In the United States, where abortion has been legal for nearly 50 years, the law is expected to change for approximately 65 million women of childbearing age (15-44) eliminating their constitutional right to an abortion leading to limited options with challenging — even life-threatening — consequences.
It’s already begun. States are tightening restrictions on their abortion laws. Last September after Texas passed a ban on abortion after six weeks gestation, women searched for clinics in nearby states including Oklahoma. In late May, Oklahoma passed a law banning abortion from the moment of fertilization.
As a young medical resident in San Antonio, Dr. Alan Braid, owner of both the Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services and Tulsa Women’s Clinic, treated a 16-year-old girl who’d arrived at the emergency room after an illegal abortion. Days later she died. This tragic event fueled Braid to do everything in his power to provide safe abortion services throughout his medical career, including spending $3 million building a new clinic that complied with the requirements. It opened on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the law from being enforced.
If abortions become illegal in both Texas and Oklahoma, doctors including Braid may relocate to other states. Braid has witnessed firsthand the desperation some women experience seeking safe abortions. Patients share their reasons with him for choosing abortion: including living in abusive marriages, rape, being undocumented and already struggling to feed their families. Braid believes the need for abortion will always exist. He once thought abortion would be an accessible procedure in a woman’s doctor’s office. He never thought Roe would be overturned. More.
The impending change in law will affect impoverished women and families most severely. Statistics show that about one in four U.S. women will have an abortion and about 60 percent are in their 20s, and about 75 percent are low income, about 62 percent are religious and around more than half are already parents. More.
Some ask why not carry the pregnancy to term and give the baby up for adoption? Women struggling to earn a living wage and support their families often see abortion as their only option. Pregnancy and childbirth carry tremendous risk under the best circumstances. Healthcare access for mothers is one of the many factors to consider. The U.S. continues to have one of the highest maternal mortality rates in any industrialized country. Approximately every 12 hours a woman dies due to complications resulting from pregnancy (more than 60 percent of these deaths are preventable) and thousands face life-threatening health challenges. Abortion may be a safer choice for a woman and her family.
A committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reviewed the available evidence and confirmed in a 2018 report that abortion is safe and effective.
Access to abortion is associated with better lives for both women and their children. Jennifer Reich, a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado, Denver said, “Everybody benefits when individuals can control their own reproduction, but the benefit can be invisible for cis men, since they don’t absorb the risks of pregnancy and it’s not written on their bodies.”
As the co-conceivers, men have reproductive rights and must be included in the conversation and heard. Dr. Brian T. Nguyen, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California, established the EMERGE lab to further research men’s’ involvement in reproductive health. He said, “Men can and should be involved in sexual and reproductive health care, and we’ll do this work until it becomes very clear that this is everyone’s issue.”
Since 1994, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Poland are the only countries in the world that continue to have restricted access to abortions for women.
If the U.S. is added to that list, a 50 year precedent will be overturned and the reverberations will echo throughout our society. This reversal will make us less stable and less trustworthy of the rule of law. More critically, it will threaten the health and well being of women, largely those who can least afford the risks. The right to safe abortions is, above all, a right to safe, effective health care, a fundamental human right.