Creating a Climate of Support

Some thoughts about my own experience and the current dialogue around abortion in America:

1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime. I have always been a committed advocate for choice, but my unplanned pregnancy has strengthened my commitment to advocating for reproductive choice. When I found out I was pregnant, a mere 4 days before I was to sit for the New York bar exam, I knew with every cell of my being that I wanted to move forward with that pregnancy and give birth to what was to become my child. I do not question women whose bodies, minds, spirits, and hearts told them the exact opposite. The message they received of “no this cannot be,” “this is not meant to be,” “this must end,” is no less legitimate than the message I experienced, and we must know women are fully capable of making the best decision based on the information and knowledge available to them. We must TRUST them.

But I wanted to share my second thought after finding out I was pregnant. That thought was: is this an acceptable thing to do as a young woman at the beginning of her career with 6 figures of student debt and no assets to her name? This is how my world answered that question for me:

1. My family, friends, and partner consistently demonstrated and verbally expressed they would support my decision to terminate my pregnancy or to move forward with it
2. Professional women took the time to speak with me about how my decision would impact my life, my career, and my ability to financially support myself and my family
3. Medical professionals explained to me with scientific accuracy how either decision would play out
4. MY STATE actively held policies that made CHOICE a reality by offering:
a. A state-supported PLANNED PARENTHOOD
b. Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women at 219% of the federal poverty line
c. A state-funded home health nurse available through the Nurse-Family Partnership who met with me weekly throughout my pregnancy and postpartum period
d. A Washington County Mental Health-provided prenatal and postpartum doula free of charge who also met with me weekly throughout my postpartum period and provided childbirth education classes
e. Medicaid that covered a homebirth midwife team
5. My boss and other staff at my place of work expressed and demonstrated that my pregnancy was welcome in our workplace and that I would have access to any accommodations I might need.
6. I was consistently treated with respect and dignity, including utmost respect for my autonomy and privacy

This is to say, my world mirrored back to me that I had true support and freedom of choice. But the reality is, a situation like the one I experienced is basically unheard of in the U.S. Vermont does an exceptional job at caring for pregnant women. I also was just downright lucky in terms of my work environment and my family and friends. And even with this dream of a situation, pregnancy and motherhood are still unbelievably demanding and challenging every single day.

But I want to highlight, the data is in and it clearly shows those states with the most laws restricting access to abortion are the same states scoring the lowest on maternal and infant health metrics and with the fewest policies in place to support and improve infant and maternal health.

Let women make their own decisions. Trust them to know what is best for themselves and their families. And if you are going to politically involve yourselves in the lives of pregnant women, let it be to support the resources they need to have a healthy pregnancy.

If you are anti-choice and you feel like you just can’t be heard, here are some things you can do that will truly save fetuses and help those women who want to carry their pregnancies to term but doubt if they have the resources to do so:

1. advocate for fact-based sex education
2. advocate for affordable, accessible long-acting birth control like the copper IUD
3. advocate for paid maternity leave
4. advocate for safe, affordable child care
5. advocate against domestic violence
6. advocate for a living wage
7. advocate for in-home health education programs
8. advocate for accessible, affordable midwife care
9. advocate for Medicaid expansion
10. advocate for breastfeeding accommodations
11. advocate for flexible work schedules and environments

This list is by no means exhaustive. There is so much we can do as a country to make this land a safe place for pregnant women and their families. I encourage everyone to do the work. Leave women to their choices. These are their bodies and their decisions. It is our job to love one another and make this world as safe and supportive and kind as we can. Next time you come across someone claiming to be pro-life with an anti-choice agenda, I encourage you all to shift the conversation to these policy goals and to point out that every resource spent trying to control women’s choices is a resource taken away from supporting pregnant women and infants. #trustwomen

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