Leading to Roe | Yale Insights

Q: What does that mean Dobbs prevailing health policy means?

We’ve already seen real health consequences. A 10-year-old sexual assault survivor had to travel from Ohio to Indiana for an abortion. Patients seeking abortion treatment are turned away because they are just days, sometimes hours, over their state’s pregnancy limit, although what determines a gestational age is not accurate. Healthcare providers in Louisiana were afraid to treat a patient who needed urgent medical care because of the real possibility that providers would be jailed if that care violated state laws regarding embryonic personality or abortion.

And then, of course, we see people being forced to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles out of the state to access abortion treatments. Not only do these people experience the stress of waiting for medical care, but also onerous logistical hurdles that push them unnecessarily further into pregnancy.

We know that the abortion ban does not stop people from seeking abortions. It just puts more people at risk, putting more people’s health and lives at risk. The anti-abortion laws are not designed to protect anyone. Anti-abortion forces are actively trying to intimidate patients and providers with the bans that are being put in place. They are willing to let people die while waiting for vital medical care if it allows them to retain control of other people’s bodies. I don’t think they will stop until they reach their ultimate goal of a national ban on abortion.

In the United States, we have one of the worst maternal health outcomes for any developed country in the world. The maternal mortality rate among black women is three to four times that of white women. A University of Colorado study using data from 2017 showed that if abortion were banned nationwide, we would see a 21% increase in maternal deaths and a 33% increase in black maternal deaths [Editor’s note: An update of the study, currently in pre-print and using data from 2020, estimates a 24% overall rise in pregnancy-related deaths and a 39% rise for Black women]. That would be a devastating public health outcome.

Q: What role does full access to reproductive health care play in women’s lives?

I don’t want to lose sight of the unique and particular impact on women or the misogyny that these bans are rooted in, but I think it’s important to recognize that this issue affects everyone. All people must be able to make their own decisions about building their families.

Part of what motivated me to pursue a career in sexual and reproductive health, first as a midwife and now at Planned Parenthood, is that I don’t understand how we can even be free if we don’t freely control our reproductive lives be able .

Q: To what extent is this a problem for companies?

It is absolutely an issue for companies and executives. Time and time again, research has shown that full access to comprehensive health care contributes to a productive, engaged, and fully participatory workforce. It is a good business decision to ensure employees receive health care that supports their well-being.

“Abortion is basic health care. It’s also a human right. It’s also an economic issue. We know that a person’s access to comprehensive reproductive care is directly related to their ability to fully participate in the workforce.”

Abortion is an essential health care. It’s also a human right. It’s also an economic issue. We know that a person’s access to comprehensive reproductive care is directly linked to their ability to participate fully in the labor market. It is directly linked to their earning potential. It is directly linked to their professional success. For example, if we think about the gender pay gap and rising economic inequality, we know from historical research that abortion bans will only exacerbate these problems. Abortion bans hurt workers and the companies they work for. The Turnaway Study, a longitudinal study of the impact of an unplanned pregnancy on women’s lives, found that abortion does not affect women’s health and well-being, while denial of an abortion leads to poorer health, family and financial outcomes.

Q: How is Planned Parenthood responding nationally?

I’m the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, so I don’t work for the national organization. But I can say that Planned Parenthood has been around for over a hundred years; we’re not going anywhere. We are filing lawsuits in states to defend ourselves against these outrageous bans. We advocate proactive legislation to protect access to abortion at both the state and national levels. We are working with business leaders, local, state and national leaders to find solutions to mitigate this public health crisis we face.

At the same time, healthcare is local, so Planned Parenthood members across the country provide healthcare to the patients who come through our doors. We educate young people and their families and educators about sexual and reproductive health care. And we’re working in every way we can to break down barriers to access healthcare.

Planned Parenthood is an unusual organization. We are a healthcare provider. And we are educators. And we are an advocacy, movement and cultural change organization. Because we are not just one thing, and because we look at our work through all of these lenses, we are better able to consider the whole and intersectional lives of the patients we serve.

In order for our patients to be able to make their own decisions, it is not just about the physical existence of a health center nearby. It’s not just about having knowledge or information. It’s not just about having the right to access that care. All of these things have to work together. That was a challenge before Dobbs Verdict. The fight to ban abortion is not just about access to abortion. It’s really about the freedom to control our future and our lives.

Q: How did Planned Parenthood of Southern New England staff react to the ruling?

Our employees are on fire. They are rightly upset by the decision – they perceive it as an attack on their day-to-day work, the people and communities they serve. Itself.

They are willing to make sure our doors are open, that we’re there for our patients and communities, and that we’re there for people who need to come to us because they can’t get that care on their own in this condition.

They raise their hands and say what else can I do? Which of course makes me incredibly proud. And I want to support them in getting through such a challenging, emotionally draining and stressful time. I want to make sure our people have the resources and capacity to do the work we need to do today but also to continue to do it tomorrow and next year and 10 years from now which means we care about our Team need to take care of and tends to their ability to have the resilience and steadfastness to continue the work.

Q: What operational changes are required?

We saw it coming and took steps in all facets of our work to be ready. We have optimized the opening hours in our health centers so that they are easily accessible for patients. We’re adding a special associate to ensure out-of-state patients have all the support and resources they need.

There Dobbs pushed the decision back to the States, the landscape right now is very chaotic and changing rapidly. Abortion has been banned in 15 states since August 2nd. We assume that 26 states will eventually pass bans.

However, the safety of our patients and our doctors is of paramount importance – their physical safety, their health, their mental well-being and of course their legal security.

Q: What is longer term?

Where we are today is the result of decades of efforts to shame and stigmatize not only abortion as a procedure, but also the people who have abortions.

Renee Bracey Sherman, a reproductive justice activist, often says that everyone loves someone who has had an abortion. And that’s true. One in four women in the United States has had an abortion. Everyone loves someone who has had an abortion. One of the most effective ways to destigmatize abortion is through storytelling. You may not have a story to tell, but you can really listen to someone talk about their abortion. You may remember, oh I love this person.

We have work to do to change attitudes, to move to a place where people can say “abortion” without fear, shame or stigma, to talk about abortion for the medical procedure it is. Not to feel personally ashamed, embarrassed, or stigmatized for having an abortion or for loving someone who had an abortion. That’s part of how we’re changing the culture around abortion in the longer term.

Q: You worked as a naturopath for a long time before taking the Yale SOM. How has the program changed your view of healthcare?

I have worked as a nurse and midwife for 10 years in a community with tremendous socioeconomic, racial, ethnic and religious diversity. I spent my time taking care of one person at a time. I focused on the person right in front of me, trying to help them through the challenges they were facing.

When you truly are with that person, it can be difficult to see the issues in the upstream systems that are preventing that person from living their healthiest life. SOM helped me to see the system problems more clearly.

The interdependence of economic policy, health and healthcare also became very clear. I remember when the Affordable Care Act was passed my first thought was that it was less health care reform and more insurance reform. But reforming the way we pay for health care in this country is directly related to changes in the way health care is delivered. This may not be a reality we all love, but it is the reality.

SOM made me see that my life’s work of providing the healthcare I believe people deserve necessarily involves systemic change. And it made me see how I could help bring about that systemic change.

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