With initial approval to block Planned Parenthood funding in Kentucky, the state quickly continues course on a path against reproductive freedom; two recently-signed Kentucky laws require ban abortion after the 19th week of pregnancy and women obtaining an abortion are required to look at an image of their fetus and hear the heartbeat before they may decide what to do with their own bodies.
As a high-risk obstetrician, let me clear up any misconception that there is a valid medical reason for this: there is not. It does not make abortion, which is already one of the safest medical procedures around, any safer. It does not make women any more or less healthier, whether they choose to undergo the procedure or not.
Perhaps, then, it is because Kentucky’s lawmakers think so little of women that they believe women don’t understand the consequences of their decision, that they don’t understand what pregnancy means, or that the fetus in them couldn’t turn into a person.
I struggle to find adequate words to express, both as a physician and a woman, how insulting this is. As someone who has cared for thousands of pregnant women I assure you that all of them are aware that fetuses have heartbeats.
Their decisions regarding their pregnancies have not been made cavalierly, and that you believe so only highlights how little you respect women. I can only hope the next bill you’re planning to pass will require men to prove that their economic stability and not have unpaid child support before receiving a prescription for Viagra or Cialis or any erectile dysfunction medication.
Because, you know — sex leads to babies. And — I’m looking at you Texas State Rep. Tony Tinderholt — it seems only fair that men should also be “more personally responsible” when it comes to sex.
Many women who choose to terminate their pregnancies are ones who have learned catastrophic information regarding their pregnancy. The child they were so excited for has a devastating and painful malformation, or risk being born so prematurely even a barrage of interventions, some of which may be painful, will not be enough to keep them alive, or that continuing the pregnancy means that they — the mothers — are risking their lives by continuing the pregnancy.
There are many other reasons why a woman may choose to not continue a pregnancy — abusive relationships, sexual assault, financial concerns, career aspirations.
The reason, however, should not matter. Women have the right to maintain autonomy over their own bodies. Because we are not in a better position to decide what is best for them than they are. Because we are not the people who will live daily with the consequences of their decision. Because the many myths that have been perpetuated as an excuse for restricting women’s rights – that abortion is unsafe, that fetuses feel pain, that abortion causes breast cancer, or that women who have been assaulted can’t get pregnant — are just not true.
Governor Bevin, regardless of your stance on abortion please recognize this bill for what it is — a punitive assault on the intelligence and humanity of women — and rescind it.
Dr. Priya Rajan is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine physician and an assistant professor at Northwestern University, and is a Public Voices Fellow.