As I begin to write, it’s been six hours since I saw the notification that reported the Supreme Court had officially overturned Roe v. Wade.
Let me start by saying I’m a person who has a lot of feelings. I found the having-of-feelings to be quite challenging, at one point in my life. My quest to be more at peace with my feelings–which I first saw as “managing,” “mastering” or “overcoming” them, later realizing the right approach would best be described as “partnering” — led me to become a counselor.
I’ve got a lot of feelings today. I’m not going to share them all here. Too many. Perhaps they would bore you. My feelings are for me: it is sufficient that I know and allow them.
I will share these: I’m tired. And sad. And worried.
I’m worried that we have justices on the US Supreme Court who do not understand healthcare. That the rights of an individual and their physician to decide the best course for that individual’s health, those rights have no business being politicized. This deficit of reasoning among those put forth as some of our nation’s most sophisticated thinkers is downright alarming.
Let me explain what I mean, for I do not make that statement lightly.
I’m the mother of two children. I carried and bore my children in the late 80s and early 90s, in an atmosphere of medical safety that–in my twenties–I was not worldly enough to fully appreciate.
When their father drove me to the hospital to receive emergency care for unexpected bleeding in the 22nd week, I had no doubt that I would survive. I was scared, tearful, in pain, and 23 years old. My 23 year old husband gripped the steering wheel as he drove us toward the hospital. I cried. I have no idea what he was feeling.
I was fortunate. My symptoms stabilized, and I returned home to complete 39 weeks of my (by then) very wanted pregnancy. That might not have happened.
I might have had some kind of issue that would have required my pregnancy to be terminated in order to save my life. I had only a vague idea about this possibility at the time. What does a 23-year-old really understand about medicine and mortality? We were all lucky that day. But the luckiest thing was that I was pregnant in a world where my doctor and I made the decision together about my health.
I would not want either of my children–current torch bearers of the responsibility to contribute to the population in their turns, if they should so choose–to be pregnant or support a partner’s pregnancy in the post Roe US. My daughter already lives in the EU, and today, with enormous sadness, I felt grateful. If she becomes pregnant, her healthcare choices are between her and her doctors. No politician’s opinion will ever be a factor. And it shouldn’t.
What really convinced me that the anti-choice movement is pro-power-and-control over childbearers (women), and in no way “pro life” as they proclaim, were the stories written by women whose lives were saved by that rare-but-necessary occurrence, a late-term abortion.
These stories are terrifying and heartbreaking. In all the cases I read, the potential child was very much wanted. Some of these women, going for emergency care to a hospital operated by a Roman Catholic organization, were denied lifesaving care based on religious ideology. In one story I read, an ambulance transported the woman to another (secular) hospital that was willing to do the procedure, thus allowing her life to be saved. But what if there had been no alternative hospital nearby? This situation occurred in the US in the 1980s. That’s right: she had more freedom than she would have in many states today, and still she could have died.
Some of these women considered themselves to be against a woman’s right to choose–until their own life depended on their having the right to choose.
What just God would believe it is right to allow a woman–very often a mother of young children who need her for another decade or more–to die, in the service of the fiction of “valuing equally” the existence of a potential human, not yet even born? And if born, likely to need to survive without a mother? What kind of chance does an infant have without a mother or caring, prepared parents?
I can hear the anti-choicers now, “but there will be exceptions for the life of the mother!” Oh really? And who decides when a mother’s life is at risk? Can the potential mother decide she will be too overwrought to conduct her life with a child, thus at risk for depression and the potential for self-harm that comes with it? “Well, no,” they say. “That’s not the kind of risk we mean.”
Listen carefully. We have no business policing the personal, medical decision making of our fellow humans. None. Not at all.
Medicine is practiced by licensed medical practitioners. Medicine is a global field of study and practice (Doctors Without Borders anyone?), although it is licensed locally. Medical professionals adhere to standards established by their peers. Those standards change, as knowledge grows. Practitioners advise and treat their patients, and contribute to the standards, supporting and monitoring each other. It is an ethical profession based on the desire to facilitate healing in humans. That is it. That is ALL of it.
A free nation permits medical choices to be explored, made and implemented based on the standards of the profession–without the interference of government. The US no longer guarantees child bearers that freedom. Those who concern themselves most with policing others have been eroding that freedom for this population for some time.
I don’t even want to talk about all the anti-choice doctors who don’t want to perform abortions, because that’s just a red herring to this issue. But as long as we’re here:
If a medical practitioner does not want to perform a particular procedure usual to their discipline, they have an ethical obligation not to place themselves in a position where someone might need that procedure–particularly in an emergency–and be unable to receive appropriate care, due to that practitioner’s lack of transparency about their unwillingness to perform a normal function of that profession.
One wonders why an individual with such scruples would choose a profession with the expectation that they perform a procedure that they do not want to perform. There are plenty of specialties a physician could choose where there is little to no expectation they perform an abortion. I do not wish to shoot guns: therefore I am not a police officer. I chose a profession where I desire to and am capable of fulfilling the expectations of the profession.
The medical profession doesn’t exist to help doctors realize themselves: it exists to support patients in their healing. Equally. Those with the capability to bear children, the same as those who cannot bear but might impregnante such a one. It is up to each patient to appreciate our differences, and decide what healing is and isn’t for them, with the guidance of their doctors.
And all those 19th and 20th century references to it being a crime to harm the unborn in the US? Laws written with the majority of the population (BIPOC and female) unrepresented? Let’s not even go there. I have no interest in “traditions” as defined by those who knew little of women’s lives and respected them even less.
We citizens of the United States are responsible for the behavior of our government. We must empower ourselves to choose representatives who care about the needs of all, and govern in congruence.