"I have had something to prove, as long as I’ve got something that needs improvement. And you know every time I move, I make a woman’s movement. –Hour Follows Hour by Ani DiFranco
Sometimes things just hit you too hard to understand your true reaction. You walk alongside yourself, cautiously checking in from time to time, hoping the answer emerges eventually.
The day our Supreme Court ignored nearly 50 years of precedent to overturn Roe vs. Wade, I had just checked the news when I joined a recording for a podcast with urologist, Dr. Kelly Casperson, about women’s sexual health. Typically I run through the general topics I'll be covering with guests, and make sure I know what questions are off limits.
During this pre-interview discussion, women’s rights were on my mind, and I asked how she felt about discussing health care disparities for women with urological illnesses. I shared the sadness I felt when I previously heard her describe how dismissive other providers could be of their women patients, stating they were simply “too needy or too complicated” to study and treat. I wasn’t sure that this was a great lead in, since it focused more on inequalities in women’s health rather than sexual functioning.
Her answer, though, is one that I’ve repeated to myself while searching for solid ground as a women living in America today. “Let’s do it,” she said. “We need to speak up now more than ever. Women need to use their voices whenever they can, however they can, to point out what needs to change.”
Thank you, Kelly. You are absolutely right.
I’ve been an advocate for reproductive rights since I was able to understand what sex was all about. As I joined my female peers on our divergent path from the boys, beginning with menstruation, I began to recognize the vulnerability that comes with navigating sexuality as a young woman. Tight-rope walking the line between giving too much or being “frigid,” I was never comfortable in my own body.
In college, I volunteered with the National Abortion Reproductive Rights Action League, collecting signatures and calling congressmen (let’s be honest, even when I was in my 20s, few were women) to advocate for women’s reproductive choice. Though we would discuss the possibility of Roe vs Wade being overturned, it was in a whispered, frightening bedtime story voice. It seemed far off, unlikely. Unsafe abortions leading to unnecessary deaths of healthy women were a thing of the past, I would think, something I could tell my children about someday, both of us shaking our heads in dismay.
Yet, here we are.
I want to clarify that I’m not pro-abortion. I have seen women go through this procedure in my medical training, and even in the safe environment of the clinic, many difficult emotions can be involved. I don’t believe many would have chosen this experience if given the alternative of safe and effective contraception, but they recognized carrying a baby to full term was not possible for them. And it is precisely this personal decision that I fully support them making, without interference from the state or federal government.
I am pro-choice, pro-prenatal care, pro-postpartum care, pro-childhood health care safety nets, and pro-sexual education. I value the lives of the babies who are born, as well as the women who must navigate a world where the burden of unwanted pregnancy falls on their shoulders, often entirely.
Listening to music and talking to other women has provided some comfort these past several days, as I let the feelings of sadness and fear slowly morph into anger and a voice telling me I need to do my part. How can I best support women in this political environment, with my particular skills and location? What can I supply with my words, or bolster with my actions?
My practice supports women during each stage of life, from first love to the overwhelming responsibility of parenting, to the quiet grief of slowly declining friends and partners in late life. I am committed to caring for all women, even those who don’t share my particular views or beliefs, because I have taken the Hippocratic Oath, and firmly stand by those words.
In addition, however, I strongly believe that the equality of women in the home, workplace, and future depends on retaining autonomy over our bodies, education about sexual health and safety, and support from our leaders in business, politics, entertainment and medicine.
I will use my voice where I can, as loudly as I can, and join other members of our country who believe we must continue moving forward, even in the face of setbacks and disappointment.
"First you decide what you gotta do, and then you go out and do it. And maybe the most that we can do, is just to see each other through it." –Hour Follows Hour by Ani DiFranco