Commentary

It’s time to take action and rescue our democracy

July 5, 2022 5:53 am

Abortion rights advocates stage a protest outside Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s house on May 9 in Alexandria, Virginia. (Alex Wong | Getty Images)

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade. It was inevitable, but still seems unimaginable. Politics crept into the judicial branch of our democracy and took away the private relationship between a woman and her care provider in deciding about her health, her family, and her future.

Physicians and their practices, depending on their location, will either be overwhelmed by patients from hundreds of miles away, or be forced to contradict their years of training and ethical obligations by withholding care. The harm of this decision will be experienced most by communities already marginalized. Pregnancy can be a risk to a woman’s life, especially those with complex conditions. Our nation’s maternal mortality rates are already unacceptably high. This will take us backward.

My senior OB-GYN partner, who was a staunch Republican, argued that there will always be abortions. He believed strongly that we must keep them safe and legal for the health of women and their families. He watched young women die of septic illegal abortions in New York City, where he trained as a resident. Frequently, these deaths left children without mothers. 

Polls show that about 65 percent of Americans want to uphold the 50-year-old constitutional right to an abortion. Only 8 percent of Americans want abortion to be illegal in all cases. Remarkably, the Senate voted against a Women’s Health Protection Act this year. In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision, this bill would have protected the constitutional right to abortion. 

We are not only seeing the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but also the criminalization of contraception, attacks on gay and trans rights, laws giving the states the power to control school curricula, book banning, fury at immigrants and people of color, and a reordering of the nation around the beliefs of a minority of Americans. Most of us would not choose to live in this kind of society.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott has proposed a “Plan to Rescue America.” It states that “the nuclear family is crucial to civilization, it is God’s design for humanity, and it must be protected and celebrated.” Yet, our government has consistently voted against federal programs for paid family leave. Those who call themselves “pro-life” continue to vote against common-sense checks for purchasing weapons of mass destruction, minimum wage increases, food stamps, workmen’s compensation, and equal pay for women.

Over the past several decades, the minority movement to end abortion has been relentless in its efforts to overturn the five-decade-old constitutional right. Sadly, the movement has included the grooming of judges for nomination to the Supreme Court. The power of this minority has been inexorably aided by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010. This decision reversed century-old finance restrictions and enabled corporations and other outside groups to spend unlimited funds on elections.

This minority should not be allowed to deny women freedom to choose when and how to have family. Everything we do to give women control over their fertility, and their lives, enhances their health and changes the world for the better. How dare the U.S. Supreme Court, in a highly political decision, cause harm to women and their families, curtailing their lives and life’s potential.

My plea here is for us to realize what is happening to our democracy in our beloved country and turn our anger into constructive action on all fronts. The issue of privacy for a woman and her physician to make a decision about her health, about her family, and about her future is clearly now at a state level.

There are two questions we need to ask every candidate running for a New Hampshire office. Are they willing to codify abortion rights into state law? And, alternatively, are they willing to vote for a New Hampshire constitutional amendment that assures abortion care in our state? We must provide early and vigorous support for the candidates who fully embrace women and their health. 

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Oge Young
Oge Young

Dr. Oge Young is a retired obstetrician and gynecologist who practiced in Concord for 35 years. He is the past president of the New Hampshire Medical Society.

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