I can’t stop thinking about Savita Halappanavar, the 31 year old dentist from Galway who died three days after being admitted to the hospital for a miscarriage at 17 weeks. Her death could have been avoided with a simple medical termination to remove what doctors admitted from the beginning was a non-viable fetus.
Instead, they pulled out the “This is a Catholic hospital and a Catholic country” line…and recklessly let her suffer over the next three days until she died of septicemia. Words can’t even express my anger that something like this could still happen, is still happening. In essence, they were telling her, “We value your non-viable fetus more than you.” They refused to perform a medical termination because the fetus still had a detectable heartbeat.
I know that as a future midwife, people will ask me how I can defend my pro-choice stance, how I can joyfully work with women carrying wanted pregnancies and catch their babies, while at the same time, finding great satisfaction in supporting women who decide to end their pregnancy.
The answer is simple:
Women are the ones who should be making decisions about their bodies, their health care, and their lives.
It is not my job to insert my personal preferences into my work as a health care provider. It is my job to protect the health and safety of each woman I work with, regardless of whether I agree with her decisions or not.
And further: I know what will happen if we lose access to safe, legal abortions. The costs–physically, emotionally, and financially, will be enormous. Women have always sought ways to control their fertility, and will continue to do so, no matter what the law says.
As a future midwife, it is my calling to be with woman. That doesn’t mean only when I agree with her. It means always. It means in the middle of the night when she’s been laboring for 30 hours already, and when she comes to the clinic, confident in her knowledge that ending a pregnancy is the best choice she can make for herself, no matter what the circumstances. Being with woman requires recognition of the full spectrum of a woman’s life, seeing the interconnections among pregnancy, birth, abortion, adoption, infertility, and loss. Being with woman means unequivocally supporting and demanding women’s full agency and participation in their own health care.
I feel incredibly lucky to live in a state where nurse-midwives legal scope of practice includes abortion care. Having spent over 200 hours volunteering as a patient support advocate for abortion patients at Planned Parenthood, I have witnessed first-hand that the women who come into the clinic are just like you and me. They are your mother, daughter, sister, cousin, teacher, student…they are 1 in 3 of us.
And, I have witnessed the power of receiving compassionate abortion care from skilled nurse-practitioners and nurse-midwives. They bring a unique sensitivity and understanding to their work, and I have been deeply inspired by the advanced practice nurses I have had the privilege to work with. I aspire to someday to join them. I will be doing it for Savita, and for the 22 million women each year who have to endure unsafe abortions. I will be doing it for all of us.