When abortion is banned, women will no longer have this choice.
As an obstetrician-gynecologist, I have had unique opportunities to marvel at the wonders of human reproduction. Families shared with me the long-awaited joys of positive pregnancy tests and first ultrasound views. I became emotional, alongside the families, at the miraculous moment when their new child comes into the world and cries out for the first time. These are some of the unequaled joys of my job.
But alongside the thrills and delights, I witnessed the often underestimated burdens of pregnancy and motherhood. Sophia, a healthy black woman, told me during her first prenatal visit about her overwhelming fear of dying from pregnancy. She and her husband desperately wanted a child, but they were terrified of the cost of his life.
With the United States leading the developed world in maternal mortality rates, with black women dying three times more than white women, I struggled to find the right words to reassure her. We talked about complications and death rates, and I discussed all the ways we would prioritize his health.
But the reality is that for those choosing to have a baby, it is often a complicated and nuanced balance between the health of the mother and the health of the child. While extremely dangerous stresses on a woman’s heart, lungs, and other organ systems often lead to recommendations for preterm deliveries, answers to the more insidious dangers of pregnancy are less clear.
For the many women who suffer from debilitating musculoskeletal pain and relentless nausea, who experience lost wages due to an unaccommodated job, who struggle to get to appointments while juggling childcare children, working for days and pushing for hours, suffering from extensive vaginal lacerations or having open abdominal surgery, receiving blood transfusions and enduring stays in intensive care, the only comfort I have ever had could give is, “It’ll be worth it when you’re home with your baby. »
As a young doctor trained in a country where abortion is legal, I often took it for granted that having a baby was a deliberate decision. I (naively) told myself that my patients had access to affordable, accessible, and safe abortion care, but chose the path of pregnancy and childbirth, thus consenting both to the miraculous wonders of a new life and the innumerable risks to their lives and bodies.
My years of medical practice have also taught me that not all women have these options. The many geographical, logistical and financial barriers to safe abortion care enacted by politicians have left many women without a decision to make, even when their positive pregnancy tests evoke only dread and fear.
I fear that in a few months we will completely lose our freedom to make these decisions. Roe’s Birthday c. Wade, the court case that established the right to abortion in the United States, is on January 22. This could be the last year we mark this date, as the Supreme Court has made it clear that the constitutional right to abortion is no longer guaranteed. If the Supreme Court relegates abortion decisions to state legislatures, Utah’s current law will go into effect and nearly all abortions will be banned.
I recognize that, for some people, fetal life is all that matters in the abortion discussion. But as a physician dedicated to safe, evidence-based care, it all counts. Without access to safe and legal abortion care, I worry about the toll pregnancy will have on many women in Utah who are unwilling to accept the risks and burdens of pregnancy and motherhood, to whom I can’t just say: this.”
Micha Pangasa, MD, is an obstetrician and gynecologist in Salt Lake City.