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Most of the consequences of the Supreme Court’s June ruling overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision will likely be less dramatic than the case of a 10-year-old girl from Ohio, a victim of rape, who was taken to Indiana for abortion care because of restrictions in her home state. But for the women, girls and others impacted, the results may be no less harmful and heartbreaking.
Already, we are seeing that states’ attempts to severely restrict abortion are impacting people who aren’t seeking abortions and, in fact, may never have them. Women in several states with bans or stringent restrictions on abortion are already finding it difficult to obtain medication they need for every day living.
Drugs that help women live with cancer, lupus and arthritis are being restricted because they can also be used to induce abortion or are part of the care after miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.
One such drug is Methotrexate, a drug used to treat arthritis, lupus, cancer and Crohn’s disease.
Dana Chabot of Portland was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis before her third birthday. She has taken a combination of medications, sometimes including Methotrexate, to manage day-to-day living, such as getting out of bed, walking up and down stairs and attending college and now working.
If she is unable to obtain the medication her body needs, her life would deteriorate quickly.
Although Gov. Janet Mills and Democratic lawmakers have pledged to keep abortion legal in Maine, Chabot worries that such attitudes and laws can change with different people in office.
“As of right now, Maine is a safe state. But, in the future, if Maine becomes one of those states that bans abortion and I can’t get the proper medication, it’s going to be a really big issue,” she said during a recent interview at her family’s home in Portland. Her mother, Barbara, is a friend of mine from college.
“I do worry that Maine will suddenly become a state I won’t be able to live in,” she added.
On the surface, life may look normal for Chabot, 22. She was a cheerleader at Deering High School and actively involved in theater. She graduated from college in May and works two jobs.
But, because of her arthritis, a day at work or a night out with friends can mean hours of pain and difficulty moving through her daily routine.
Like others with “hidden disabilities,” Chabot has had to endure doubts and insensitive advice from doctors, teachers and others. Suggestions that her illness is in her head are as frequent as they are mean. One school counselor told her to get a boyfriend so she could focus on him rather than her problems. Doctors have been dismissive as well.
Arthritis, and the health consequences that can come with it – headaches, joint pain, imobility, even blindness in some cases – are very real. One in four American adults have arthritis and 300,000 American children have juvenile arthritis. It takes medication, and a lot of careful planning, to keep the pain and loss of mobility at bay.
At times, it feels like doctors and insurance companies – which have to approve any changes in medication or other therapies – control her body, Chabot said.
“Right now, I have very little control over my own body.… and lawmakers are telling me there is even less I can do with my own body. It’s awful, but I have to fight for the right to just function normally,” she said.
We should all be able to agree that no one should have to fight for the right to function normally, that no one should have to fear that they can’t get the medications that make their life liveable.
Supporters of bans on abortion will likely argue that this is not what they intended. But, the push to outlaw abortion without full consideration of the “unintended” consequences is irresponsible and cruel.
Girls like the 10-year-old in Ohio and women like Dana Chabot – any humans, in fact – should not have to live in fear that lawmakers, and not themselves, will control what happens to their bodies.