I’ve watched in horror as states across the country pass cruel abortion bans aimed at overturning Roe v. Wade. As an obstetrics and gynecology resident, I have dedicated my career to providing reproductive health care to women in need with the compassion and dignity we all deserve. Every day, I see how access to quality and comprehensive reproductive health care shapes families, communities and individual lives. When I provide abortion care for a patient, I know I am helping her shape a future she has control over.
This nationwide effort to seize control of women’s bodies and futures is taking place here in South Carolina, too. Despite unprecedented efforts by anti-choice lawmakers to circumvent the legislative process, reproductive rights advocates narrowly stalled a bill that would ban abortion at six weeks, before most women even know they’re pregnant — and certainly before they could arrange to take off work, find child care and travel to have the procedure done. The bill — which would also force a woman to carry to term a fetus with a lethal abnormality that is incompatible with life — passed the House and is set to move onto the Senate when our legislature reconvenes in 2020.
Trusted medical authorities like the South Carolina chapter of American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology opposed this bill because the provision of health care during pregnancy would be severely compromised and it would discourage doctors from treating pregnant women. In a state that already has a lack of obstetricians and gynecologists, we cannot afford to put up any more barriers to quality care.
One of my patients in particular comes to mind when I think of why access to safe, legal and affordable abortion is so important. I was called to see her in the emergency room after she presented there with a serious exacerbation of her chronic hypertension. It was there she found out she was pregnant with twins and decided she did not want to keep the pregnancy. She thought about the kids she already had at home, how she could not afford to provide for two more children, about her own health as a mother, and made the decision that was best for her and her family.
Unfortunately, due to abortion restrictions and barriers to access in South Carolina, at 13 weeks pregnant, she was nearly at the limit at which the Planned Parenthood in Columbia will perform an abortion, and she was still going to be in the hospital then. She couldn’t afford the costs associated with having the procedure done in the hospital’s operating room. We provided her information on clinics in North Carolina that could perform the procedure and let her go.
I don’t know if she was able to afford the procedure in North Carolina or if she was forced to continue her pregnancy. Her pregnancy will be extremely high risk if it continues, with maternal or neonatal complications almost certain. I think about her often and how she shouldn’t have had to scrape together cash or travel to another state to have an abortion.
Instead of passing laws that push care further out of reach and stigmatize abortion and the women who need care, South Carolina lawmakers should trust women to make their own decisions and respect the medical and ethical judgment of health care professionals.