Currently, there is a lot of conversation surrounding the Supreme Court decision reversing Roe vs. Wade but little discussion about sex, birth control, and women’s health.
Society has always portrayed sex as this dirty little 3-letter word. Furthermore, as it relates to sex, women are often not seen in a positive light even as far back as biblical times. Think of “the woman at the well.”
The religious leaders at the time were quick to judge her for having relationships with multiple men. During this era, women were not well respected and were demeaned and disregarded. However, it takes two people to engage in intercourse and Jesus had to remind these men that they had no right to judge her when they were not free from sin.
Therefore, it is interesting to me how passionately people have argued against abortion, but those same people are often silent on supporting birth control. Ironic, isn’t it? So, we don’t want women to have the choice of an abortion, but we also don’t want to universally pay for birth control nor fertility treatments. Let’s not forget the states that refuse to expand Medicaid. Abortion supporters want women to continue with their pregnancies but then do not want to help support them once the baby is born.
As a provider whose patient population is majority female, I want the best for my patients and will advocate for their well-being. There are horrific situations that occur that are unplanned such as rape, life-threatening medical conditions, and genetic abnormalities not compatible with life. It is not my job as a provider to make moral judgements for my patients and their partners. As an individual citizen, if I choose not to have an abortion, so be it. However, imposing my views on a situation that is between the patient, her partner, and her doctor is outrageous.
Contrary to widespread belief, contraception is NOT readily accessible to everyone. For instance, I have patients who work for religious organizations who refuse to cover contraception if it is not for a medical reason. Some of my patients for instance cannot get certain long-acting contraceptive methods due to the cost. Do we want people having unwanted pregnancies and not being able to afford to care for their children; or do we want to provide them with appropriate resources to plan pregnancies according to their desired time frame? Many abortions could be avoided with widely available contraception.
I also believe that our outdated approach to educating young people about sex and contraception are also contributing to this ongoing debate about regulating female bodies. Sex is natural. Children need to learn about their sexual organs at an early age and learn to respect the human body. Consent needs to also be taught at an early age. Curiosity about sex and body parts is a natural part of growing up but we must make sure our kids understand boundaries of touch. Children should not be watching inappropriate television content or be present during adult sexual acts. Sexual violence is a major public health problem in this country. Per the CDC, one in four women or one in twenty-six men have experienced an attempted or completed rape. With this new Supreme Court decision, we are now dictating to women that they must have the baby of their rapist.
Debates in our country are often misguided. We waste time and miss opportunities to tackle significant issues like poverty, maternal-fetal death rates, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Today’s abortion debate is nothing more than a patriarchal attempt to reverse years of women’s health advancement.
Denise Hooks-Anderson, M.D., FAAFP can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.