The appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has upset many and created fear in the female-identifying population. Colorado College hosted three professionals of the Colorado Springs area on Feb. 1 to discuss the reproductive health and sexual justice implications that are associated with the current administration.
The three panel speakers included Nico Wilkinson, the local organizer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains; Dr. Marlesa Moore, an obstetrician at Pike’s Peak UCHealth Women’s Care Clinic; and Dr. Ted Maynard, the vice president of the Colorado Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The panel focused on bipartisanship, reproductive health, and sexual rights.
The first question asked was on the ways in which new policies would affect their jobs. Currently, over 10 million women rely on Title X for things like affordable birth control and general healthcare. The Donald Trump administration’s new “gag-rule” prohibits healthcare providers from disclosing full information and the various options available to their patients. This not only undermines fundamental tenets of informed consent, but spreads the views of the pro-life sect, regardless of the patient’s personal views. It also violates medical ethics by restricting the knowledge and speed with which patients can receive care. This would disproportionately affect lower-income communities, particularly people of color, that rely on places such as Planned Parenthood as their main care provider.
Additionally, restricting Title X would inhibit the ability to acquire affordable birth control, on which nine out of 10 women will rely in their lifetime. According to Maynard, studies have shown that the only true way to reduce the abortion rates is not to increase the difficulty of getting them, but instead to provide more opportunities to attain birth control. “Nobody’s choosing third-trimester abortions for personal reasons,” Maynard said. With the added threat of Roe v. Wade being overturned, the right to privacy and choice guaranteed by the Supreme Court could be taken from those who need it most.
Moore explained how much of the debate over abortion comes from the rhetoric used in the argument. By declaring one side as “pro-life” and the other as “pro-choice”, it muddles the more important aspects of the conversation. “It’s not as simple of a choice as it’s made out to be,” Moore said. “It’s not really about pro-life,” as the emphasis has been often placed on the unborn fetus instead of the mental, emotional, and physical health of the mother. She suggests that when moving forward in legislation, we should “try as much as we can to base legislation on neutral scientific evidence.” Dr. Maynard reiterated this sentiment, and he sees an opportunity in finding common ground in the hyper-partisan environment by providing resources to prevent unintended pregnancies, to begin with.
One of the big issues that healthcare providers are facing is the lack of science-based evidence in the current administration. Maynard commented that “conservatives think there should be less government control — except in the bedroom or doctor’s office.” Much of this is being propagated through intentional misinformation. As Wilkinson said, “someone somewhere in the chain has to know what the lie is.” For example, the undercover video from 2015 that claimed Planned Parenthood was illegally selling parts of aborted children created fear and hysteria, and ultimately lead to the mass shooting at a local Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood that left three dead and nine injured. In reality, these “baby parts” were being legally donated with consent from the mothers for scientific research. Upon further investigation, lawmakers declared that no wrongdoing had been done by Planned Parenthood. This deliberate act of false accusations only further increases the cycle of stigmatization that Planned Parenthood faces, particularly in the category of abortion.
Another issue that Wilkinson brought up was the behind-closed-doors approach many take and how “there’s been a minimizing of the importance of abortion.” This applies even to Planned Parenthood’s advertisement that abortion is only three percent of what they provide. Wilkinson believes that there needs to be steps towards destigmatization. As a matter of fact, one in four women in their lifetime will have an abortion,. It’s almost guaranteed that both sides of the aisle love someone that has had this procedure, but the stigmatization of talking about it has turned it into a taboo of society.
When asked what the most productive conversations for people to have about this topic, the panelists explained the importance of being straightforward, honest, and direct. Dr. Mayner pointed out how Colorado Spring’s religious community, while seen as the main group against abortion, can actually be an asset as they deeply care about those around them and their community as a whole. Being up front on both sides of the political spectrum normalizes the conversation, which is much more productive.
One of the biggest takeaways from the panel could be summed up by Wilkinso; “People that are pro-abortion can still stigmatize it,” they said. “This is not just a women’s issue.” It’s important to not get comfortable with the status quo, to always be learning, to always be improving. Activism is scary, but without it, those without voices will be even more silenced than before.