After 15 years, last week (and some) was my last as an abortion provider in Georgia…for now.
As an Ob Gyn, I trained in settings in which abortion was considered an essential part of healthcare. Providing abortions was not just normalized but integrated as a part of gynecology services. It was part of our jobs. But as I worked across more restricted settings, the burden of the politicization of abortion access came to full view.
It only solidified where I stand: abortion is more than essential health care. Abortion is a moral and loving act, and the decision to continue with or end a pregnancy is a deeply intimate, private and fundamental right.
The grave concern for what happens post-Roe is justified; we’ve been here before as a country, and we have ample global evidence for the effects of prohibited or highly restricted access to abortion. The learnings from others must inform where we go from here.
One in four American women will have abortion by age 45. The data show that this very access allows people to fully participate in economic life. The overturning of Roe vs. Wade –which protected the right to abortion for pregnant people in the U.S.– only reinforces the dire impact now that this right is removed.
- People denied abortion experience worse economic and mental health outcomes than those who receive abortion care
- People who may not be able to get the abortion they need report they would seek abortion in another state, self-manage their abortion with medications or herbs, or would turn to self- harm behaviors. Some people anticipating the impact of restrictive abortion laws report they would feel “scared” or “enslaved,” if they could not access abortion care and were forced to continue a pregnancy.
- Restricting abortion makes abortion unsafe, but not necessarily less frequent.
- Unsafe abortion contributes to up to 13 percent of maternal mortality annually and to millions of people experiencing severe morbidity, yet it is a completely preventable cause of maternal death.
Separately, I also serve as the Global Medical Director for a global health organization, Population Services International. There, I’ve seen our country partners deliver legal abortion services in highly restricted settings – with patience, positivity and a determination to make abortion safer and more available for people. I look to our partners with gratitude and awe for the perseverance, steadfast belief, commitment, steady advocacy, and personal risk with which they continue to fight for safe legal abortion. We embrace the expertise and learnings for how we in the U.S. move forward from people in highly restricted abortion settings who have long been navigating this landscape.
Among the learnings the U.S. can apply:
- Information is power: As we’ve seen across sub-Saharan Africa, abortion isn’t illegal everywhere. As abortion regulation is handed back to the states with the removal of federal protection, the U.S. will constitute a state-by-state patchwork of abortion laws. This will severely limit access to abortion for women in the majority of U.S. states and access will expand in other states, emphasizing the importance of people understanding what their rights and options are.
- Medical professionals need to have clarity on the legal limits to abortion and what legal options for abortion care are in the states in which they practice, to ensure accurate safe options counseling to pregnant people seeking abortion care. As laws change quickly, it is imperative upon the medical community, policy makers, and legal scholars to clearly define circumstances in which abortion can be obtained.
- Early pregnancy detection is even more paramount now that many states will restrict abortion to early gestational ages. Early access to medication abortion drugs will be critical to support access.
- Unwavering advocacy must continue; advocacy can be slow and frustrating, but it does make a difference – several countries spanning Asia, Latin America, and Africa have expanded their abortion laws in recent years; small wins over time can lead to big change – we have to persevere.
As the U.S. navigates the complexities of the detrimental SCOTUS ruling, the focus remains on supporting abortion seekers to be agents of their own bodies, and their own lives in states in which it’s legal.
On our drive home recently, we passed a nearby abortion clinic and my 13-year-old daughter turned to me – asking, “What if I one day need an abortion? Will you help?” I knew she was aware of the SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe, but I did not know she was starting to develop a real sense of what this ruling could mean for people in Georgia who need abortion care. I heard fear, anxiety, worry.
This is not political; this is personal.
I am fighting this fight for my daughters, for women and abortion seekers everywhere who have an unequivocal right to make choices for their bodies, their lives.
Anyone who wants to get pregnant and have a child, I support.
Anyone who does not want to remain pregnant, I support.
I’ve seen firsthand that restricting or banning abortion has one consistent and damaging effect: increasing unsafe abortions and maternal deaths. No one should be forced to give birth.
I stand with all who continue to defend the right to choose.
I’ve served my last day as an abortion provider in Georgia – for now. But my personal activism will continue. I’m in this for the long haul, and will stay at the frontline until the right to choose is the law of the land.