Abortion-rights demonstrators hold up letters spelling out "My Choice," Saturday, May 14, 2022, outside the Supreme Court in Washington. Credit: Jacquelyn Martin

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Brendan Prast, a physician, is the chair of Maine Providers Standing Up for Healthcare, a group of hundreds of healthcare providers across the state.

The fight for reproductive justice and equal access to healthcare has taken a dangerous turn. And that is why Maine Providers Standing Up for Healthcare, a group of hundreds of interprofessional healthcare providers across the state, vehemently oppose all laws that might limit access to healthcare, including abortion, birth control, medication for trans youth, or any other attempts to deny individuals control of their own health.  

The recent leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion shows what we have feared — a progressive elimination of our reproductive rights in America. More than 600 abortion restrictions have been enacted since 2011, with over 100 in 2021 alone.

While just a draft, this Supreme Court leak is one of the most  drastic changes proposed. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, 26 states will limit access to abortion almost immediately due to prepared laws set to trigger once Roe falls. As healthcare providers, we know limiting access to or banning abortion doesn’t make it disappear. All it does is push abortion further out of reach, restrict safe abortion care for vulnerable populations, widen healthcare disparities, and criminalize reproduction.  

The statistics on abortion often surprise anti-choice individuals, so it is useful to stress accurate facts. Abortion is very common — one in four people who can get  pregnant will have an abortion by age 45. Abortion happens across all age ranges, ethnicities, and backgrounds, from inner city to rural to suburban. Most people seeking abortion (54 percent) report a religious affiliation, and 59 percent have already given birth before. While anti-choice politicians often discuss “partial birth” or abortions immediately before birth, in fact 88 percent of abortions take place in the first 12 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute. As a healthcare advocacy organization, spreading accurate information is vital to combat anti-choice disinformation across the country, and we will continue to do so to protect our patients.

We represent a broad range of careers and backgrounds, so as a group we are  profoundly aware of the toll pregnancy takes on peoples’ bodies. Whether due to emotional or financial stressors, physical changes, or the inherent dangers of pregnancy itself (bleeding, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes), pregnancy is not always a benign medical condition. All people who can become pregnant have the right to choose if pregnancy is right for them But not only is the right to abortion care being challenged, laws are also being introduced to limit access to birth control, whether by making it illegal or removing insurance coverage for it.

If these laws restricting access to reproductive healthcare were truly about safety and protecting newborns, their supporters would be working to improve healthcare outcomes and access to care for parents and newborns alike. Our maternal mortality rate in the United States is higher than in other developed countries. There is stark racial inequity in the number of deaths due to pregnancy with the Black and Indigenous maternal mortality rate at least two to three times higher than that of White patients. But many of these same people that demand that folks give birth to babies they may not be able to raise often also refuse to support increased funding for children’s healthcare, financial support for families, parental leave, or schools for these children after they are born.

Politicians not improving care for our populations, and instead passing misguided  or hostile laws, need to remain out of our exam rooms. Medical professionals have known this for decades, and now more than ever, we need to mobilize. Take this as an invitation to join us at upcoming events and rallies – here is a link to our website: StandupME.org. Donate to abortion funds ( www.abortionfunds.org) nationally to protect access to care, spread resources like The Guttmacher Institute for objective information about reproductive healthcare, and talk to your elected officials. And finally, remember this: Abortion is healthcare. Abortion is a safe medical procedure, and abortion, like any other healthcare, is a human right.