Thursday, October 11, 2012

The War on Women (pardon the political rant)

What the hell is this “war on women?” I’m a woman – a thinking, rational, educated and intelligent individual with two ovaries and two X chromosomes – and you know what? I feel neither warred upon nor at war with anyone. Yet everyone is touting this political catchphrase, bandying it about left, right, and sideways. Everywhere I turn, I hear about how my rights are jeopardized and how men are stomping on my ovaries and renting out my uterus. I hear about how outraged I should be…and yet, while I am outraged,it is not the relative state of my reproductive system that is causing my blood to boil.

 I’m not trying to be deliberately obtuse here. I am fully aware that the phrase refers to the conservative movement to restrict abortion rights and funding for Planned Parenthood, erase employer healthcare coverage of sterilization and abortion procedures, as well as discontinue the coverage of contraceptives. I understand that bills have been proposed that would require women to view an ultrasound of their fetus prior to any abortive procedure, and I am aware of the laws in states such as Kansas that protect pro-life physicians against “wrongful birth” lawsuits. And trust me, I’m aware that idiots like Todd Akin – and many like him- circulate within our midst. And yet…I do not feel outraged. I do not feel like a victim. There are many other things on my mind this election season which have turned me into a fire-breathing dragon (the abomination that is Obamacare, anyone? How about the sad state of our economy?) but reproductive rights do not really even register on my scale. It’s not that I’m especially politically conservative (I’m independent) – it’s that I’m preoccupied with things that I think matter much more than abortion. But for the sake of argument regarding abortion:

I believe that each side has it wrong. Each side makes both valid and asinine arguments regarding reproductive rights and how they should be handled. As a physician, I believe that life begins when a fetus becomes viable – and even with modern medicine and its miracles, this still doesn’t occur much before ~24-25 weeks (and even then, requires tremendous medical support). As a physician, albeit it one whose practice has nothing whatsoever to do with gestating females, I believe that a balance should exist between the wishes and best interests of my patients and my own personal values – and I believe that this balance should exist for ALL healthcare providers, be they physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, or pharmacists. As a physician, I believe that patients have a right to be educated about every scenario, and as a physician I believe that it is part of my professional duties to ensure that each patient has been given this education – to give the patient anything less than the full truth is negligent and morally questionable. As a woman, I believe that I am entitled to all information pertaining to my health, and I have the right to make decisions regarding my healthcare. But I also understand that it takes two people to create life, and as a woman, I believe any discussion of reproductive rights must by necessity include the father of the baby – contrary to popular belief these days, it’s NOT all about the woman. And finally, as a Christian, the idea of abortion makes me a wee bit squeamish. There’s no other way to put it.

 I will never advocate for Roe v Wade to be overturned, and I think that making abortion illegal would do a disservice to patients everywhere.  Regardless of the reason a woman might choose to abort her child, I believe that her right to do so should remain unchallenged. But I also support the rights of those who are vehemently pro-life. I believe that physicians who are morally opposed to abortion should under no circumstances be required to perform such procedures. I believe that pharmacists who are morally opposed to the abortion pill or to oral contraceptives should not be required to provide patients with these medications (although I believe that best practice dictates that they should refer patients to a colleague who WILL offer these treatment options). I do not believe that insurance should be required to pay for abortion services or oral contraceptives and I do not believe taxpayer funds should support these procedures either. Forcing those who find abortive/preventive services morally objectionable to fund them through taxes is every bit as wrong as barring women from having access to these services. Furthermore, I also believe that women must be completely informed before embarking on the journey of termination – and I support laws that require women to view an ultrasound of their fetus (as an aside, I do not support protecting a pro-life physician for withholding information that leads to ‘wrongful birth’ for this reason). I support laws that require mandatory counseling prior to obtaining abortive services. I support these laws and others like them because I believe that anything less is dishonest. It’s dishonest to let a woman pretend that the fetus doesn’t exist simply because she never viewed it on ultrasound and it’s equally dishonest to pretend that abortion doesn’t pose serious mental health risks to a patient who is not fully prepared emotionally and mentally for the procedure.

 None of this, to me, is a war on women. I do not feel like a victim, and I refuse to let people tell me that I ought to feel victimized. You know why? Because there is a war on women happening – and it has very real victims – but this war is not here in the United States. This war is happening every day in nations overseas. It’s happening in nations where women are treated as third-class citizens, as property to be bought and sold at will. It happens daily, in nations where women are not allowed to attend school, where female literacy is non-existent, where women are raped and beaten in retaliation for the transgressions of a male family member. This war materializes when women are beaten and killed for attempting to speak out against these injustices. This war is the story of 14-year old Malala Yousufzai who was recently shot in the head and neck by Taliban members because she had the audacity to believe that women should be educated – and because she had the boldness to inspire others to believe the same. This war manifests when one in every three women in Kuwait are victims of domestic abuse; women who have absolutely no recourse against this violence. In Tchad, it is permissible to beat your woman – as long as there is no blood – and it is equally as permissible to starve your woman until she wastes away to nearly nothing. This is what a war on women looks like. Every day, women in other nations wake up to beatings, starvation, mutilation, and the possibility of death for some small transgression…and we women in America are fighting mad because we might have to view an ultrasound of the fetus before we choose to terminate the pregnancy?

 Let’s get real, ladies – this is not a war and we are not victims.