Huffpost Politics
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Vanessa Cullins Headshot

40 Years After Roe: A Doctor's Opinion on the Importance of Protecting Access to Safe and Legal Abortion

Posted: Updated:

Some of my more poignant experiences as a gynecologist were when a patient came to me, considering what to do about a pregnancy. What was so clear to me as a doctor, a woman, and frankly a human being, is that women approach these decisions in a thoughtful way, and look to their families and health care providers for information and support.

In fact, it was these conversations that cemented my lifelong commitment to help women access affordable birth control and safe and legal abortion. The federal legalization of abortion 40 years ago -- through Roe v. Wade -- made it a constitutional right for every woman to be able to make her own health care decisions, and for me to be able to fully care for my patients.

Roe v. Wade has had a huge impact on the health and safety of women. In 1965, illegal abortions contributed to nearly one-fifth of all pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths. Today, less than 0.3 percent of women who end a pregnancy sustain a serious complication.

As a doctor, it's my job to make sure that a woman has accurate information about all of her options about her pregnancy. Fully informed, the decision of whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family and her faith, with the counsel of her health care provider. This is and should always be a private decision, one that should never be judged.

But far too often a woman's medical decision is judged -- and threatened by politicians

Within just a couple of years of the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade, politicians began to chip away this fundamental right. In 1976, Congress passed the Hyde amendment, which bars federal funding for almost all abortions. This restricts a woman's ability to make her own personal health decisions, and it hurts low-income women and women of color all across the country.

Some of the most egregious recent attacks on safe and legal abortion have been in state legislatures.

Since 2011, there have been an unprecedented number of state legislative attacks aimed at restricting and criminalizing abortion. In state after state, we've seen laws that dictate how and when women can access abortion, force doctors to make political, rather than medical, statements to their patients, and attempt to drive health care providers out of communities. These laws have nothing to do with keeping women safe and everything to do with judging and shaming women, or even denying them care.

The public does not support these attacks. In fact, a majority of Americans believe Roe v. Wade must be upheld and abortion should remain safe and legal for a woman to consider if and when she needs it. The 2012 election confirmed what nationwide polls have shown for years--Americans don't want politicians pretending to be doctors and telling women what medical decisions make the most sense for them.

As a doctor and as a woman, I know firsthand just how important it is to every woman to be able to make her own decision about her pregnancy. There is no decision more important, personal, or complex. On this 40th anniversary of safe, legal abortion, women--and the men who love them -- must commit to continue to fight for our health and rights.

We will not stand for interference from politicians in the most personal of health care decision. Not now, not ever.