Wade Vandervort

Planned Parenthood on West Charleston Blvd in Las Vegas Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.

States all over the country have chipped away at abortion access this legislative season and I’ve seen up close how the new restrictions have hurt our patients at Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida. With the recent leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion suggesting that Roe v. Wade may be overturned this summer, protecting abortion access has become more important than ever.

There’s not one “type” of person who gets an abortion. We see new mothers, still breastfeeding their infants, whose fertility sneaked up on them. Single moms who light up when they talk about their kids. We see women with demanding jobs and women who are in school pursuing a degree.

Some of our patients wanted to keep their pregnancies but couldn’t afford to. We’ve cared for women who are on birth control pills, who have an IUD in place, whose husbands had vasectomies. We have patients who developed life-threatening blood clots during their last pregnancy, and other patients who needed a stitch in their cervix and four months of bed rest. Some were afraid to tell their families, only to learn that their mother or cousin or aunt quietly had an abortion years ago. One in 4 women will have an abortion in their lifetime, after all.

Despite how tricky it can be to talk about abortion, caring for my patients actually feels so simple. Abortion can be divisive and explosive and controversial in the political arena but when I sit across from someone in an exam room, when I ask if they feel sure and ready, all of that fades away.

In the wake of these new state policies, abortion providers have spent precious time talking through consent forms, conferring with legal experts and re-orienting the clinic work flow.

These restrictions don’t make abortions go away, they just make abortions less safe. They aren’t based on medical evidence. The delays caused by closing clinics and mandatory waiting periods can turn into weeks, and the longer the pregnancy goes, the fewer options we can offer to our patients.

Women who are denied an abortion are more likely to live in poverty or stay tethered to abusive partners, neither of which is safe for the kids they already have, according to a study by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health at the University of California San Francisco.

Children need access to health care, paid parental leave, subsidized child care and better public education — not laws that force people to give birth. The majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

With every new patient we meet, abortion providers create an individualized plan that best fits their medical, social and emotional needs — unlike state legislatures that dole out one-size-fits-all bills.

What would it look like to trust women? To trust that our patients are doing the best they can to take care of themselves and their families?

Brene Brown once said, “People are hard to hate up close” — and if you get close to the reality of abortion, you’ll see the gray areas and difficult choices and the love with which so many people approach abortion.

Abortion care opens up space for our patients to pursue new dreams, care for a family that already exists, or build a life for a family yet to come. So many people have shared their abortion stories recently, and it’s powerful, but they don’t owe us an explanation for their choices.

Abortion is still legal, and if you or a loved one has an appointment, you should still go in. We have to call on our representatives in Congress now to codify Roe v. Wade into law. We need to let our state legislators know how Florida’s new restrictions have affected us. A broad coalition of people is rising up to protect abortion access for our patients. And abortion providers aren’t going anywhere.

Juhi Varshney is an emergency medicine resident in Miami. She has rotated at Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida. This column originally appeared in the Miami Herald.

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