DR. REBECCA COHEN: ‘You shouldn’t need an exception to seek abortion care’

560

I am a Colorado doctor, and I provide abortion care. Supporters of Proposition 115 say that banning abortion later in pregnancy is a reasonable, middle-ground measure – but this is a lie. Proposition 115 serves only to mislead and divide Coloradans, harm pregnant women at an incredibly vulnerable time in their lives, and open the door for legislation banning all abortion at the earliest stages of pregnancy.

Dr. Rebecca Cohen

The facts are that every one of my patients is different, whether they’re seeking contraception, getting family planning information, facing fertility challenges, or deciding whether to get an abortion. Every pregnancy is different. What starts as a routine, healthy  pregnancy can at any point, morph into a complicated, life-altering, or life-endangering pregnancy. As a physician, I have to be able to provide sound medical advice to my patients throughout their pregnancies, including the option of abortion care.

My priority is my patients. They are why I became a physician. And Proposition 115 would make it harder for me and for other obstetrician gynecologists to do our job helping our patients make the reproductive health care decisions that are right for them.

The same politicians who want to make abortion harder to get later in pregnancy want to make it impossible to get earlier in pregnancy.  The proponents of 115 have openly said that if this measure passes they will try and pass earlier abortion bans.

You shouldn’t need an exception to seek abortion care, but Proposition 115 doesn’t even go that far. There are no exceptions – none – for people in the most tragic of circumstances. Not for rape, not for incest, not for a lethal fetal diagnosis – many of which are not discovered until a 20-week ultrasound. Not even for the health of the pregnant woman, which as a physician, I can tell you is a situation I see routinely. Proposition 115 literally does not allow an abortion after 22 weeks unless the woman is about to die. That is cruel and inhumane.

No one thinks that it’s an easy decision to have an abortion. People cry in my office multiple times a day, and I am there not only to offer safe medical care, but to offer support and remind them that they are not alone.  My patients know that they face judgment from many people in society – why would anyone have an abortion later in pregnancy? We place so much shame and guilt on women for seeking abortion care at any point in their pregnancy, much less later in pregnancy when problems can arise. You shouldn’t be made to feel bad for seeking health care.

Proposition 115 has no exceptions for a lethal fetal diagnosis of a wanted pregnancy. I listen to heartbreaking stories: a woman who has tried for years to get pregnant, only to find that her baby’s kidneys and lungs hadn’t developed.  He wouldn’t survive for more than a few minutes after birth.  To demand that she continue the pregnancy – with the mental and physical health risks it carries for her – is nothing short of cruelty.

Proposition 115 has no exceptions for rape or incest. One of my patients who needed an abortion was an abuse victim and a sixth grader. A sixth grader. She was too young to realize she was pregnant. And it was my professional responsibility to help her.

Politicians are not doctors. I am. And these kinds of decisions need to be made by patients and doctors. Not politicians.

Supporters of Proposition 115 want you to see me as an uncaring criminal.  They want to ban abortion outright in Colorado, but they know that Coloradans don’t support that.

They are counting on you to ignore my patients’ suffering. They are counting on you not to understand how important it is to keep abortion safe and legal in Colorado.

I urge you to see Proposition 115 for what it is – extremist legislation that is wrong for Colorado.

Dr. Rebecca Cohen is a practicing obstetrician gynecologist in Aurora.