The American Assault on Abortion Care Is the Gavel Heard at Home and Around The World
Originally published on LinkedIn.
As a maternal and child health physician in India, I am proud to have provided safe abortion care – an essential reproductive right – to countless women from varied but always challenging situations. I provided care for a young girl, barely 18, who was 14 weeks pregnant as a result of repeated sexual abuse by her brother-in-law; for a young woman who needed the procedure to survive or would otherwise leave behind a two-year-old child; for a mother of six with two previous cesareans and pregnancy related complications that would have surely killed both the fetus and her.
Abortions care gives women who wish not to have a baby the promise of choice, bodily autonomy, and a future that is hers.
However, the U.S. continues to enact harmful laws in an effort to control women’s bodies. Most recently, Indiana’s Republican-controlled state legislature passed the first state abortion ban since the June decision. Taking effect September 15th, the state now bans nearly all abortions and joins a handful of other states with abortion restrictions starting at conception.
June 24th’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade set our country back half a century. In a nation that claims to champion women’s equality and human rights, we have overzealous religious fanatics undermining those values. Six people, none of whom were elected by the American people, have threatened women’s bodily autonomy and decreased access to basic healthcare. How we can go from a 7-2 decision in favor of Jane Roe in 1973 to where we are now is incomprehensible.
62% of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases; 57% percent of us disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision, and yet, our voices have been silenced.
These archaic, regressive decisions are not the will of the American people.
The Supreme Court decision represents many of the deep-seated issues with which our country has been grappling for decades. It shows us how far we’ve yet to go on women’s equality, racial equality, and the provision of quality, accessible healthcare.
The U.S. has long viewed healthcare as a commodity rather than an inalienable human right. We know that this impacts already marginalized groups the most. Banning abortions will have the same effect. Those of a certain status will continue to access safe abortions while those from socio-economically marginalized communities will be forced to carry out pregnancies or resort to unsafe abortions. Meanwhile, the system will continue to work against these same folks. Pregnancy, childbirth, and raising a child all have massive financial toll and there are several reasons why a person may not be prepared to take this on, including a lack of government support.
Confusion around the laws
Just as dangerous as any ban is the mere confusion and disinformation surrounding abortion laws. Abortion bans, even with exceptions, generate confusion and fear for patients and health care providers. The reversal of Roe has escalated the environment of political violence where the safety of those supporting, seeking or performing abortion care is under threat. This pervasive culture of misinformation and ambiguity, and oppressive laws create massive barriers to access to reproductive health.
We have already seen this playing out across the country. Most of us heard of the ten-year-old from Ohio who was raped and forced to cross the state line to access a legal abortion. I’m in anguish and worried about the kind of trauma women and children from these states will endure after having suffered from or been a witness to this kind of trauma.
While laws around treatments for miscarriages, ectopic pregnancy, and other complications are being scrutinized, women’s health is at risk. These murky, baseless laws rely on the fear created around them. Again, the decision for medical or surgical treatment should reside with healthcare providers, women, and their families. Abortion should not be viewed differently than any other gynecological or obstetric care. Furthermore, how a person became pregnant, their age, nor the reason why they’re seeking an abortion change the fact that the medical procedure is the same.
Creating vague laws that are open to different interpretations only begets confusion and fear. This issue was abundantly clear during the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing about threats to individual freedom after the overturning of Roe. During a line of questioning, U.S. Rep Eric Swalwell asked witness Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group, if a ten-year-old should be able to get an abortion. Her answer relied on misinformation and her own interpretation of what constitutes an abortion rather than on facts and medical guidance.
It bears repeating that it should be up to health care professionals to provide the treatment deemed necessary in their medical opinion and not up to some oppressive, antiquated lawmakers to decide when a situation is or is not an abortion.
Contrary to what Congressman Cawthorn may think, a woman’s body is not a vessel whose sole purpose is to bear children. The freedom to choose is fundamental to freedom more broadly. Making the decision to have an abortion, despite the economic, health, or other reasons behind it, is not a decision that is taken lightly. It is an incredibly difficult decision for any woman and family to make and has both physical and emotional tolls.
In the end, women will always have abortions, as they have been for over 4,000 years. The question is whether the abortions will be safe. The women I worked with had access to safe abortions, and those terminated pregnancies allowed each woman to move forward with her life, and so too were their families.
Knowing that decisions made in the U.S. have impacts globally, the fallout from this ruling has the potential to negatively impact health care provision for millions of others. The world joins Americans holding their breath – anticipating the fight yet again for all people to have autonomy and fundamental human rights.