Dr. Megan Evans, Guest Blogger (OB/GYN Resident, Boston)
This post is part of Blog for Choice 2013, launched by Boston Students for Sexual and Reproductive Justice (BSSRJ).
It’s funny when you hear something so outrageous on the radio or read it online. Just for a moment, you feel like you accidently stumbled upon a faux-article from The Onion or you completely misread the piece on your smart phone before your morning coffee.
And then you realize- no, somebody actually said those words. And maybe you feel a little sick to your stomach, angry, or sad. That’s how many of us felt this past year when it came to stories about women’s reproductive rights and health. Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse, another statement was said more outrageous than the next. These statements were almost always said by men, completely devoid of fact, and always brought women I’ve met and cared for to the forefront of my mind.
When Todd Akin (R-MO) said “from what I understand from doctors…if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” I felt angry. When I was a medical student, I cared for a woman who was raped by a coyote while trying to cross the border into the United States and had become pregnant. She found her way to our clinic and desired to terminate this pregnancy. She was so traumatized; she immediately started uncontrollably shaking at the sight of any male, even the anesthesiologist there to care for her. She was raped, and like 32,000 other women each year who have been raped, she became pregnant. Mr. Akin, in one sentence, you discounted this woman’s experience and all women like her. In one statement, you suggested she must have not had a legitimate rape or she must have enjoyed the assault if she became pregnant.
When Joe Walsh (R-IL) said there should be no abortion exception for life of the mother because with “modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance” in which a woman would actually die, I was shocked. While Walsh made this outrageous claim, we had a patient on our labor floor with extremely high pressures and a pre-viable pregnancy. As we tried to balance continuing her pregnancy with keeping her safe, her blood pressures became so elevated; we were concerned she could have a stroke. After much counseling, the patient decided to terminate the pregnancy. This was a difficult decision for the patient, but her health and her life were in danger. Mr. Walsh, I have found your one instance and have many more. Pregnancy is safe, but can be extremely dangerous for some patients and they should always have access to safe, legal abortion if their health or life is ever in danger.
Unfortunately for both Mr. Walsh and Mr. Akin, voters and women everywhere would not tolerate these false and outrageous claims and both candidates lost their elections to strong, pro-choice women.
As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I think of how far we have come-over the counter Plan B, contraception without co-pays, and increased access to family planning services. We still, however, have a long way to go. Abortion and contraception access is always under attack-whether it is attempting to defund Planned Parenthood, budget cuts to women’s health services, or new, limiting legislation.
As Roe turns 40, let’s remember all we have and all we have to fight for. Just as we defeated Joe Walsh and Todd Akin, let’s make a New Year’s Resolution to keep our voices loud, fight for what we believe in, and stand up for all women’s reproductive health and choices everywhere. Roe is counting on it.