septic shock? The sweet 16-week-old fetus still has a heartbeat, but now mom’s blood pressure is 70/30 and her organs are failing. Is this an emergency? I would absolutely say so, but how close to death does she have to be before the law says it is okay to intervene? When all of her organs have failed? When her uterus is so obliterated by infection that she will never be able to carry a pregnancy again? When she is requiring life support? Can you imagine laying in a hospital bed, sick as shit, grieving because you know you and your baby are both slowly dying, recognizing that your doctors want to help you but they legally can’t do anything until you are sick enough according to the law, or your baby’s heart finally stops beating?
Now consider this. You find yourself expecting a baby and you are over the moon. You’ve been longing to be a parent for as long as you can remember. This baby is going to complete your family. Your baby already has a name and a crib. You’ve registered for a bottle warmer, the little bathtub, the stroller set and now you are researching the best diapers for your little bundle of joy. You show up at your 20 month ultrasound, elated at the chance to see your little nugget again and see her little heart racing away inside you. But this time, the ultrasound tech’s face goes flat as they recognize that your baby’s head is not developing and she has anencephaly. Your elation quickly turns to anguish as you learn that your baby likely won’t survive the remainder of your pregnancy.
For some people, continuing on with this pregnancy might be the right thing to do. For others, the thought of carrying a dying baby inside them for 4 more months is emotionally and psychologically unfathomable. For some people, putting their dying baby through the birth process, only to watch her struggle and die after birth is untenable. What do we tell these parents? How do we support them when there is no alternative but to carry a dying fetus? How do we tell mom to respond when a well-intentioned stranger smiles and congratulates her on her baby and all she wants to do in that moment is lay down and die? How do we prepare them for the natural birth process and what horror they might witness during the delivery? Why shouldn’t they have the option of a compassionate termination?
Here’s another thought. And we’re all going to have to get completely real with ourselves for a hot second. Imagine you have a teenage daughter. She’s a straight A student. She is a star athlete and firmly on her way to a full ride scholarship at a division 1 college. She has big dreams of becoming an attorney. She also has a boyfriend who has been pressuring her to have sex and she finally gives in. She was embarrassed to ask you about contraception because she thought you would be upset with her. But now she comes to you, hysterical, and you find out that she is pregnant. Now all of her plans and her entire future is at risk as she contemplates bringing a baby into the world. I hope to God that if I were in this situation, either as the teenager or the parent, that I would find the resolve to support that baby to term and either consider adoption or rearranging my entire life to raise it. BUT I’m going to be really raw and honest here and tell you that despite my love of Jesus and moral upbringing, abortion would ABSOLUTELY cross my mind. You don’t have to admit it right now, but I suspect that most of us who are in a place of privilege, somehow feel that we are exempt from our own moral regulations and can easily justify why we or our offspring are the exception to these rules. Especially when one’s entire psychological, physical and financial future is riding on these decisions. (I would also like to point out that the boyfriend in this scenario has little to no long-term consequences.) Now…flip this situation and consider how this would affect a financially disadvantaged family. Keep in mind that it will likely still be possible for families with financial means to travel to states where abortions are still legal. This leaves financially disadvantaged women, in states with strict abortion laws, to further spiral into poverty. You don’t have to be a sociologist or an economist to start to understand the fallout that affects society as a whole.
And now, while we are talking about unwanted pregnancies, it is important to consider the potential implications on birth control that may come as a result of this ruling. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love her IUD. They are excellent for birth control and they also help significantly with heavy menstrual bleeding. Here’s the deal though….if some self-righteous law maker wants to limit our access to this intervention and further dictate how we manage our own reproductive organs, he could argue that an IUD theoretically prevents the implantation of a fertilized embryo and constitutes a means of abortion. This has already started to come up in physician groups, sorting out ways to get around this legal minefield should it become illegal to provide or place an IUD. Interestingly, if you think about taking away our access to birth control…well, you don’t have to be a genius to see where this takes us.
Lastly, I need to bring up the deadly risk of unsafe abortions. The septic abortion wards of yesteryear bore witness to the fact that women who are desperate to end their pregnancies will find a way to do it. Legislation banning abortions will NOT stop abortions. What it will do is limit access to safe abortions performed in sterile settings by well-trained physicians. Prior to Roe v. Wade the septic abortion wards were set up in hospitals to care for women who were sick and dying because of complications from unsafe abortions. This is something that has not existed in my lifetime, and I shudder to think that we may start getting palliative care consults for women dying because their attempt at an abortion went tragically wrong. This phenomenon will too, affect women of color and financially disadvantaged women disproportionately.
There is obviously so much more to be said on this topic. These are the initial thoughts that have been filtering through my brain over the past 24 hours since hearing the news. I implore all of us to continue the conversation. Education is critical in this moment. I suspect that most people who oppose choice are well intentioned but naive and likely cannot even begin to fathom the medical situations that are now being legislated by ignorant politicians.
If you happen to live in Kansas, I encourage you to vote NO on August 2nd. The “Value Them Both” platform, if passed, would put Kansas on track to allow politicians to severely limit our right to reproductive options.