Specifically to the requirement that a woman would need to see ultrasound images before having an abortion — I think I can sort of understand what the anti-choice side thinks they’re doing. They think that women don’t understand, and that it’s going to change their minds. But in my experience, that’s just not the case. Women know why they feel the need to have an abortion, and seeing an ultrasound image doesn’t change the facts of their lives. They don’t feel ready for a baby, and having an ultrasound doesn’t suddenly make them ready. Again, it comes back to that respect for the responsibility of motherhood and the wish to do it well. It’s misguided to say that being shown an ultrasound will change your whole life. No! It won’t! In many cases this is a very difficult choice, let alone for people who wanted the pregnancy but now have to terminate.
And I think that it’s important to see that even if abortion were no longer safe and legal, women would still do it. Which is why thinking about the anniversary of Roe v. Wade … my entire medical career has been after Roe. I have to think back to the things that my mentors taught me in residency — the old graybeards who were almost all men, but who became ardent feminists when they saw what was happening to women, and who advocated for the decriminalization of abortion. In medicine, if something is an intern’s task, it means it’s kind of — repetitive, not particularly important, kind of menial. And what interns end up doing is sometimes telling of how things are considered to be important in medicine. I had an old graybeard attending in residency who told a story from his residency, pre-Roe, in an inner-city hospital in Detroit. The intern every morning had to mix up the IV pressors for the women who would come in septic after an abortion, and they would use these pressors to avoid dying. The ward where they put them — gallows humor, you have to deal somehow — they called the septic tank. And that’s what he saw as a trainee. He saw women incredibly sick and incredibly maimed, dying, and dead. All because of their determination and recognition of “I am not ready to be a mother. I cannot do this.” Women will take really frightening risks when they don’t have access to safe care.
Dr. Nancy Stanwood, OB/GYN, knocking it out of the goddamn park at The Hairpin.